November 30, 2012
Well, it's that time of year again -- marked by holiday cheer, pumpkin rolls, pies, gravy, cookies, and on and on. Honestly, Thanksgiving and Christmas are both cause for intense celebration and reflection, respectively on living in a free nation, and the birth of Jesus Christ. Fortunately for many, the end of all this celebration and consumption marks the start of resolutions, and one of the most popular is weight loss.
The start of the New Year coincides with increased sales of gym memberships, diet books, fitness magazines, personal trainers, exercise videos, clothing and of course supplements. Everyone is looking for that magic pill, powder or drink that promises a tight stomach with no work. Here's a reality check: THERE'S NO SUCH THING!
Supplements are supposed to supplement a proper diet and training program. If your diet is piss-poor, and your training is sporadic, supplements are not going to help. Unfortunately, companies are willing to do what it takes to make money, including being unethical while walking a legal tightrope. These charlatans rely on pseudoscience and get away with peddling their wares to ignorant consumers who have hopes of an easy way to get lean, muscular, strong or all the above.
I'm going to cut to the chase. Because of all the misinformation out there, supplements can be a very controversial and misunderstood subject. There are almost no supplements that live up to the claims made by supplement companies. When you see ads that claim a supplement works as good, or feels like a particular anabolic steroid, or other drug, do not buy it. There is no such thing as a supplement that builds muscle or strength, or aids in weight loss like a drug. Moreover, be wary of endorsements -- do not rely on them to make your decision. Do your own research.
Below you'll find a list of different supplements and foods with a description of each. The list is short, because so many supplements are just repackaged knock-offs of competing products, with the hope that you'll be ignorant enough to spend your money. Writing an article including just 10 percent of the supplements in production would not only be redundant, but a waste of your time. Just know there are very few supplements out there worth your money.
Unlike carbohydrates, protein in and of itself, has little to do with getting fat. Protein consumption is inversely related to fat accumulation, i.e., the more protein you eat the more fat you burn as fuel. Thermogenesis and satiety are directly related to the protein you consume through multiple mechanisms. [1-3] It's what you eat, more than how much you eat that will determine how lean, strong and muscular you will get.
Because it repairs and maintains everything in our bodies from bones to hormones to muscles, protein is the most important macronutrient or supplement you can consume. Extra muscle is not needed for survival or health. Building and maintaining muscle takes a specific stimulus (like weight training) and an environment in our bodies that can only be provided by proper amounts of high quality protein -- starting with a good diet.
The best dietary sources of protein come from grass-fed ruminant animals, free range fowl, free range eggs and wild-caught fish, which are the most nutritious foods on the planet. Getting away from the mass production of foods and returning to local farming would have a huge impact toward improving the health of this nation, let alone the positive impact on athletes of all types.
I cannot stress enough how much your success in the quest for better health, more muscle, more strength or fat loss relies on a diet including high quality protein. Once your diet is squared away, if you had to choose just one supplement to take, protein would be it. The protein I recommend is a mix in the form of micellar casein (MC), whey isolate and whey concentrate. MC (also known as milk protein isolate or milk protein concentrate) has one of the most impressive amino acid profiles. MC has a slow rate of digestion, which gives the user enhanced satiety and leads to MC's anti-catabolic properties.
MC's role as an anti-catabolic is unopposed by any other protein. However, you need to create an anabolic environment in order to build muscle and get lean; adding whey protein to the mix because of its fast delivery of amino acids does just that.
Whey protein comes in three forms: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Concentrate is the least expensive and has the lowest amount of protein per serving, but is the least processed. This also equates to lower levels of branch chained amino acids (BCAAs). Isolates are a purer form of whey protein and usually provide 95 percent or more per serving, with a higher BCAA content than concentrates. Hydrolysates are the purest and most rapidly absorbed form of whey, with the highest biological value (BV) of any protein. BV is a measure of how well nitrogen is retained after ingesting a protein source. You cannot repair and build muscle without adequate amounts of nitrogen.
COCONUT OIL FOR FAT LOSS
Taken from the fruit portion of the seed of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is one the most beneficial foods you can consume. There is an array of positive research published in the last few years showing the significance of coconut oil. [4-6]
Coconut oil is the most saturated of all fats. Saturated fat has three subcategories: short chain, medium chain and long chain. Coconut oil contains about 65 percent medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). The saturated medium chain lipid lauric acid, which comprises approximately 50 percent of coconut oil, is the anti-bacterial, anti-viral fatty acid found in mother's milk.  But, it's the MCFA's thermogenic, or fat-burning effect, that we're most concerned about in this article.
Researchers compared the thermogenic effect between MCFAs and long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), like those found in vegetable oil after single meals. In the study, the meals were 400 calories and consisted entirely of either MCFAs or LCFAs. The thermogenic effect of MCFAs over six hours was three times greater than that of LCFAs. Researchers concluded that as long as the calorie level remained constant, substituting MCFAs for LCFAs would result in weight loss.  The same number of calories from two different substances yielding different outcomes. How weird. (A little sarcasm.)
A study was conducted by researchers at McGill University to evaluate existing data describing the effects of MCFAs on energy expenditure, and to determine their efficacy as agents in the treatment of obesity. They reported that several different studies have shown weight loss equivalent to 12 to 36 pounds a year simply by changing the types of oils used in everyday cooking and food preparation. Animal and human studies have shown greater energy expenditure, less body weight gain, and decreased size of fatty deposits when using MCFAs as opposed to LCFAs . [9,10] How about that calorie theory?
The best source for coconut oil is TropicalTraditions.com
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acids have been referred to as a miracle fat with good reason. The correlation between so many of today's diseases and a deficiency -- or in some cases a complete lack -- of these fats in the diet of Americans is very strong. From our brain, to our heart, to our skin, there is an indisputable benefit to our bodies in consuming Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s are an essential part of any diet. In addition to all the health benefits associated with these fats, Omega-3s have body fat composition benefits. [11-13] They help you lose body fat.
NITRIC OXIDE (NO)
I decided to include this garbage because it has been popular for a while. It's a perfect example of repackaging the same product by different companies in the hopes of enticing consumers to try their version of the same thing. Fortunately, because enough people are finally seeing the truth in their lack of results, its popularity seems to be waning.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a very powerful chemical that among many functions regulates blood flow. NO dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, which allows blood to flow more freely. It's this increase in blood flow that has lead many in the supplement industry to infer a better delivery of nutrients to muscle cells, which they equate to more muscle. That is one hell of a stretch and just doesn't hold water. At the very least, it is irresponsible for supplement companies to market NO products as a way to build muscle.
The NO supplements of today are basically the same as the arginine products of the 1980s; they're just marketing them differently. Unfortunately, for NO proponents the level of arginine in the blood has little to do with NO production, and consequently has nothing to do with increasing blood flow. If we could increase NO production through diet or supplements, because of the decrease in blood pressure that occurs with higher NO levels, we would have had anecdotal reports of lower blood pressure and syncope. These types of reports have not occurred, nor have they been found in research. Don't waste your money on this junk.
There are many companies out there claiming their energy drinks produce long term energy, with an enhanced ability to lose body fat. I have tried many different products, and have had many of my friends and colleagues try them as well. I have yet to find one that boosts energy better than a good cup of coffee, and forget the fat burning claims.
Because many supplement companies still include soy protein as a main ingredient in their products, the health and pocket books of their customers are being thrown to the side. Maximum Human Performance claims their soy protein isolate-based product Parabolic-SR is the biggest breakthrough ever in protein supplementation, and that it has set new standards in protein quality and bioavailability. This is an outrageously irresponsible statement considering the anti-nutrients present in soy protein, and how soy protein is produced.
One of the substances contained in soybeans, which remains in soy products like protein, is goitrogens. These are naturally occurring and interfere with the function of the thyroid gland and hinder fat loss. Goitrogens get their name from the term "goiter," which means enlargement of the thyroid gland. The ingestion of 30 grams of soy protein per day -- about three tablespoons -- has been shown to disrupt and slow thyroid function. Thyroid disease is rampant in Asian societies and is increasing in the U.S.
Extreme processing with heat, pressure or chemical (alkaline) solutions commonly used in manufacturing soy products will neither deactivate nor remove goitrogens.  They are virtually in all soy foods with the highest concentration being in products that are not fermented, like soy milk, protein and baby formula.
The "Fat Carb" has been around for more than 35 years and is in tens of thousands of products people purchase every day. Although fructose is not used as a supplement, it is used as an additive in many supplements you may purchase, i.e., sports drinks, energy drinks and meal replacement drinks. If your goal is to get lean, fructose is your enemy.
Researchers in a double blind study compared the effects of eating a diet comprised of beverages sweetened with either glucose or fructose that provided 25 percent of the subject's energy requirements for 10 weeks.  Both groups gained a similar percentage of weight and body fat, but the glucose group gained subcutaneous fat, while the fructose group gained visceral abdominal fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can grab just under the skin. Visceral fat, however, is not found under the skin. It surrounds the internal organs inside the abdominal cavity. Increased abdominal fat, especially visceral fat, is a concern, because it produce hormones and other substances that profoundly affect our health in negative ways.
Moreover, the fructose group had a significant decrease in lipolysis (fat burning) and decreased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. The glucose group had little change in lipolysis, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Researchers also repeated the findings in a study by researchers from the University of California -- Davis demonstrating that the consumption of fructose slowed participants' metabolic rates. 
If that doesn't sound like a recipe for disaster, I don't know what does. But wait, it gets better.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition was performed to determine the magnitude by which consumption of fructose would stimulate lipogenesis (fat formation).15 The subjects consumed a drink containing 85 grams of sugars in a random blind order. The drinks contained either 100:0 glucose; 50:50 glucose to fructose; or 25:75 glucose to fructose. Researchers concluded that when fructose was consumed, lipogenesis was 200 percent greater than when it was absent.
Moral of the story: read ingredients labels and stay away -- far away -- from fructose.
Creatine hit the market about 15 years ago and has been one of the top selling and most studied supplements since then. Its popularity is due to one reason -- it works. Creatine works by giving the muscle cell what it needs to store Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy source our muscles use for heavy-duty, short-term workloads, the type used in weight training, sprinting, wrestling, etc. Increasing the amount of ATP production will pull more water into the muscle cells, which is how creatine produces its muscle cell volumizing effect.
As it turns out, creatine is much more than a "volumizing" agent. Canadian researchers compared the changes in the amounts of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in two groups of subjects. All the subjects performed at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity three to five times per week for eight weeks. The subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one supplementing with creatine, the other an isocaloric placebo. Muscle biopsies were taken before and after the training period and analyzed for IGF-1 content. The creatine group had a 24 percent higher level of IGF-1. The creatine group also had a 23 percent higher increase in Type II muscle fibers. These findings were independent of dietary guidelines. 
What does this mean for the average person who is weight training? It means if you supplement with creatine, you'll not only get the well known "volumizing" effect, but more Type II muscle fibers. Type II muscle fibers are the fibers that respond to progressive resistance training and account for almost all size and strength gains.
Since muscle burns fat as fuel, more muscle fibers mean a leaner you.
Most of the top brands of supplements are worth your time and money.
3. Halton, T.L., (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5). J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(5). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15466943
4. Paddon-Jones, D., et al. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(5), 1558S-1561S. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/5/1558S.full
7. Enig, M. (2006). Latest studies on coconut oil. Wise Traditions in food, farming and the healing arts, 7(1). Retrieved from http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/latest-studies-on-coconut-oil
8. Enig, M. (2000). Know your fats. (p. 115). Silver Springs, MD: Bethesda Press.
9. Seaton, T. B., et al. (1986). Thermogenic effect of medium chain and long chain triglycerides in man. American journal of clinical nutrition, 44(5), 630. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/44/5/630.full.pdf+html
11. Jones, P. (2002). Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. Journal of Nutrition, 132(3), 329-32. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/3/329.full
12. Hill, AM., et al. (2007). Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1267-74. Retrieved from Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(5):1267-74.
13. Kabir, M., et al. (2007). Treatment for 2 months with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces adiposity and some atherogenic factors but does not improve insulin sensitivity in women with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(6), 1670-79. Retrieved fromAm J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(6):1670-79.
14. Thorsdottir, I., et al. (2007). Randomized trial of weight loss diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content. International Journal of Obesity, 31, 1560-66. Retrieved from Int J Obesity. 2007;31:1560-66
15. Daniel, K. T. (2005). The Whole Soy Story. (P.312). Washington: New Trends Publishing.
16. Furci, M. (2012). Evolution of the Unhealthy American. (P.28).
17. Burke, D.G., et al. (2008). Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 18(4), 389-98.