By Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Hey gang! Are you looking forward to a great summer? Did you train hard and eat well this past winter? Are you heading into this summer healthy and fit?
For most, summer is a time for BBQs, sunshine, friends, and a little rest & relaxation. But, be careful, because too much summer “sun and fun” without maintaining health and fitness can lead to weight gain and negative health consequences. As you know, maintaining a healthy balanced diet and regular training are fundamental to staying on track— and there’s no magic pill or powder that will change that.
Despite the lack of “magic pills”, there are some key supplements that have been scientifically proven to push your health in the positive direction, help keep fat off, and promote muscular development! Read on to see how you can you use common and safe muscle building supplements to help lower body fat and advance your health!
Whey Protein Isolate
There’s a high likelihood that you are already using a whey protein isolate (WPI) supplement for muscle building, but did you know that whey isolate also helps you to get lean and stay lean.
How WPI can make your summer sizzle: Whey protein supplements significantly boost your muscle building capacity and spare muscle mass while dieting. In a clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, subjects who took a whey protein supplement while undergoing a calorie reduced diet retained twice as much lean mass and burned off nearly twice as much fat mass as the control group (with the same diet) . In men and women, drinking a pre-meal whey protein shake has been shown to stimulate hormones that control satiety (the feeling of fullness after a meal)  and regulate blood sugar levels after a meal .
The Doc’s recommendation: To keep your appetite under control, mix 10-20 g of whey protein isolate with 8oz of water and drink 20-30 minutes prior to eating. On training days, be sure to drink a shake 20-30 minutes prior to eating and one immediately after training. This strategy will ensure you get all the protein and essential amino acids needed to drive anabolism, as well as the fat loss and appetite suppressing effects of pure whey isolate.
- Frestedt JL, Zenk JL, Kuskowski MA, Ward LS, Bastian ED. A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008 Mar 27;5:8. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-5-8.
- Akhavan T, Luhovyy BL, Panahi S, Kubant R, Brown PH, Anderson GH. Mechanism of action of pre-meal consumption of whey protein on glycemic control in young adults. J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Jan;25(1):36-43.
- Chungchunlam SM, Henare SJ, Ganesh S, Moughan PJ. Dietary whey protein influences plasma satiety-related hormones and plasma amino acids in normal-weight adult women. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;69(2):179-86.
Fish oil contains an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids that have been scientifically shown to decrease systemic inflammation, improve cardiovascular health and blood glucose regulation, and act as anabolic agents and fat burners . Study’s illustrate that taking high omega-3 fish oil while training improves body composition, via decreases in body fat and increases in lean mass , suggesting that fish oil provides anabolic sustenance, as well as fat loss support. The omega3 fatty acids that benefit us most are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It is the level of DHA and EPA in Omega 3 supplements that dictates their potency.
How fish oil can make your summer sizzle: Fish oil directly improves body composition by promoting anabolism, increasing fat utilization, and lowering cortisol (a catabolic stress hormone). It has also been shown to significantly improve exercise efficiency and ratings of perceived exertion—- which means fish oil you can workout harder for longer without feeling as tired.
The Doc’s recommendation: To reap all the health, muscle building, and fat loss benefits of fish oil, make sure you are getting 1500 mg of DHA and 1500 mg of EPA per day, split in 3 servings, and take with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Kuda O, Rossmeisl M, Kopecky J. Omega-3 fatty acids and adipose tissue biology. Mol Aspects Med. 2018 Jan 15. pii: S0098-2997(17)30162-0.
- Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Oct 8;7:31.
In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, running athletes, who drank only when they felt thirsty, replaced a mere 30% of the water they lost sweating—despite having open access to water throughout their workouts . These findings were supported by an observational study conducted on elite level rugby athletes who who’s hydration status was monitored during aerobic and resistance training sessions . It was found that 80% of subjects started training in a dehydrated state and failed to match water consumption with sweat rate. In fact, during resistance training, subjects over hydrated and during aerobic training subjects didn’t drink enough .
How staying hydrated can make your summer sizzle: Working out while dehydrated can significantly affect workout volume. In a study published in 2010, researchers from Missouri Western State University reported that subjects who had a controlled 3% body mass loss due to sweating (without fluid replacement) performed 15% less reps when weight training to failure . In another earlier study, scientists reported that dehydration (~3% body mass) led to decreases in average and peak power in the upper body (7% and 15% respectively) and lower body (19% and 18% respectively) during anaerobic exercise .
In the quest for leanness, most reach for fat burning supplements as a first line of defense— we suggest you examine your water intake too! Research published in Obesity illustrates that drinking 500 ml of water prior to each meal can boost weight loss when dieting—in 12-weeks, those who drank water before meals lost about 4.5 lbs. (about 50%) more than those who didn’t drink water before meals. The researchers suggested that drinking water prior to meals increased the feeling of fullness and decreased the total calories consumed per meal .
Researchers from Germany have shown that drinking 500 ml of cold water increases metabolic rate by 30% for about 30 minutes, which equates to a total of about 25 calories burned! In males, water-induced themogenesis is accomplished by burning fat, whereas females burn more carbs . Based on this research, you can expect to burn about 200 extra calories per day if you drink 4 L of cold water daily—seems a lot easier than doing more cardio!
The Doc’s recommendation: If you work and/or train in a temperature controlled environment— Drink 2L of water per day as a minimum baseline, then add in 500ml prior to each main meal, and (on training days) drink 500ml, 20-30 minutes before training. This approach will bring your daily water consumption to 4L, timed so that you can take advantage of water’s training and dietary benefits.
If you work and/or train in a hot environment, then you will need to increase your water consumption to match sweat rate. You likely wont have a means to measure your sweat rate or specific gravity of your urine— so we recommend keeping an eye on your urine color and smell, if its clear (i.e., watery) and scentless, then you are hydrated.
- Passe D, Horn M, Stofan J, Horswill C, Murray R. Voluntary dehydration in runners despite favorable conditions for fluid intake. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Jun;17(3):284-95.
- Cosgrove SD, Love TD, Brown RC, Baker DF, Howe AS, Black KE. Fluid and electrolyte balance during two different preseason training sessions in elite rugby union players. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):520-7.
- Kraft JA, Green JM, Bishop PA, Richardson MT, Neggers YH, Leeper JD. Impact of dehydration on a full body resistance exercise protocol. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 May;109(2):259-67.
- Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7.
- Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;88(12):6015-9.
- Jones LC, Cleary MA, Lopez RM, Zuri RE, Lopez R. Active dehydration impairs upper and lower body anaerobic muscular power. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Mar;22(2):455-6
Since caffeine is a well-documented central nervous system stimulant, then it is no surprise that it has profound positive effects on energy and focus (like most stimulants). However, unlike most stimulants, caffeine is safe when used as recommended. In terms of body composition and health, a recent report concluded that caffeine supplementation is associated with elevating energy expenditure, and suggested that caffeine may counteract the decrease in metabolic rate which commonly occurs during periods of caloric restriction and weight reduction .
How caffeine can make your summer sizzle: A meta-analysis published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports illustrated that preworkout caffeine dampened perceived exertion during and after exercise by 5.6% compared with placebo .
Ingesting caffeine before a workout has been shown to significantly improve endurance in aerobic and anaerobic sports. It has been postulated that aerobic performances benefit from increased free fatty acid mobilization, thus improving time to exhaustion. However, for short duration anaerobic performances (like weight training) scientists speculate that the caffeine induced increase in dopamine signaling in the basal ganglia has the greatest effect on time to exhaustion . Nonetheless, all of this means that you can push harder and for longer by ingesting caffeine before training.
In a double-blind placebo controlled study from the University of Georgia it was found that caffeine ingestion (approximately 300 mg) before maximal voluntary isometric contraction reduced muscular pain intensity by almost 50%! It is hypothesized that this dramatic decrease in muscular pain is due to caffeine’s ability to block adenosine receptors in the brain and spinal cord that are involved in pain processing and perception . This research suggests that you can push your muscles further and harder with each workout, thus providing a greater stimulus for growth.
The Doc’s recommendation: Based on the literature, one thing is clear—you can reap all the preworkout benefits of caffeine supplementation by taking it 30-60 minutes before training. For optimal results: take 2 equal daily doses at 100-300 mg each. If you have never consumed caffeine, start with the lowest dose and work up accordingly. If you exhibit symptoms like shaking, nervousness, heart palpitations, or anxiety then you have taken too much.
- Harpaz E, Tamir S, Weinstein A, Weinstein Y. The effect of caffeine on energy balance. Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2017 Jan 1;28(1):1-10.
- Doherty M, Smith PM. Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: a meta-analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2005 Apr;15(2):69-78.
- Maridakis V, O’Connor PJ, Dudley GA, McCully KK. Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise. J Pain. 2007 Mar;8(3):237-43. Epub 2006 Dec 11.