Caffeine is a stimulant which is widely known for its ability to boost your energy by dampening your perceived exertion. It is found in foods such as coffee beans, guarana and dark chocolate. Caffeine is often used in supplements as it can effectively work as a thermogenic and promotes fat oxidation. Caffeine not only boosts your energy, but it also increases your metabolism. Your metabolic rate can be increased by as much as 11%. Once caffeine enters your body, it increases the mobilization of your free fatty acids from your fat cells into your bloodstream, which then starts the process of lipolysis (breakdown of fats in the adipose tissue). In this process, fatty acids are used as a source of energy instead of glycogen. This is beneficial as the glycogen is then available to be used later on in your training session so that you can perform for a longer period of time. Longer periods of training, will result in your body burning more calories (thermogenesis). Therefore, this is a very effective ingredient for weight loss. One of the downfalls of caffeine is that the more you consume the less effective it will become, as your body adapts to the stimulus received from the caffeine. To prevent this from happening, I recommend cycling your caffeine supplements (i.e. 4-6 weeks on, then 2-3 weeks off).
Green tea Extract:
Green Tea is also a very well known beverage or supplement known for its ability to assist with weight loss. It can be consumed as a tea (the plant is placed in boiling water for consumption), or as a supplement containing the Green Tea extract. Green Tea contains caffeine (which assists in weight loss as previously explained) and is loaded with potent antioxidants. These antioxidants are molecules called Catechins, and the most important being EGCG – Epigallocatechin Gallate. EGCG is focused on as it a chemical which boosts the metabolism and helps break down the fat in your body. If you want to know the science behind it, EGCG stimulates thermogenesis which is a biochemical process in which fat is burned in the body for energy. This is achieved by inhibiting the enzyme which breaks down norepinephrine (this is a hormone which sends a signal to fat cells, which tells them to break down fat) which in turn, increases the amount of norepinephrine. The increase in this hormone, leads to larger amount of fat being broken down as the signal is stronger. One of the reasons why Green Tea Extract is a widely known ingredient in supplements is because studies show that it increases the burning of fat, especially during exercise. This is beneficial as most individuals who use supplements, also pair it with an exercise regime. This doesn’t mean that it won’t burn your fat if you aren’t exercising, because it will! It just means that the effects are stronger while exercising. With the benefits of an increase in your metabolic rate paired with the fat burning effects, it is no surprise as to why Green Tea is the perfect weight loss ingredient.
Garcinia Cambogia Extract:
Garcinia Cambogia is a citrus fruit that is pumpkin shaped, small and green in colour. As a supplement, it comes in both powder and pill form. The hype around Garcinia Cambogia isn’t about the fruit, but rather for the extract found on its rind called Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA). HCA is known for speeding up your metabolism, suppressing your appetite and slowing down the fat-making process in your body.The science behind HCA assisting with weight loss in your body is that it has been seen to partially block the activity of citrate lyase. Citrate lyase is an enzyme which turns carbohydrates into fat. By blocking this activity, our bodies can’t store the excess energy from what we have eaten as fat, therefore slowing down fat production and leading to weight loss. It also suppresses our appetite by increasing our Serotonin levels in our brain which makes us feel good and satisfied, and promotes the feeling of fullness. Garcinia Cambogia has seen to have many other health benefits associated with anti-diabetic effects as it has been seen to lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. There are plenty of supplements containing Garcinia Cambogia Extract, but not all of them are good quality or effective. Look for a supplement with a high dosage of HCA of 50% or more (can take up to 1500mg of HCA, three times a day) and consume 30 minutes before each meal, so the appetite suppressing effects can kick in.
L Carnitine is a chemical that is naturally produced by the human body in your liver and kidneys. It is formed by the amino acids, Lysine and Methionine, and is stored through the body, primarily in muscles. It is a popular single ingredient supplement for weight loss, and also has another popular supplemental form called Acetyl L-Carnitine. L Carnitine transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cell. Since the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell, the fatty acids get burned as fuel for energy. This process is really effective for weight loss but it is also beneficial for your health as it helps aid your body with insulin sensitivity.L-Carnitine isn’t only effective for transporting fat. It has also been proven to enhance athletic performance. Consuming L Carnitine as a supplement for training has many benefits:
- Your body’s ability to burn fat increases while using less muscle glycogen. This is beneficial as it reduces your fatigue which allows you to push harder for longer
- Lowers the lactic levels in your muscles so your stiffness and muscle soreness is reduced and your muscles can recover quicker
- Your body is able to metabolise carbohydrates better, therefore can eat carbohydrates without worrying about gaining more body fat
- Enhances blood flow to your muscles, which feeds your muscles nutrients while training
The best strategy for L Carnitine, according to Jim Stoppani in his Expert Guide to L-Carnitine, is to supplement with 2 or 3 dosages of Acetyl L-Carnitine between meals, and 1 dose of L-Carnitine with a post workout meal.
Synephrine is a compound that is found in Citrus aurantium but is mainly referred to as “Bitter Orange” extract. It is widely known due to its similarity to Ephedrine, and is used as an ingredient in supplements aiding with weight loss. Since Ephedrine became banned in 2004, Synephrine has been adopted as the next best thing as it can mimic the actions of ephedrine and norepinephrine. How does it aid in weight loss? It increases your resting metabolic rate, increases your energy expenditure, mildly suppresses your appetite and breaks down the fat in your body through lipolysis. Although it is effective for weight loss, this particular ingredient has been found to have the most side effects and to be used with caution. Side effects include chest pain, increased blood pressure & heart rate as well as increased anxiety. In studies conducted with strict calorie diet and a circuit training regime, it was found that the individuals who consumed a Synephrine supplement (versus the placebo group) lost more body fat and had a higher basal metabolic rate at the end of the study. It is an effective supplement to consume for weight loss as it has a very clear effect on the energy expenditure and metabolic rate of individuals who are on supplements containing the extract, but it must be taken with caution as it could have negative effects on the health of the individuals too.
Most of these ingredients are found in supplements designed for weight loss, and some can be taken as a single ingredient to aid in weight loss. I have to stress that there is no miracle pill for losing weight. Most supplements need to be paired with a healthy eating plan or regular exercise regime. These ingredients will only assist your body with weight loss and speed up the process. Take everything in moderation, and cycle the supplements so that your body has a break. I hope this provides some clarity on what these ingredients do to your body, and how you can add them to your supplement stack!