Updated: May 15
Getting lean isn’t necessarily rocket science. It’s as simple as calories in vs. calories burned. If your maintenance calories are 2,500 calories per day; then very simply subtract 200-300 calories and now you’re in a caloric deficit. Over time this deficit will mean losing weight, and hopefully mostly fat, whether for a competition event or for overall health and body composition. Losing weight and leaning out is crucially done through nutrition. Still, we can do other things as well to speed up this process, such as cardio a couple of times a week. Supplements are also another tool and can be very helpful in speeding up the process of leaning out and getting you over the hurdle of plateaus. Remember that supplements are an aid, and should be used as such; nothing beats adequate nutrition, exercise, and rest.
1. Whey Protein Isolate
The amino acids you get from protein consumption are what allow your body to carry out many functions, one of those being muscle repair. One study showed that the calcium and mineral mix provided by Whey protein decreases the accumulation of body fat and accelerates weight and fat loss during energy restriction (1). Whey Protein may also help you with a speedy recovery after intense exercise. In the same study, it was shown that the amino acid Leucine, which is abundant in Whey, is a key component in signaling the initiation of muscle protein synthesis (1). You’ll often hear that .5g-1g of protein per pound of body weight is what your body needs. Whey Protein, typically found in powder form, will help you reach your numbers. Whey Protein is derived from dairy products, so if you have a dairy allergy or are sensitive to dairy products there are alternatives on the market.
2. Caffeine- Green Tea
We all are perhaps too familiar with the stimulant Caffeine, with close to 90% of Americans consuming at least 1 caffeinated drink per day. Caffeine can help increase your metabolism. A study showed that caffeine consumption increased energy expenditure in a group by 13% and doubled their turnover of lipids, of which 24% were oxidized and the remainder recycled (3). You want to think about your metabolism as a furnace where calories go to get cooked, and caffeine adds more fuel to the fire. Caffeine from green tea is particularly great for its antioxidant properties, digestive aid, and fat oxidation. One component of Green-Tea is EGCG a powerful antioxidant that promotes the increase of norepinephrine, a hormone that promotes fat breakdown (2). Caffeine and EGCG have been shown to work together synergistically to promote weight and fat loss.
Yohimbine is a compound found in the bark of the African evergreen tree, Yohimbe. Although traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and sexual performance enhancer, it has gained traction as an athletic performance enhancer/dietary supplement. KEEP IN MIND, you want to be picky with where you get this supplement, and make sure the reviews are good, as yohimbine, like many other supplements, is not regulated by the FDA, and can come with side effects. I’ve generally had good results with this one, but a consult with your physician about it wouldn’t hurt especially if you have conditions such as heart disease, blood pressure issues, or kidney/liver diseases. Yohimbe's resulting effects on weight loss are mixed. One study showed that yohimbine taken prior to exercise boosted lipolysis during and after exercise by blocking adipocyte alpha-2 adrenoreceptors (4). Yohimbine also does show synergistic effects when stacked with caffeine, increasing thermogenic effects. However, certain studies have shown that Yohimbe did not lead to significant differences in weight loss and the treatment of obesity (5). Overall, Yohimbe could work to aid in fat loss and recomposition, however, it depends on other variables such as diet, sleep, and exercise. Yohimbine functions as a stimulant and makes a great fat-burning compound, which can generally improve body composition. As with all supplementation talk to your health care provider to see if this is an option for you.
L-Carnitine is a chemical that is naturally produced by your body. It is important for heart and brain function, and many other processes including muscle movement. It can be consumed in small amounts through animal products such as fish or meat; therefore is typically found at low levels in vegetarians and vegans. The dietary benefits of L-Carnitine include serving as an aid to turn body fat into energy and providing a boost in nitric oxide production. It does this by transporting fatty acids into your cells' mitochondria for energy production. A particular study showed that L-Carnitine can have a moderate effect on lowering BMI, reducing weight and fat mass, particularly in overweight or obese adults (6).
Creatine is found in red meat and seafood and is often used for sports performance and muscle building. It is involved in making energy for muscular hypertrophy, specifically skeletal muscles. Creatine does result in weight gain due to an increase in total body water retention. This happens because when creatine is absorbed in the muscle, it pulls water with it causing cells to swell. NOTE: The weight gain from creatine does not mean you are increasing body fat percentage and the number on the scale does not always paint the full picture. The result of creatine intake is an anabolic state in which there is less protein breakdown and muscle protein synthesis. If you have more muscle mass in your body, then your metabolic rate is increased. This suggests more calories burned on average at rest. Granted, if you’re doing something like a bodybuilding competition you’re going to want to adjust your intake to modify your water retention. If you don’t use creatine yet, give it a try and you will feel stronger, your muscles fuller, and get leaner as a result.
6. ACV- Apple Cider Vinegar
For a while, it seemed that Apple Cider Vinegar was the cure-all for all ailments. This may or may not be true, however, there are undoubtedly many healthy properties of ACV. ACV aids in weight loss, reduces cholesterol, and can lower blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance has been a hot topic in the fitness realm, and surely the reduction of blood sugar levels translates to weight loss. The antimicrobial properties offered through the fermentation process can aid in gut health and adequate digestion. Lastly, ACV can lower triglyceride levels and overall reduce belly fat. In a widely cited and reviewed study, bodyweight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower for both vinegar intake groups than in the placebo group (7).
Hopefully, some or a combination of these supplements can get you closer to your fitness/health goals. Remember that supplements are not a replacement for good discipline in your diet and exercise regimen.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.
Ha, E., & Zemel, M. B. (2003). Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids: Mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review). The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 14(5), 251-258. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0955-2863(03)00030-5
Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2010). Green tea catechins, caffeine and body-weight regulation. Physiology & Behavior, 100(1), 42-46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.02.005
Acheson, K. J., Gremaud, G., Meirim, I., Montigon, F., Krebs, Y., Fay, L. B., Gay, L., Schneiter, P., Schindler, C., & Tappy, L. (2004). Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: Lipid oxidation or futile cycling? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(1), 40-46. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/79.1.40
McCarty, M. F. (2002). Pre-exercise administration of yohimbine may enhance the efficacy of exercise training as a fat loss strategy by boosting lipolysis. Medical Hypotheses, 58(6), 491-495. https://doi.org/10.1054/mehy.2001.1459
Berlin I, Stalla-Bourdillon A, Thuillier Y, Turpin G, Puech AJ. Absence d'efficacité de la yohimbine dans le traitement de l'obésité [Lack of efficacy of yohimbine in the treatment of obesity]. J Pharmacol. 1986 Jul-Sep;17(3):343-7. French. PMID: 3795978.
Talenezhad N, Mohammadi M, Ramezani-Jolfaie N, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Salehi-Abargouei A. Effects of l-carnitine supplementation on weight loss and body composition: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 37 randomized controlled clinical trials with dose-response analysis. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2020 Jun;37:9-23. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2020.03.008. Epub 2020 Apr 18. PMID: 32359762.
Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43. doi: 10.1271/bbb.90231. Epub 2009 Aug 7. PMID: 19661687.