Enhancing the body's natural furnace is generally a painless way to raise your metabolic efficiency. So let's
Regardless of whether or what you eat before you work out, here are a few items that may help you shed some
fat without breaking your bank or pushing your pill count beyond tolerable limits.
Assuming you're serious about dropping fat and doing it relatively quickly, I also suggest adding some aerobics
to your program.
Although certainly not a supplement, water is the most important of all nutrients. Dehydration (even
mild) impairs many aspects of physiology and metabolism, including immune function and overall recovery, so
water is the number-one substance to consume prior to training - especially if you train in the morning. We're
all slightly dehydrated when we wake up, regardless of whether or not we're dieting. Furthermore, if you sweat
a lot during training, your fluid needs are going to be even higher. This situation is compounded by low-carb
and high-protein diets.
Drink at least one-half liter before hitting the gym and a liter during your workout. Work up to a minimum
intake of one fluid ounce per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of bodyweight per day. For example, a 198-pound guy should
drink at least 90 fluid ounces (about three quarts or liters) per day. Remember, this is a minimum amount - try
to drink a gallon of water a day, in addition to other beverages you may drink. If your morning bodyweight is
lower by more than a pound than it was the day before, drink extra water during the hour before and during
One of the few substances that the scientific community recognizes as a bona fide ergogenic aid, HMB
(B-hydroxy B-methylbutyrate) is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine; it has anticatabolic properties similar
to those of ketones. HMB works most effectively when taken before training, between meals or with a relatively
light protein drink or meal replacement powder, but not with solid food. I suggest three to six grams daily, with
two to three of those before training.
Although not scientifically proven as an ergogenic aid, my observations over the years have led me to
believe that carnitine can be helpful. It has several potential performance-enhancing effects, including
transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria (the "powerhouses" of the cell).
The minimal effective dose is three grams, and I personally recommend four every day, with or without meals. Take
it in powder rather than pill form, if possible. You have to take carnitine consistently for weeks at a time - it
won't work if you just take it once in a while or irregularly.
These substances not only stimulate the nervous system, they also cut appetite and promote fat
utilization. Ephedrine is the key component of these supplements; synephrine is a milder version that you may want
to try. Caffeine adds to the effect of these substances, and even if you choose not to use things like ephedrine,
caffeine is well known for its ability to mobilize fat and enhance its use.
Various other substances, such as yohimbe, L-tyrosine and aspirin or white willow bark, are often combined with
thermogenics. If you take thermogenics, you have your choice of pills, powders or ready-made drinks with or without
additional protein and carbs. Follow dosing recommendations of manufacturers and calibrate from there until you
determine what works best for you.
Thermogenics aren't right for everyone. Obviously, if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, stay away
from them. If you have concerns or questions, consult your doctor.
Although the scientific jury remains out on pyruvate, it does seem to have a modest effect on fat-burning.
It should also help spare protein breakdown. The suggested amount is three to five grams (g) before training, and
there may be additional benefits from consuming another eight to 15 g throughout the day.
VITAMINS / MINERALS / ANTIOXIDANTS
Before training is not the ideal time to consume a dozen pills and several grams
of powders, but it's important that you get adequate amounts of minerals and antioxidants on a consistent basis.
Properly hydrated and nourished bodybuilders will rarely, if ever, have to worry about their training being
impaired by deficiency or loss of electrolytes. However, some key elements are important for myriad metabolic and
Magnesium, for example, is deficient in many hard-training athletes. It's a factor in virtually all
energy-producing enzymes in the mitochondria and also improves the mental aspect of a workout by keeping anxiety at
bay. Antioxidants must be taken consistently to develop appropriate levels of them in tissues. Don't just take them
before working out. However, vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) can be effective when taken immediately before
facing a stressful situation, such as weight training. Recommended doses are 1,000-3,000 milligrams (mg) of C and
200-500 mg C ALA.
Last but not least in this category is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Without enough CoQ10, there's no stimulus to burn more
fat. It's not a superstar in some research, but one study of carnitine, CoQ10 and magnesium did conclude that an
ergogenic effect was produced. It takes awhile to absorb CoQ10, and it probably does not work well in the short
term; however, with regular use and at a dose of about 100 mg per day, CoQ10 can help you reap benefits in future
In upcoming articles of fitFLEX, we'll have plenty more to say about thermogenics and other fat-burning supplements.
This is an evolving area of research and, with government regulators getting into the fray, bodybuilders need to
be informed about what's happening.