When pursuing any fitness goal, fat loss and muscle growth are most commonly the main center of attention.
But can you achieve both? It is possible to loose fat while also increasing muscle gains at the same time.
Of course, it goes to say that a healthy diet and lifestyle come first, and this should always be your top priority.
However, supplements can help to enhance athletic performance and the effectiveness of your workouts once you’ve nailed your nutrition.
Remember, supplements are not magic bullets for achieving your desired body composition, building muscle and losing fat takes dedication and consistency. Weight management is much more dependent on your diet, physical activity, and sleep routine however supplements can help to enhance the process.
Today we are sharing natural and effective supplements that can help to support your journey by promoting the muscle building and fat burning processes.
It’s not always so simple or easy to obtain all of the nutrients you need from your diet, especially as your nutrient requirements will often rise when the intensity of exercise also increases. The reality is that we aren’t likely to receive the optimal nutritional profile needed solely from our diet nowadays, due to food processing, transport, depletion of soils, storage of crops, and pollution. This can also be impacted if your diet is restricted due to personal preferences or even allergies. Essentially, a multivitamin supplement can help you to fill in the gaps that might be missing.
Certain vitamins and minerals, in particular, may be more involved in metabolic processes and muscle mass growth than others, and these may include the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Branched-Chain Amino acids (BCAAs) include the amino acids iso-leucine, leucine, and valine. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and provide a wide range of health benefits including building and repairing muscle tissue, maximizing muscle recovery, enhancing brain function, reducing the risk of muscle loss, improving energy levels, and boosting metabolism.
When you consume dietary protein or an amino acid supplement, your metabolic rate actually increases from the energy being used to digest the protein and absorb the amino acids, also known as diet-induced thermogenesis (1)(2).
A study that followed a group of weight lifters who were given BCAA supplements during an 8 week period found that they lost more fat while gaining more muscle than the group that consumed whey protein (7).
That being said, it’s important to consume all essential amino acids in your diet for your health and increased fitness results.
3. Whey Protein
Protein supplements are popular in the gym and for good reason.
Protein is known to positively impact fat burning and muscle building over any other macronutrient. This is because protein has higher thermogenic rates and plays a key role in regulating food intake by inducing satiety more quickly (9). Consuming a sufficient daily intake of protein can help to preserve a healthy body weight and lean body mass.
Whey protein powder, in particular, is often referred to for muscle building as it contains all of the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.
Studies have reported that whey protein intake can facilitate recovery after workouts by increasing the rate of protein synthesis and reducing muscle damage (10).
Whey protein can impact fat loss by modulating hormones that influence body composition and lowering insulin and cortisol (11).
Whey protein is an excellent source of bioavailable protein and provides about 20 grams of protein per serving. It is typically recommended to consume post-workout for optimal repair and regeneration.
Consumption of whey protein pre-exercise can support protein synthesis and increase muscle mass.
Whey protein powder may be a supporting supplement to include in your fitness regimen especially if you have trouble meeting your daily intake and want to increase your protein and calorie intake.
Though opinions vary on whether you should consume your protein shake before or after your workout, the time of day isn’t said to matter that much. Research suggests that as long as you consume protein around your workouts, you should receive the same benefits (12).
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the human body and is an essential nutrient for immune function and gut health. But that’s not all. Glutamine is often consumed as an effective muscle recovery supplement.
During stressors such as intense exercise, the muscles require additional glutamine in order to prevent muscle wasting. Supplementing with glutamine can maximize your physical performance and energy to improve muscle growth.
In addition to building lean muscle mass, glutamine can support metabolic health by balancing insulin and blood sugar levels, which can promote fat burning and changes in body composition (15)(16)(17). Lower levels of insulin and blood sugar can help to reduce fat storage and support weight management.
Glutamine is also often recommended to combat sugar cravings and may help to improve satiety levels and regulate appetite.
5. Fat Burner/Thermogenic
There are many fat-burning supplements on the market claiming to boost your metabolic rate, reduce appetite, and burn fat more quickly, however, it’s important to be wary of these claims as supplements alone won’t give you the perfect body composition.
There are also many fat burners that may be harmful and contain artificial ingredients and we suggest avoiding these (18).
Thermogenics work by raising the internal body temperature, resulting in more calories being burned.
You can use fat burners as additional support on your fitness journey to help you burn more fat and there are many natural supplements and ingredients now available that support fat loss:
Green tea extract: also rich in caffeine, green tea additionally supplies the polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). These two compounds together can support the process of thermogenesis and increase fat-oxidation (21).
It is recommended to use caution when deciding on a fat burner as these supplements are not regulated. When in doubt consult your health care provider before supplementing.
6. Pre-Workout L-Arginine/Nitric Oxide Booster
A pre-workout supplement is designed to be taken prior to a workout and includes energy-boosting ingredients intended to help you get the most out of your session and prevent energy dips as well as improve muscular performance.
L-arginine is a common pre-workout ingredient as it is involved in the formation of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide increases blood flow and nutrients to the exercising muscles and enhances the metabolic response to exercise (22). This not only supports muscle building but also fat burning.
L-arginine is an important amino acid for muscle growth due to its vasodilation effects and ability to boost protein synthesis (23).
Energy drinks may be used to boost energy before a workout however most of these beverages are loaded with artificial ingredients and are not recommended.
Carnitine is a chemical made in the human body and found in nearly all cells. It is derived from an amino acid. L-carnitine plays an important role in energy production by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria to be burned for energy.
This supplement might also benefit blood sugar levels and improve carbohydrate metabolism (25). A study among diabetic patients found those taking carnitine supplements significantly reduced their blood sugar levels (26).
All of these mechanisms suggest that carnitine may be an effective supplement for weight loss and muscle gain however more research is needed to confirm its safety and efficacy (27).
You may or may not have heard of this supplement before, but this herb has a long history in traditional African medicine. Yohimbine is made from the bark of a tree native to Africa and is used as a natural supplement to treat sexual dysfunction and improve sex drive, but it is also popular in the bodybuilding world and as a weight loss supplement.
A study following the supplementation of yohimbine among professional soccer players found that the percentage of body fat significantly decreased in the yohimbine group post supplementation compared to the placebo group (30).
Nevertheless, more research is needed to confirm its fat-burning effects and use for weight loss.
Due to potential side effects, this supplement is prohibited in several European countries as well as in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Yohimbine is not recommended for those under 18 or who have a history of heart disease, high or low blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, and mental health conditions. Always verify with your healthcare professional before supplementing.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women’s hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence’s mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.