Muffin top. Chub rub. Beer belly. The pouch. We're all familiar with these terms, and we all hate them. They refer to the last 10-20 pounds on our otherwise beautiful bodies. They're frustrating, they're gross and we just want them off... NOW!
Usually, the last couple of pounds come off the most stubborn places; for most men, it's the abdomen/lower thorax area (giving them the "apple" shape), and for women it's our lower extremities (giving us the "pear" shape). It's been said that these places are usually the first places the fat goes when we gain weight, and the last place that we lose it.
Therein lies the problem, the fat gets nice and settled in our bodies because it's been there for a while, and there's only so much cardio you can do, and only so many days you can keep your calories ridiculously low (which isn't even effective in the long run). This is where supplements can be effective.
There are certain "constant" ingredients in most fat-burners that are there because they are effective at shocking the body (in a good way) into fat burning mode. Here are some ingredients to look for when choosing a fat burner:
Different Types Of Fat Loss Supplements
Thermogenics are supplements that are literally fat burners ("thermo" comes from the word "fire"). There are a couple of different ways thermogenics help shed the fat:
They're good at "convincing" that stubborn adipose (fat) tissue/cells to open up and let fat go into the blood stream so that it becomes a usable source of energy when we're working out. Typical ingredient that does this: yohimbine.
Thermogenics, as the name suggests, help raise your body temperature internally, so your body heats up and ends up burning more calories overall at the end of the day. Typical ingredient that does this: caffeine.
2. Stimulant-Free Fat Burners
Caffeine and Ephedra are common stimulants in most fat burners, but Ephedra is illegal in most places. Stimulants typically increase alertness and awareness - think Red Bull energy drinks.
Some stimulants produce a sense of euphoria (happiness), in particular the stimulants which exert influence on the central nervous system. However, many people have great sensitivities to stimulants (i.e. They get the jitters, red face, agitated, etc.), so those people may want to go with stimulant-free fat burners.
Carbohydrate blocker products contain ingredients contained in these types of products to prevent the enzymes in your body that are responsible for carbohydrate digestion from working. What this means is that the carbohydrates you eat cannot be fully digested and thus not re-absorbed, limiting the uptake and storage of these nutrients.
If they work as well as they claim to, they can aid in helping to maintain your weight when "cheating," because carbs aren't absorbed, and thus also help prevent fat from being stored.
4. Fat Blockers:
Fat blockers are essentially the same as carbohydrate blockers. The special ingredient in these products though is something called chitosan. Chitosan is a fat absorber. It is claimed to have the ability to take fat from the digestive system and oust it from the colon so that users can "lose weight without eating less" ... think Alli.
Despite what the companies claim, scientific research suggests that these claims are likely without substance. According to Wikipedia, "At best, unmodified chitosan would remove roughly 10 calories per day from a person's diet." The problem with using a fat blocker is that along with fat, it may expel certain minerals found in foodstuffs and required by the body in order to remain healthy.
5. Thyroid Regulators
The thyroid gland is found inside the neck below your mouth. It's function is to control how quickly the body burns energy, makes proteins, and how sensitive the body should be to other hormones.
How this relates to fat burning is that the hormones the thyroid produces regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. If your thyroid gland isn't secreting enough hormones, then your metabolism will be slower. Thus, you would take a thyroid stimulator to give the gland a little push to get it kick-started again.
6. Appetite Suppressant
Appetite suppressants are substances (dietary supplements or drugs) that reduce the appetite and cause a person to eat less. Many of you may have heard of Meridia, a doctor prescribed drug for overweight people who need help with appetite control.
For the bodybuilder on a diet, or a healthy individual looking to lose a few pounds, Meridia comes with too many side effects. A safer bet would be a product with hoodia. From a scientific point of view, there is no published evidence that Hoodia works as an appetite suppressant in humans.
The safety and/or effectiveness of hoodia gordonii as a dietary supplement must thus be considered as unsubstantiated. However, there is much anecdotal evidence from people who swear by the product. It cannot harm you if taken orally, but there is a chance it can be ineffective.
7. Cortisol Blockers
Cortisol is a hormone released by your adrenal glands. It is a vital hormone that is often referred to as the "stress hormone" as it is involved in the response to stress. It increases blood pressure, blood sugar levels and suppresses your immune system so you're more likely to get sick.
It's important in regards to fat because it's release signals the body to do two things: Increase appetite and store fat. This means that whenever we're under stress, the increased cortisol in our body tells our brain that we're hungry, while at the same time telling our fat cells to store as much fat as they can (and then hold on to it as tightly as possible). Cortisol blockers prevent the negative repercussions of cortisol's release from taking place.
Products For Men Vs. Women
Women need fat burners designed specifically for their bodies. They have different hormones and thus different bodies than men. Therefore, they obviously need a different type of fat burner. They need a fat burner scientifically developed to overcome the physiological and hormonal barriers they face in losing fat.
There are 6 facets that should be addressed when it comes to women and weight loss:
- Water balance
Women should find a product that fits their needs.
Men can stand to use something a little more potent with stronger stimulators because their bodies tend to not be as sensitive as a woman's body. They will be able to handle a product with a little more caffeine.
It is GENERALLY easier for men to lose weight because they typically have faster metabolisms, and slimmer body types. However, most men have a hard time losing stubborn lower abdominal fat, so a product with yohimbine will help in getting rid of it.
Caveat Emptor/Buyer Beware
Although fat burners, when used in moderation and for a short period of time, are helpful, there are some things I should warn you about. I have to show both sides of the coin. The longer you use fat burners, the less your body responds to them.
Fat burners stimulate your central nervous system, and after days and subsequently weeks of the same stimulation, it just becomes normal, and your body adapts to the drug. At which point, you may be inclined to take even MORE of them. DON'T! This will be too much stimulation for your body, and your adrenal glands and thyroid hormones might end up crashing on you; which would end up being really counter-productive.
Also, fat burners are not a "quick fix," nor do they result in permanent weight loss. You should have a solid training regimen and a balanced diet with the right number of calories to create just enough of a caloric deficit that you lose no more than 2 pounds per week.
Follow the directions on the label. Regardless of whether you're a first-time thermogenics user or a pro, DO NOT use more than the recommended dosage. There are side effects related to the use of fat burners, and they're not pretty. Start with the fewest number of pills, and work your way up accordingly, depending on whether your body is responding to the stimulation.