There are so many products out there on the market for fat loss and muscle building. Many of them from the most state-of-the-art fat burning stack to most calorie-packed, protein-rich mass gainers are nothing more than a gimmick, designed to take your money and give you the same results you’d get if you just did a little research and bought a few of their key ingredients separately.
Below, you’ll find a very short, inexpensive list of supplements to help lose fat and maximize muscle gains.
• Ephedra: Ephedra can be purchased on the cheap for pennies on the dollar. Though many people think it’s illegal, there are several major nutrition companies out there producing fat loss products containing ephedra and ephedrine HCL. An extract from the Chinese “Ephedra sinica” plant, a 300mg dose spit up over 2 or 3 servings in a day is an absolutely perfect and inexpensive weight loss tool. Don’t exceed the maximum suggested dose. It’s a really good idea to assess your tolerance first with 100mg or less, to determine if you’re sensitive to it or not.
• Caffeine: Caffeine revs up your metabolism and curbs the appetite like few other OTC supplements can. There’s nothing wrong with getting your dose through regular plain old coffee or espresso drinks, but there are several people who just don’t like the taste, or prefer to take a pill rather than a large cup of coffee. Limit your intake to no more than 300mg per day, which is approximately 3 cups of large coffee, 3 regular espressos, or 3 breakfast style teas.
• Chromium Picolinate: Chromium picolinate works at the cellular level to help curb carbohydrate cravings. Don’t expect it to magically cure you of that donut addiction straight out of the gates though. The longer you take it, the better it starts to work on suppressing those cravings. It’s also reasonably cheap and works quite well when stacked with other supplements, like caffeine and ephedra.
• Ground Flax Seed: Flax seed has a zero net carb value while also being packed full of fiber, iron, amino rich plant protein, and loaded with healthy omega-3’s for recovery. It’s perfect for fat loss dieting, and super cheap when you buy it at the bulk food store. Don’t buy the pre-ground stuff at the supermarket. The omega-3 values start to plummet soon after flax seed is ground. Instead, buy the whole seeds in bulk for a dollar or two per pound and grind your own with a plain-jane coffee grinder.
• Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a little pricey compared to the other items on this list, however, it’s one of the most affordable ways to get loads of MCT’s (Medium-Chain Triglycerides). MCT’s are used by the brain and body much in the same way sugar is, meaning the body doesn’t have to convert it to an energy source during digestion like it does with protein or other long-chain fats. MCT’s have proven to help the body burn more fat when consumed regularly (see more). Just like flax seed, the very best place to buy coconut oil is at your bulk or whole foods store.
• Whey Protein: There’s no substitute for whey. It’s digested and begins circulating aminos in your bloodstream within an hour of consumption, feeding your hungry muscles when they need it most and preventing catabolism from beginning. Drink 25g of whey before and after each workout, and perhaps an extra 25g serving in the morning when you wake up (if you can afford it). Don’t waste your money on the “hip brands” that charge you $70 and change for 2lbs. Look for the cheap stuff and buy more of it.
• Glutamine: Consuming 5g of glutamine before a workout and another 5g before bed or soon after you wake up can have a profound effect on the way your muscles recover, and thus how fast they can grow. Soreness is a double-edged sword. If you aren’t feeling soreness ever, after any workout, it isn’t likely that you’re really pushing yourself hard enough. However, with glutamine, recovery speeds up so much, you’ll rarely feel sore for longer than a day, even after the most brutal leg day! It’s super-cheap, and you’ll find that many whey manufacturers are putting 5g of glutamine in each serving of their products.
• Creatine: This stuff is great for increasing strength and endurance quickly, leading to a more profound adaptive response from the body, and thus faster muscle growth. Creatine’s dirt cheap if you buy the monohydrate version. There are two different kinds of creatine to watch out for: monohydrate and HCL. Neither is really better for muscle gains, but HCL is the concentrated form of creatine, meaning you need around half the dose to get the same results. A typical dose of monohydrate is 5g, whereas a typical dose of HCL is around 2.0 – 2.5mg. HCL’s also at least double the price in most places, so keep that in mind.
Don’t Forget Your Diet!
It should go without saying that none of the supplements listed above will help you with your goals if you’re not eating the way you should. Fat loss requires a reduction in calories, while keeping protein levels high to reduce muscle loss (see this fat loss article). Building muscle requires an excess of calories, in the form of healthy protein, carbs, and healthy fats (see 10 Foods to Build Muscle).
Combine the right diet, efficient workouts, and plenty of rest, and the supplements suggested on this page will work wonders for you, without stripping your wallet in the process!