Diet and Nutrition

The Fat Burning Secrets

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Supplement Savvy

By Tom Venuto, author of Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle

Is there such a thing as a natural "energy booster" that really peps you up? Do the so-called "fat-burners" actually work? Will protein powders help you build more muscle? Are there legal "steroid replacements" that mimic the effects of powerful anabolic drugs without the side effects? These questions have bewildered millions of health conscious consumers for decades. Because we are constantly bombarded by advertising for hundreds of products making outlandish health claims, it has become increasingly difficult to tell what to believe and what not to. A magic pill that gives you a body like Schwarzenegger overnight doesn't exist and it never will, but recent advances in nutrition science have produced some remarkably effective products that are definitely worth considering.

Multi vitamin-minerals
A basic multivitamin-mineral is the cornerstone of a solid supplementation program. Unfortunately, most people misunderstand the role vitamins and minerals play in human nutrition. If you think you're going to get a super-charged energy blast, a decrease in body fat, or a spurt of muscle growth by simply popping a few pills every day, you're in for a big disappointment. Vitamin and mineral supplements will not burn more fat, build more muscle, increase energy, or improve athletic performance. However, if you are deficient in certain nutrients you will most definitely see a decrease in fitness levels and performance.

Today, most people rely heavily on processed, enriched, and refined foods. In addition, high stress levels, strenuous workouts, and missed meals may all contribute to a less than optimal intake of essential nutrients. Under these conditions, it is difficult to guarantee that you are getting everything you need from your food alone. Taking a vitamin and mineral supplement acts as an "insurance policy" against deficiencies so that you can function at optimal levels.

Chromium for example, is a mineral that has been hyped as a fat burner and muscle builder. It is true that Chromium plays a role in fat loss and muscle development as well as in the regulation of blood sugar. However, if your diet isn't deficient in Chromium, taking additional Chromium will probably do very little for you. According to government statistics, many Americans are not getting enough of this important nutrient in their regular diets. The reason for taking the supplement is not because it is a miracle fat burner and muscle builder, but because it is protecting you from deficiency.

A good multi-vitamin mineral formula will contain every essential nutrient you need (including the recommended daily dose of 200 mcg of Chromium) There are many good brands on the market. "Nutrition Action Healthletter", which is published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition consumer's group, recommended Twinlab’s "Dualtabs" as one of the best on the market.

"Fat Burners"
There is no such thing as a pill that simply burns away body fat. Even if there were it would not be a permanent solution to the obesity problem because it would be addressing the symptom and not the cause. Many of the "fat burners" on the market today are utterly worthless frauds. One category of products that are definitely effective is "thermogenic"agents. These formulas actually raise body temperature and increase metabolism, thereby burning off calories as heat. The most common ingredients in these products are the natural herbs "Ma Huang", which contains ephedrine, and "Kola Nut," which contains caffeine. Studies have shown conclusively that this combination works synergistically for a thermogenic and a stimulant effect. These products are not without their drawbacks, however. Because they are powerful stimulants, they serve as highly effective energy boosters, but overuse may cause side effects such as insomnia, heart palpitations, and jitteriness. Products containing pure ephedrine are now regulated by the FDA, and are banned by the International Olympic Committee. While legal and still available over the counter, pure ephedrine is technically a drug, and has come under heavy scrutiny by the media not only because it provides an edge in athletic competition, but because abuse of ephedrine has resulted in serious health problems and even several deaths. The all-natural herbal thermogenic formulas, such as "Diet Fuel," which is manufactured by Twinlab, and "Xenadrine," by Cytodyne Technologies, provide the fat-burning and energy-boosting properties while minimizing the risks.

Meal replacements
Eating small, frequent meals (four to six per day) speeds up the metabolism, increases energy levels, decreases the chance of fat storage from overfeeding, and allows the body to process more protein and nutrients for muscle growth. With the fast paced, hectic lifestyles that many of us lead, it is often very difficult to eat frequently. If this describes you, meal replacement products (MRP’s) may be the solution. If your schedule only allows you to eat two or three times per day, the addition of one or two MRP’s can improve your results dramatically. MRP’s are low in calories and fat, and high in protein and essential nutrients. They usually come in convenient single serving packets that you can carry with you if you are on the go. "MET-RX" is the most well-known of the MRP’s on the market today. "Myoplex" and "RX-Fuel" are also recommended brands. These products are not intended to take the place of good eating habits, but they are an extremely convenient way to get a "meal" in a hurry.

Protein Supplements
For years a heated debate has raged over whether or not extra protein will boost muscle development. Everyone knows that protein is the raw material for building muscle, but many people do not consume enough protein foods to support muscle growth. Since proteins cannot be stored like carbohydrates, it is important to eat a serving of protein such as egg whites, fish, lean meat, or a nonfat dairy product with every meal. If you are already consuming a high quality source of protein with each meal four to six times a day, taking heaps of additional protein probably won’t speed up muscle growth any further. But if you're one of those people who are not eating enough protein foods in your regular diet, then protein supplements will definitely help. The best type of protein supplement is whey, which is a milk-based protein that has been specially processed, and has the highest biological value and utilization of all the proteins. A whey protein powder can be made into a shake and consumed with a meal instead of the protein food and is extremely convenient to use.

"Steroid replacements"
Countless supplements over the years have been touted as "steroid replacements" which supposedly mimic the effects of anabolic drugs. Virtually any product which advertises itself as a "steroid replacement" is a scam. Steroids are drugs, supplements are food; there is a big difference! If any over the counter product did produce the same effects of steroids it would soon be discovered by the FDA who would promptly yank it off the market.

While certainly not approaching the effectiveness of steroids, one compound which has been proven effective in enhancing strength is Creatine Monohydrate. Creatine is a metabolite which regenerates ATP, the high powered chemical that supplies energy for the initial seconds of muscle contraction. The effects of Creatine, which have been studied and documented in peer reviewed scientific and medical journals include increased strength, power, muscle mass, recovery time, and weight gain.

Creatine is unquestionably the hottest supplement in the sports nutrition world today and is being used widely by sprinters, bicyclists, football players, boxers, powerlifters, bodybuilders and virtually any athlete who requires strength and power.

In the quest for a better body, everyone seems to be looking for an easy way, but the truth is there is no way to develop a great physique other than good nutrition and outright hard work. Supplements help, but they simply cannot take the place of good eating habits and hard training. Instead of looking for a magic elixir, you should first start paying more attention to proper nutrition and training. Once you've established a sound nutrition program and a consistent training regimen, then try adding some of the supplements we've discussed and they might just give you that slight edge that you're looking for.

This article was provided courtesy of Tom Venuto and . Tom is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models.