What do thermogenics do?
The idea of thermogenics is
to mobilize and burn fatty acids, using what are essentially stimulants. Phen-Free uses a fruit extract called Citrus aurantium,
which contains the mild stimulant synephrine. Your adrenal glands respond to it by releasing norepinephrine which stimulates
nerve, muscle and fat cells. The caffeine and St. John's Wort act to reduce "inhibitory feedback" which would normally shut
this process down. In effect, Phen-Free kicks your metabolism into a high-response condition.
When are thermogenics useful?
Now, if you mobilize fatty acids without burning them, they go right back into
the fat cells, so thermogenics are best used before workouts and about a half-hour before meals, when your glycogen stores
need replenishing. If you've depressed your metabolic rate through restrictive dieting in the past (which is a really bad
idea, particularly if you've been fat since childhood), Phen-Free may help to normalize it. Ditto in the unlikely event you
have the "fat gene", since synephrine stimulates the beta-adrenergic receptors (more about this on my Q&A page).
I'm specifically interested in Hydroxycut, so cut to the chase:
Hydroxycut is a thermogenic
based weight loss drub that has proven effective for many users. It (used to - see next entry) contain ephedrine (ma Huang),
guarana extract (caffeine), green tea extract, willow bark extract (asprin) and several other ingredients. The new version
has all the same ingredients, minus the ephedra.
Hydroxycut has been around for a while now, and lots of people experienced
excellent weight loss results on the original formula; although I couldn't find much on the new formula.
One of the
most valueable outcomes from Hydroxycut (and other diet supplements) is the motivation they can provide. When you see yourself
loosing weight and start seeing progress, that feeling can't be beat. It sounds swell and all, but like all good things, there's
a downside - even without the ephedra; the pure amount of caffeine in these can cause:
Increased blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Headaches, light - headedness and dizziness
Loss of appetite (not necessarily bad)
Feel restless and hyper active
You may experience some of the side effects of Hydroxycut listed above. However, after you stop taking Hydroxycut,
these side effects should go away.
Did you know the state of Missouri is sueing a
marketer of Hydroxycut?
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has filed a false advertising suit against the marketers
of Hydroxycut, an epehdra-containing product claimed to be a safe and "clinically proven fat burner." The suit charges that
the manufacturer, MuscleTech Research and Development Inc., of Mississauga, Ontario, had:
- Failed to disclose that the
product contained ephedra or that ephredra posed serious health risks.
- Failed to disclose that its own research showed
that Hydroxycut has no efficacy as compared to placebo with the possible exception of an appetite-suppressing effect.
Manipulated "research" results by failing to disclose when subjects dropped out because of adverse effects, including one
case in which hospital care was required.
- Used "before" and "after" photographs obtained with different lighting and
poses to create the false impression that people who used the product were trimmer.
MuscleTech states that the Hydroxycut
it is producing now is ephedra-free, but Nixon said there are unknown quantities of Hydroxycut still being sold that contain
ephedra. The current ingredients include 200 mg of caffeine, the amount in two cups of brewed coffee. Nixon wants the company
to stop making misrepresentations, pay restitution to Missouri consumers harmed by the misrepresentations, and to pay undetermined
penalties and investigative and court costs to the state.
Let's talk about other thermogenics:
Studies indicate that thermogenics can contribute to a significant increase in fat loss from exercise. But thermogenics
are not for everyone, and should be avoided if you are pregnant, lactating, taking anti-depressants or other nervous-system
drugs, or have high blood pressure. If you don't use a thermogenic pill, you can still get some benefit from a small cup of
caffeinated coffee before your morning workouts.
Consider Methoxy Factor for example. This contains methoxy-isoflavone
and beta-ecdysterone. Methoxy-isoflavone suppresses cortisol levels and is used to increase lean tissue in livestock. Beta-ecdysterone
is an insect hormone which controls the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths. It is also present in unrelated plant seeds
and roots (which is the source EAS uses). It doesn't seem to have an effect on human hormones, so it can't really be classified
as a "steroid", but both methoxy-isoflavone and beta-ecdysterone do seem to have a significant effect on lean mass. The studies
I've seen are on livestock and Japanese quail, but these substances have also been used to medically treat muscle atrophy
in humans. Are they safe? Probably.
So should you take Methoxy Factor? Or a different
It's up to you - it depends on how "natural" you prefer to be, versus how willing you are to be a
lab mouse. The evidence suggests that supplements can be effective, but then again, weight training and carefully modulating
your cortisol and insulin are also going to be effective. Do you need it to be successful? No.
Other useful and less esoteric supplements that are backed by research:
Vitamin C (anywhere between 500-4000
mg a day), green tea extract (another good antioxidant, improves insulin response, and stimulates the uncoupling proteins
responsible for thermogenesis), and fish oil (also stimulates uncoupling proteins - 20 to 40 calories a day of this is sufficient).
For people who suspect they are insulin resistant (diabetic family history, fat mostly in the abdominal area, easily fatigued,
tend to get the jitters between meals), insulin response may be improved by supplementing with alpha lipoic acid (ALA, anywhere
between 100-400 mg daily), and chromium picolinate (generally 200-400 mcg daily, but follow the label on whatever brand you
get). Again, it's not advisable to take some supplements if you're pregnant or lactating - always check with a doctor.
Remember, supplements are exactly that - supplements. They're not going to
help much if you don't do effective workouts or follow a proper nutrition plan. By the way, none of these are "steroids" -
the supplements I've listed are mostly just naturally occurring proteins, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and food derivatives
that support various metabolic processes, but don't exceed the recommended intakes.
The Myoplex makes the meal planning much easier, and the other supplements can enhance your progress,
but the main thing you need for success is within you, not in a bottle.