You’ve heard the phrase two heads are better than one? The same logic applies to many things, including supplements in many cases. Where one supplement can help burn fat, taking it along with one or more others can really ramp up the effects. With that in mind, the following nine combinations might provide that extra edge you’re looking for.
1. THE CHEAPSKATE COMBO: CAFFEINE AND GREEN TEA EXTRACT
There are a lot of effective fat-burners on the market today, but for some people, such as college students and others on a tight budget, the sticker price alone can be more than they normally spend on food. But fat-loss supplements don’t have to be expensive to be effective. Caffeine and green tea extract are added to almost every fat-burner on the market today because they work well. If you purchase them alone without the bells and whistles, however, you’ll find a potent fat-burner combo that costs you only pennies a day.
One of the major ways caffeine boosts fat loss is through its ability to bind to fat cells and enhance the removal of fat from them while inhibiting the storage of more fat. Caffeine also works to increase fat-burning during rest and exercise.
Green tea extract contains compounds known as catechins. One of them, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is responsible for the majority of green tea’s fat-burning effects. EGCG has the ability to inhibit an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter involved in regulating metabolic rate and fat-burning. By stopping the breakdown of norepinephrine, you can keep metabolism and fat-burning elevated for longer, especially when caffeine is used to free up fat from fat cells. Research studies confirm that green tea extract can significantly boost fat loss.
Combine them like this: Go with 200 to 400 mg of caffeine anhydrous with 500 to 1,000 mg of green tea extract standardized for EGCG in the morning and an hour before workouts. On rest days, take a second dose in the afternoon.
2. ONE-TWO FAT-FIGHTING PUNCH: FORSKOLIN AND CARNITINE
To maximize fat-burning, you need a supplement that goes directly to where fat is stored and frees it so it can travel in the bloodstream to muscles and other tissues of the body where it will be used for fuel. You also need to make sure the fat is carried into the machinery that burns it, the cell mitochondria. This supplement combo helps on both fronts.
Forskolin, the active compound in the herb coleus forskohlii, gets the first half of the job done well, working to enhance fat loss by activating the enzyme adenylate cyclase. This enzyme causes a cascade of events that leads to the activation of another enzyme, hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). HSL increases lipolysis, or the ability of the fat stored in fat cells to be released into the bloodstream, where it can travel to tissues such as muscle. In fact, one study from the University of Kansas (Lawrence) reported that overweight men who took forskolin lost significantly more bodyfat than test subjects who took a placebo during a 12-week study.
Carnitine takes care of the second half of the job. This amino-acidlike supplement helps the fat that gets to tissues travel into the mitochondria of those cells, where it’s burned for fuel. Research confirms that carnitine supplementation improves fat-burning during exercise and rest, and leads to greater fat loss.
Combine them like this: Take 20 to 50 mg of forskolin and 1 to 3 grams of carnitine (as L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine or L-carnitine-L-tartrate) with breakfast, preworkout meals and postworkout meals.
3. SPICE UP YOUR PHYSIQUE: RED PEPPER AND GINGER
Sometimes increasing your body’s fat-burning potential is as easy as using certain spices in your food. Adding a little red pepper or ginger is an easy way to spice up your meals and increase your metabolism. If you like spicy food, then boosting fat loss can be as simple as eating. Capsaicin is the chemical in chili (red) peppers that makes them spicy. It boosts bodyfat loss by increasing metabolic rate and fat-burning through its ability to raise levels of norepin-ephrine. It also works to significantly decrease hunger and thus your overall caloric intake.
Ginger is a root with numerous properties that make it an effective treatment for inflammation, nausea and motion sickness. It’s also a valuable aid for fat loss. Research shows that both fresh and dry ginger increase metabolic rate and lactic acid production by muscle. Since lactic acid stimulates growth hormone (GH) release and GH increases lipolysis, this is another fat-loss benefit of ginger.
Combine them like this: Look for ways to add red pepper or ginger to your meals. Red pepper obviously goes well with traditional Mexican-style foods, but it can also be used to spice up eggs or cottage cheese. You could also use red pepper—based hot sauces and salsas on foods. An easy way to get ginger on your plate is next to your sushi or sashimi in the form of pickled ginger. You can also buy ginger root and slice it into a stir-fry, or use a generous portion of dried ginger.
4. GENETIC ENGINEERING: SESAMIN AND TTA
Some supplements work to enhance fat loss by increasing the activity of the genes that control fat-burning and fat storage. Sesamin and TTA are two such products.
Sesamin, a lignan from sesame oil, is a powerful antioxidant that’s also a potent fat-burner. The active form of sesamin has been found to turn on a specific receptor found in muscle, heart and liver cells known as peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor alpha (PPAR alpha). Activating PPAR alpha turns on genes that increase fat-burning and decrease fat storage.
Tetradecylthioacetic acid (TTA) is a specialized fatty acid that has sulfur bound to it, which prevents it from being burned for fuel by the body but allows it to regulate the burning and storage of dietary fats. TTA works by stimulating PPAR alpha as well as PPAR delta and PPAR gamma, which provides other effects such as diminishing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels while boosting insulin sensitivity. This means you need less insulin released than normal, which can further aid fat-loss efforts.
Combine them like this: Take 500 to 1,000 mg of sesamin and 250 to 1,000 mg of TTA with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
5. MINERAL MASH-UPS: CALCIUM, SELENIUM AND ZINC
Most guys think of minerals only as something with health benefits in their multivitamin/mineral supplement. Yet several minerals are critical for helping you to become and stay lean. Getting ample amounts of these three will do the trick.
By now you may be familiar with the fact that calcium can help with fat loss and prevent fat gain. Calcium regulates the hormone calcitriol, which causes the body to produce fat and inhibits fat breakdown. When calcium levels are adequate, calcitriol is suppressed. Calcium also aids fat loss by decreasing the amount of dietary fat that’s absorbed by your intestines.
The trace mineral selenium is critical for thyroid hormone production, and is a component of the enzyme that helps convert the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3), which is responsible for keeping metabolism elevated. Low selenium levels can impair thyroid function and promote hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormones.
Zinc is important because being low in this mineral can interfere with thyroid hormone production, leading to a lowered metabolic rate, which makes it harder to drop bodyfat. Zinc deficiency is common in hard-training athletes, especially when they cut calories in an effort to get lean. One study from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) found that subjects who were on a low-zinc diet had significantly slower metabolic rates. When they took a zinc supplement (25 mg) for 20 days, their metabolisms jumped to higher levels than before they followed a low-zinc diet. A recent study from Andong National University (South Korea) showed that zinc deficiency lowered levels of leptin, a hormone that keeps metabolism elevated and hunger suppressed.
Combine them like this: Take about 1,000 mg of calcium and 200 to 400 mcg of selenium per day with food. The best way to take zinc is as ZMA on an empty stomach before bed to provide 30 mg of zinc and insurance against slow metabolism syndrome.
6. AMINO ACID BURN: GLUTAMINE AND ARGININE
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and a few provide potent anabolic effects. But did you know that some also have impressive fat-burning properties? Glutamine and arginine are two such amino acids, and their fat-burning effects are magnified when they’re combined.
Research shows that glutamine can increase fat-burning and metabolic rate. In a study from Iowa State University (Ames), test subjects who took glutamine with breakfast increased the number of calories and amount of fat burned for energy compared to when they took an amino acid mixture (glycine, serine and alanine). In a follow-up study from the same lab, scientists showed that glutamine taken before exercise resulted in more calories being burned than when subjects took the aforementioned amino mixture. In addition, glutamine is effective at boosting GH. While GH is very anabolic, it also works to increase lipolysis, which frees fat from fat cells.
Arginine’s ability to boost nitric oxide (NO) levels is well known, but that same property also makes it a quality fat-burner. Research shows that NO can increase fat-burning due to its ability to enhance lipolysis. With the greater metabolic burn from glutamine, the freed fat is much more likely to be burned for fuel. Also, arginine increases GH release, which also enhances lipolysis. Confirming arginine’s ability to improve fat loss is a 2007 study from the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) that showed that female athletes who supplemented with arginine for four weeks lost bodyfat and simultaneously gained muscle mass without otherwise changing their dietary intakes.
Combine them like this: Take 5 to 10 grams of glutamine with breakfast, before and after workouts and before bed. Take 3 to 10 grams of arginine (as L-arginine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, arginine ketoisocaproate, arginine mallate or arginine ethyl ester) 30 to 60 minutes before breakfast, 30 to 60 minutes before workouts, immediately after workouts and 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
7. POTENT PROTEIN: WHEY AND SOY
You know the importance of using protein powders for stimulating muscle growth, but did you realize they can also encourage fat loss? Using whey and soy protein powders to supplement your protein needs is a great way to shed bodyfat while maximizing muscle growth.
Several studies show that bodyfat loss is enhanced when the diet is supplemented with whey protein powder. One major reason for this may be due to whey’s ability to significantly decrease hunger. A study from the University of Surrey (UK) found that subjects who drank a whey protein shake 90 minutes before eating a buffet meal ate significantly less food than when they drank a casein protein shake. The reason for this appears to be the 60% greater rise in the hunger-blunting hormones cholecystokinin and glucagonlike peptide-1 following whey ingestion.
If you’re up on your protein information, you know that soy isn’t just a protein for women—it has numerous benefits for male bodybuilders. One is enhanced fat loss. Research from the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) has discovered that soy protein contains peptides (small proteins) that influence the brain to keep your resting metabolic rate elevated to help burn more bodyfat, as well as decrease hunger to help you eat fewer calories throughout the day.
Combine them like this: Immediately before workouts, drink a shake containing 10 grams each of whey and soy proteins. Right after workouts, drink a shake containing 20 grams each of whey and soy protein powders. In between meals, snack on a shake containing 10 to 20 grams each of whey and soy proteins.
8. HUNGER HELPER: GLUCOMANNAN AND 5-HTP
Face it: To get lean, you have to drop calories and carbs. But one problem with this solution is the hunger that comes with it. The good news is that some supplements can help keep hunger at bay.
Glucomannan, a soluble fiber derived from the root of the konjac plant, absorbs a large amount of water in the digestive tract, causing you to feel full. One study from the University of Connecticut (Storrs) found that subjects who supplemented with glucomannan lost significant amounts of weight and fat whether or not they exercised.
For some guys, dropping carbs is a difficult task. Serotonin levels tend to dip when dieting, especially with a lower carb intake. This makes carb cravings come on strong, especially at night. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is what the essential amino acid tryptophan gets converted into before it forms serotonin and melatonin in the body, which will help curb your carb cravings and relax you before bed. One study from the University of Rome found that obese subjects who took 5-HTP ate fewer calories per day and lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks; test subjects who took a placebo reported that they had difficulty limiting their food intake and lost only 2 pounds.
Combine them like this: Take 1 to 2 grams of glucomannan before meals and 50 to 300 mg of 5-HTP in the evenings.
9. FATTY ACID BURN: CLA AND FISH OIL
Twenty years ago, when everyone was stressing the importance of a low-fat diet void of all kinds of fat, the term healthy fat was virtually unknown. Back then, doctors, scientists and nutritionists recommended staying away from nuts, avocados, olive oil, salmon and many of the other fat sources we now know we should include in our diets. Suggesting that taking fats can help you drop fat may still seem paradoxical to some, yet the following two fat sources will do just that when taken as directed.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has been proven in numerous clinical trials to help shed bodyfat while adding muscle mass as well as boosting strength. One way that CLA works is by inhibiting lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme found around fat cells, where it picks up fat from the circulation and stores it as bodyfat. One study found that subjects who supplemented with CLA for six months without dieting or exercising lost more bodyfat (with the majority coming from the waist) than those who took an equal amount of olive oil. The CLA group also managed to gain muscle mass without exercising. Another study, from the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Canada), reported that subjects who took CLA while following a weight-training program lost more bodyfat and gained more muscle mass and strength without dieting than subjects who took a placebo.
Fish oil contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids that are now known to be beneficial for burning fat. One of the main mechanisms is through omega-3’s conversion to beneficial prostaglandins, hormonelike substances that can promote thermogenesis. A study from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond) found that omega-3 fatty acids also help prevent dietary fat from being stored as bodyfat.
Combine them like this: Take 2 to 3 grams of CLA and 1 to 2 grams of fish oil with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
GOING META: COMBINING THE COMBOS
Although choosing one effective fat-burning combination from our list will help you shed fat, you can combine the combos for additive results. Your best bet is to employ all nine combinations if you can afford it. We suggest you start with the simplest ones such as Combos 2, 4, 5 and 9. Try them for several weeks, then add other combos one at a time such as Combo 3, then Nos. 1, 6, 7 and 8 if needed. Along with training and diet, it should all add up to one great physique.