According to nielsen.com, the top 2 New Year’s resolutions for the past several years has been “staying fit/healthy” and “losing weight”, both of which we can help you with!
Celebration time has a similar impact in all developed countries—increased consumption of high calorie foods and drinks. A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine clearly illustrates the relationship between holidays throughout the year and weight change among the USA, German, and Japanese populations (Fig. 1). Among all three countries, the greatest weight gain occurs over the month of December, but the average time it takes for the population to return to pre-December weight is about 6 months!
Figure 1: Helander EE et al. N Engl J Med 2016;375:1200-1202.
Whether you are new to training or have been doing it for decades, there is one thing we can all agree on: If you gained weight over the holidays, then you ate more than your activity level could support.
But, why is it so hard to get back on track after overeating during the holidays?
The regulation of food intake and satiation (the feeling of fullness) is a complex balance between excitatory and inhibitory processes. The need for nutrition (i.e., calories, water, etc.) provides the excitatory signals. Whereas, (inhibitory) satiety signals after eating make you feel full and satisfied. When you are full, pressure in the stomach and digestive tract increases nerve activity to the brain, which releases signaling molecules from the gut that reach the brain through the bloodstream. This shifts the blood chemistry to have higher levels of cholecystokinin, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and opiates— all of which boost the feeling of fullness and satisfaction. However, like most signals to the brain, with over stimulation (e.g., via frequent overeating) our bodies can quickly become insensitive to satiety signals, which promotes overeating. This desensitization of inhibitory signals can happen within days and is thought to be one of the major contributors to obesity.
Based on this, and the assumption that you plan to eat clean, train regularly, and sleep well, we developed the following supplement regimen aimed at overcoming the hurdles associated with dieting during and after the holiday season. This simple stack was founded on three metabolic concepts necessary for effective fat loss—FAT RELEASE, FAT TRANSPORT, and METABOLIC REGULATION.
In order for body fat to be used for energy, it must be released from inside adipocytes (fat cells) to be circulated in the blood as fatty acids. Fatty acids are taken up by tissues (like active skeletal muscle) to be used as energy.
Using caffeine, especially prior to aerobic exercise, has been scientifically shown to boost fat burning mainly by increasing the release of fatty acids from adipocytes. Caffeine’s significant fat burning effects are based on two scientifically known mechanisms. First, there is a synergistic increase in norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline) delivery associated with the combination of exercise and caffeine supplementation. Norepinephrine is a key regulator of fatty acid release from fat cells. Second, caffeine competes with adenosine on adenosine receptors in fat cells. Under normal conditions, adenosine binds to fat cells and decreases the release of fatty acids. Taking caffeine blocks this inhibitory effect of adenosine on fatty acid release, resulting in greater fat mobilization. Caffeine also boosts focus and motivation when you train and it has been shown to decrease feelings of perceived exertion during intense exercise, enabling you to push harder for longer.
DOSE: For best effects, the literature suggests doses between 200-400 mg, taken 2 to 3 times daily between meal, with one dose 30 min preworkout on training days. Please note, that many people are sensitive to caffeine, so if you are not used to taking stimulants, be certain to start at a single dose no higher than 100 mg and work up to what is tolerable and safe for you.
Once free fatty acids are released into the circulation and have met with a tissue requiring energy, then the fat must get shuttled inside the tissue’s cells to be processed into energy by the mitochondria.
L-carnitine is essential for fat metabolism as it is responsible for transporting fatty acids to the mitochodria to be oxidized. It is found naturally in animal products, with red meat and dairy products being the most abundant sources. In the world of l-carnitine supplements, the most notable and highly bioavailable forms are acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) and l-carnitine l-tartrate (LCLT). Scientists developed ALCAR and LCLT to be readily digested, which boosts l-carnitine bioavailability and absorption in skeletal muscle. When combined with weight training, LCLT can be thought of as an “anabolic potentiator”, which works by upregulating the testosterone-mediated “anabolic system” in skeletal muscle resulting in enhanced recovery and greater gains. When combined with diet and cardio, ALCAR has been shown to increase fat burning and weight loss without causing catabolism (muscle breakdown).
DOSE: Take 1.5-2 g of ALCAR or LCLT, 2 to 3 times per day. On training days, take one dose upon waking, another 30 minutes preworkout, and another postworkout
Green Tea Extract
Green tea contains high concentrations of pharmacologically bioactive polyphenols including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is the catechin primarily responsible for the tea’s thermogenic and metabolism boosting effects. It induces thermogenesis through at least two well-defined and related means: First, by increasing the amount of fat used as energy under exercise and postexercise conditions; second, by inhibiting the enzyme catechol-O-methyltranferase (COMT), which is responsible for metabolizing several neurotransmitters associated with fat burning. By inhibiting COMT with green tea, there are more metabolism boosting neurotransmitters available to assist with fat burning—especially norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which are key players in metabolic regulation and appetite control. Research has shown that taking green tea and caffeine combined with cardio significantly increases the amount of fat burned during exercise.
DOSE: Take 500 mg of green tea extract standardized for 40-50% EGCG, 2 to 3 times per day before meals. For best fat burning effects, always take one dose 30 minutes prior to doing cardio. Please note, there has been some data to suggest that green tea extract taken in high doses is harmful to the liver, hence we do not recommend taking in any more than 1500 mg of green tea extract per day.
Helander EE, et al. Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. N Engl J Med. Sep 22;375(12):1200-2, 2016.
Wang GJ, et al. Gastric stimulation in obese subjects activates the hippocampus and other regions involved in brain reward circuitry. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103, 15641-15645, 2006.
Astrup, A, et al. Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr 51: 759–767, 1990.
Engels, H.J., et al. Influence of caffeine on metabolic and cardiovascular functions during sustained light intensity cycling and at rest. Int J Sport Nutr 9: 361–370, 1999.
Koot, P and Deurenberg, P. Comparison of changes in energy expenditure and body temperatures after caffeine consumption. Ann Nutr Metab 39: 135–142, 1995.
Muller, D. M., et al. Effects of oral L-carnitine supplementation on in vivo long-chain fatty acid oxidation in healthy adults. Metabolism. 2002 Nov;51(11):1389-91.
Wutzke, K. D. and Lorenz, H. The effect of l-carnitine on fat oxidation, protein turnover, and body composition in slightly overweight subjects. Metabolism. 2004 Aug;53(8):1002-6.
Stephens FB, et al. Skeletal muscle carnitine loading increases energy expenditure, modulates fuel metabolism gene networks and prevents body fat accumulation in humans. J Physiol. 2013 Sep 15;591(Pt 18):4655-66.