Do fat burners really work? That depends on what you mean by the term "fat burner." First of all, every decent study on healthy fat/weight loss points up the necessity of two i elements for success: exercise and diet. There's no way you can do it without them.
The fat-loss process can, however, be hastened with certain supplements, known as lipotropic agents, or "lipos." In the early 1960s adventurous bodybuilders were purchasing pound cans of choline and inositol powders. These two B-vitamins found in lecithin were believed to aid the liver in fat metabolism. Later, another B-vitamin, B-6, and the amino acid methionine were added to make a more complete product. But while these lipos are up to 30 times more effective than mere lecithin, they may not do much for real seriously overweight folks after four to six weeks of dieting.
The next fat-burning supplement worthy of mention is tri-methyl glycine, or TMG. Don't confuse this substance with it's precursor, DMG, or di-methyl lycine. DMG was a definite step in the right direction but is nowhere as effective as TMG.
DMG is, however, a lot safer than B-15, or pangamic acid, which some athletes take for the same effect. Many scientific researchers are cautious, if not downright convinced, about the possibility of B-15 being the forerunner to something destructive; for example, cancer.
"Too many oxygen radicals are freed ... too much carbon involved," according to the late Dr. Anthony Pescetti, physician, biochemist and Ph.D., who tirelessly researched cancer and human nutrition for more than four decades. I interviewed the good doctor about six years ago in connection with some of his experimental nutritional formulas. When I asked him why he hesitated on including B-15 in a rather advanced athletic product, he paused, looked downward and shook his head. Then, with one of those "Come with me, my son" expressions, led me to his laboratory.
Despite the large body of work the Soviets had done with B-15, Dr. Pescetti's case against it gave me a lot to think about. Since then I've come to develop an avenue of doubt a mile long on the subject, as have many other researchers.
Foodscience Labs Inc. must have been expressing similar doubts when it reformulated the company's sublingual B-15 to DMG. Other firms followed suit, and now we have TMG, which includes an additional methyl donor to pick up another oxygen-free radical and bum it more efficiently.
But what does this all mean to you, the athlete? TMG seems to become a bioactivator of fats once you've reached the aerobic level of your training. In other words, it kicks in after 12 to 15 minutes of aerobic training for advanced trainees (those in top athletic condition) and after 20 minutes for the rest of us. It is wonderfully effective for those into aerobic exercise; for example, running, cycling, rowing, cycle training. (But it doesn't do the trick for swimming. Although TMG is a great aid to the swimmer's endurance, swimming-even with TMG-is not an effective fat burner, a topic we'll save for later.)
One supplement that will help burn fat regardless of your activity level is the amino acid carnitine. This amino exists in all muscle tissue, especially the heart. It works all day long, even without your getting that aerobic effect going. When you're just walking around, working, thinking, or what have you, the carnitine is doing its job.
Carnitine isn't a magic potion; what it does is help the body mobilize fat for energy production over the long haul. Remember that fat is a long-term source of energy. Could your heart beat very long strictly on the fuel supplied by carbohydrates, that is, glycogen? More likely, your heart would get "tired" 45 minutes after you awakened. Muscle glycogen would be robbed, and you'd be a limp mess!
Carnitine is manufactured in your body from the essential amino acid lysine and materials from the transamination, or transformation, of methionine. Because many vegetables, such as corn, do not adequately yield, or pass on to the body, their lysine content, some vegetarians are found to have low carnitine levels. Lysine is a very busy amino. If it's not supplied in sufficient amounts to meet an individual's lifestyle, heredity, activity and stress levels, carnitine production drops.
Carnitine supplements are readily available these days, and while I don't want to get too deeply into the endorsement quagmire here, I have found some to be more effective than others. Magruder's liquid carnitine is the most potent of its type; for the early-morning trainee it seems to be quite efficient. Twinlab also makes a liquid carnitine.
Jarrow Formulas has a carnitine product that includes CoQ1O (ubiquinone) and two other elements, and after taking it, well, for almost two years we've been removing what Vince Gironda would call "wide loads" from the streets.
If it seems that I've left out the many phytosterol supplements and those with brindally berry and guar gum, rest assured that these will be dealt with in a future article. These products seem more beneficial to those seeking general weight loss and/or cholesterol management. For this piece I'm targeting the competitor or the so-called hard gainer.