With summer around the corner, more and more people are beginning to clean up their nutrition, ramp up their cardio and contemplate including a fat burner in their supplement regimen. While fat burners CAN be beneficial when cutting, I find the majority of people who use them do so with the assumption that by taking a fat burner the fat is just going to miraculously melt away.
Fat burners can help ENHANCE the effects of an already pristine diet and training regimen but they cannot REPLACE them. Before you entertain taking a fat burner you need to make sure that you’re training sufficiently and optimally, that your diet is on point, that you’re sleeping well, and that you are emphasizing recovery and staying hydrated.
If you’re going to invest your hard earned money in the purchase of a fat burner, you want to make sure you get the most out of it.The following are five things you need to consider in order to make the most of your investment.
Drink Enough Water
Water is essential to your body’s ability to lose excess bodyfat, and dehydration can be a major fat loss inhibitor.
Water not only suppresses the appetite and helps create a sensation of fullness when dieting, but has also been shown to help elevate the metabolism and support weight loss or fat loss efforts. Water also helps aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients which is essential for overall health and it helps to lubricate the joints and prevent muscle cramping which can help you train harder, longer.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that most fat burners have two major affects on your body which may INCREASE your need for water. For starters they elevate your metabolism, which for most people winds up meaning they find they sweat more. Increased sweating obviously results in more fluid loss so it becomes imperative that you drink enough water, particularly when training. Secondly, many of the stimulants included in fat burners can produce a diuretic effect, which means you’ll wind up making trips to the bathroom more often than usual. If you aren’t drinking a lot you’ll wind up dehydrated with a slowed metabolism and you’ll end up negating any positive impact on your body from your fat burner.
Clean Up Your Diet
I always assume that this one is a given, and yet I still talk to people who think that taking a fat burner will somehow counteract all the negative nutritional choices they’re making.
Taking a fat burner without addressing your nutrition is a recipe for failure, and a huge waste of money, as even the labels of most top notch fat burners indicate that the supplements are to be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program.
Focus on food quality and filling your diet with as much whole, nutrient dense foods as possible. For example 25g of carb from a sweet potato is going to provide your body with more nutrients than 25g of carb from something like a rice cake or white bread. The fiber in the sweet potato is going to help satiate you, and the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained in the sweet potato are going to benefit your body’s overall health and well-being in a myriad of ways.
I should also note that consuming a diet high in nutrient dense, quality foods is also one way in which you can PREVENT cravings which is one reason most people derail when trying to lose weight. When your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, one of the ways in which it signals this is by triggering a craving. Your insatiable urge for something sweet, or salty, or fatty is more than likely the result of a nutritional deficiency. Your body’s not getting what it needs from the food you’re eating, and so it’s attempting to alert you to the problem by way of a craving. Consuming nutrient dense foods helps to ensure you won’t be battling insane cravings during your diet.
While I firmly believe strength training needs to be the base of any weight loss approach, adding in aerobic work can sometimes give you the edge you need. Cardio, particularly some low intensity fasted cardio can really help with fat loss efforts. I know the opinions on fasted cardio vary, but as a trainer I’ve seen it work effectively time and time again.
Cardio also adds to your overall caloric deficit which obviously helps when attempting to lose weight and it works well to help balance out a solid strength training program. I personally find that it’s best to perform your aerobic work either fasted in the morning, after weight training, or on the days you’re not doing intense strength training. A combination of low intensity and high intensity methods is usually best for body composition and weight loss.
Get Enough Sleep
You’d be surprised how many people DON’T think sleep affects their body’s ability to lose weight, and in fact, it’s the opposite. The strongest fat burner in the world isn’t going to do anything for you if you’re only getting 4 hours of sleep a night.
Being in a chronic state of sleep deprivation can lead to increases in blood cortisol and decreased testosterone, which will definitely put a damper on weight loss efforts. Sleep is necessary for muscle growth and recovery and creating a balanced hormonal environment. Studies have even linked lack of sleep to increased levels of bodyfat. In fact, just a few days of insufficient sleep and your body’s ability to produce insulin becomes disconnected. Insulin sensitivity, drops and when your body doesn’t respond adequately to insulin, your body struggles to metabolize fats from your bloodstream- so you usually wind up storing more fat.
Another reason sleep deprivation can derail your efforts is that it causes disruptions to the hormones ghrelin and leptin (your “hunger” hormones). Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for signaling your brain that it’s time to eat. When you don’t get enough sleep your body produces MORE ghrelin, prompting you to eat MORE than you normally would. On the flipside, leptin, which is your fullness hormone, drops. So not only are you prompted to eat more, but you will find yourself less satiated when eating as well.
To make matters worse, cutting your hours of sleep short numbs the activity in the brain’s frontal lope which is the area of the brain allocated for decision making and impulse control. In other words, you lack less mental clarity than you normally would when it comes to making positive decisions- including what you eat.
The takeaway? Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you absolutely cannot, commit to adding in a small nap (15-20 minutes) during the day to help rest and rejuvenate your body.
Cycle Your Fat Burner
When it comes to using a fat burner, cycling is key. Over time, the body becomes desensitized to many of the ingredients in fat burners and, as a result, will cease to respond appropriately.
Furthermore, overusing fat burners, especially ones that include an array of stimulants can lead to higher levels of cortisol. This is problematic because chronically elevated cortisol levels actually hinders, or slow fat loss.
Cortisol leads to the breakdown of muscle tissue and an increase in fat storage, particularly when calories are low during times of dieting or fat loss efforts. To avoid all of this- just simply cycle your fat burner. Don’t stay on a fat burner for week after week, month after month. If you’re using a stimulant based supplement a good rule of thumb to use is to cycle off for about 1/2 the time you stayed on. So perhaps 4 weeks on, 2 weeks off.
If you start to notice that the fat burner that once gave you a good pick me up is now no longer doing anything for you, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to cycle off and give your body, and your adrenal glands a break. You can try taking a non stimulant based fat burner for a period or cycle off using the 4 weeks on/ 2 weeks off suggestion I listed above.
Fat burners can help with weight loss efforts, but they absolutely cannot replace the necessary training, structured diet, and healthy lifestyle choices that also need to be in play. Before you throw your hard earned money down the drain, re-evaluate some of the areas in your life that I listed above. Focus on training hard, eating well, drinking enough water, and getting adequate sleep. If all of those areas of your life are on point, then adding in a fat burner might help to give you an extra boost in your weight loss efforts! Just be smart about it!