Summer is here and that means it's time to get into beach shape. This has become increasingly obvious to me as the majority of clients come in with a laser-like focus on losing fat.
They don't have time to waste (and neither do you!); they need to burn that fat now! One of the many tricks we use to speed up their progress is the introduction of stimulants into their diet and supplementation routine.
In this article you'll find 6 ways in which stimulants can help optimize results, when combined with a responsible fat burning program, along with plenty of additional tips along the way.
Before we get to the details we need to be sure of exactly what is meant by the term "stimulant". In this case, it refers to a class of supplement or beverage that has an excitatory effect.
In other words, they're substances that make you feel energetic. Examples of stimulant supplements from Biotest include HOT-ROX® and to a lesser extent Power Drive®. Common beverage examples are coffee, energy drinks (Spike Shooters®), and green tea.
Now let's get to the good stuff.
The number one killer of diets is appetite. Once we can control that, the rest of the job is relatively easy. Fortunately, one of the main benefits of stimulants is appetite control. By reducing our overall hunger, we're less likely to consume food (duh), but perhaps more important is the relief of the mental burden.
You know what I mean. That constant gnawing hunger that makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. Hell it even makes it hard to sleep. Yup, this is the real diet killer, and it can be largely relieved by stimulants.
Quick Tip: Be sure to fill up on fiber and water. This combination is a great help to any appetite issues that people have.
The most obvious benefit of stimulant use is the feeling of an energy boost that they provide. This enhanced feeling has two main benefits: 1) it keeps our activity levels up, and 2) it allows us to maintain intensity during training.
Getting Up To Burn
It is quite amazing to see how much energy we can expend from doing everyday activities that we don't even think about. But when we go on a calorie restricted diet, our body fights to preserve energy by minimizing the amount of energy we actually expend – and one way it does this is to minimize little activities.
For example, rather than getting up twice to perform two separate tasks, we're more likely to accomplish both by just getting up once. If this just sounds more efficient, you're exactly right and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid.
By getting up twice, we're basically expending double the energy due to the inefficiency. Although this sounds minor, when you add up all of the little tasks we do each day, the total caloric expenditure is surprising.
By maintaining our energy during training, we're better able to put out the kind of intensity that's going to get us results. This applies not only for fat loss and cardio, but muscle growth and weights as well. By shutting down our intensity, our body naturally preserves energy. This happens by reducing the caloric expenditure from training, and the amount of muscle burned due to catabolism.
If we don't push the weights with sufficient intensity, then the catabolism will overcome the minor anabolic training stimulus, and the body will both reap energy from broken down muscle, as well as decrease our overall metabolic rate.
Remember, our body perceives a calorie restricted diet as a pre-death starvation and will do anything it can to prevent it. In this case, don't let the body win!
When on a low calorie diet, particularly one that is low in carbohydrates, we may not be as mentally sharp as normal. This has negative implications on everyday life, and clearly needs to be avoided. I have even heard someone say that they avoid low calorie diets for this very reason. Although this is an extreme reaction, there are certain jobs in which any mental deficit could be costly.
It's worth noting that mental lapses as described here simply refer to one not being able to think as clearly, or maintain concentration.
Another benefit of stimulants is that they provide a mental boost during a calorie-restricted diet, such that any short-term mental lapses are mitigated. Of course they might be used to enhance concentration during a less intense diet, but that goes beyond the scope of this article.
There is an interesting, albeit somewhat limited, case that can be made for a stimulant-induced mitigation of "mental fuzz", in that it can help fat loss by allowing one to concentrate on the diet better. Whatever the reason, allowing us to think through the clouds is something that everyone can benefit from, whether on a calorie-restricted diet or not.
Quick Tip: Try adding some nootropics (a.k.a. smart drugs) like creatine or piracetam for an even stronger mental boost.
The reason that we feel so energetic when using stimulants is because they increase our levels of the "fight or flight" hormones. They not only make us feel energetic, but they provide the added benefit of directly stimulating our metabolic rate. This means that we burn more calories while exercising, doing housework, or even just sitting around watching TV!
This is also the reason why we feel hot while using stimulants; it's our ramped up metabolism that is actually expending the caloric energy as heat. C'mon, you know they don't call them Hot-Rox® Extreme for nothing!
Increased Fat Utilization
Stimulants don't just increase the amount of energy we burn, they have an added bonus: these substances can increase the proportion of burned energy that comes specifically from fat. This is absolutely critical because, of course, we're not just trying to spend calories, we're also trying to get rid of the fat.
We need to consider the implications of this double impact fat killer; we're burning more calories overall, which should result in fat loss (diet dependent), and in addition to this we're burning more of that energy as fat. This combination is essentially doubling the amount of fat that we're burning!
As if this weren't enough, there's an added benefit to this fat utilization that makes the whole situation even better, and it has to do with maintaining muscle.
Quick Tip: The combination of exercise and stimulant use is the best way to increase metabolism and fat-specific weight loss. Although this duo is very powerful, stimulants should be thought of as an accompaniment to exercise, not a replacement.
Although there's some debate as to whether stimulants can directly affect muscle growth, there's quite a bit of evidence to support the idea that they do so indirectly.
The reasoning is related to the ability of stimulants to increase the proportion of fat that we burn for energy. By providing this fat to our body's catabolic machinery, we're essentially feeding a monster that would otherwise burn body tissues indiscriminately. Stated differently, the fat sacrifices itself in order to save muscle.
If you're thinking that this is pretty much the perfect situation because we want to burn more fat and preserve muscle anyway, then you're already ahead of the game. But it gets even better. By preserving our hard earned muscle during a calorie-restricted diet, we're actually enhancing our metabolism, which serves to burn even more fat!
Metabolism and Muscle
You may well know that muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body and accounts for the majority of our caloric expenditure, but when our body senses that we have low energy intake (i.e. a calorie-restricted diet), it tries to slow everything down such that energy is saved.
This is what happens when people stop losing weight on a specific diet, and it is partly due to a loss of muscle mass. We can even think of losing muscle as a dead end to our fat loss – a far cry from simply focusing on fat tissue for our body composition goals.
Quick Tip: By using BCAA's, we can preserve even more muscle and keep our diet going stronger than ever.
As if there weren't enough positive aspects of stimulant use, they can even affect the amount of weight we move in the gym. It's not a secret (powerlifters have been using them for years), but if our goal is fat loss then this is just one more way to optimize the process.
Stimulants are known to specifically enhance the force of muscle fiber contraction, which ultimately results in muscle strength. This has two main benefits, one short-term and one longer-term.
Short Term Thinking
By allowing us to increase strength in an otherwise compromised situation, stimulants can help fat loss by allowing us to maintain exercise intensity. This is not simply a product of how hard we push during a training session, but also how much weight we move.
For example, if we're under normal caloric restriction then our body tries to preserve energy by shutting things down. One such thing is muscle strength.
By maintaining, or even increasing, the amount of weight we use, our exercise sessions are more intense, and cause a greater fat-burning effect on the body. This is tantamount to performing exercise at half intensity versus maximal effort. Clearly the latter is more effective for our goals.
More Muscle Maintenance
We've already established that stimulants help to preserve muscle while undergoing caloric restriction by increasing fatty acid utilization. The second way in which stimulants act as anticatabolics is by allowing us to maintain a high level of tension on the muscle during training.
In the absence of calories, our muscle strength would decrease, which means that our muscle has less of a stimulus to grow. Combine that with the catabolism induced by the hypocaloric diet, and you're ready to burn a lot of muscle. Stimulants help to mitigate this negative response, which allows us to maintain strength throughout the otherwise catabolic period.
In people who use stimulants quite infrequently, there may even be an increase in strength such that muscle can actually grow. This combination is rare and requires close attention being paid to the diet, but even the possibility of such an effect is exciting.
As already mentioned, this maintenance (or hypertrophy) of muscle mass is critical for us to keep our metabolic furnace burning as much fat as possible, for as long as we can. Some of the most successful people in the industry know the secret to dieting success is to maintain as much muscle as possible.
Quick Tip: Brain Candy® is a great addition before training on a low calorie diet. The combination of choline and tyrosine seems to help muscle strength, even when used without stimulants.
- At first a lower dose is frequently tried to ensure that no negative reaction occurs.
- Stimulants are often used 2-3 times a day to ensure proper metabolic distribution, the last dose coming no later than 8 hours before sleep (otherwise they could interfere with proper rest).
- "Redundant" stimulant sources such as coffee consumption should be limited for added effect and precision. (In other words, if you're using stimulants, watch the additional caffeine intake.)
- Green tea is a great source of stimulants, not only for the fat burning effects, but also the potential health benefits.
FAQ: You're wrong. I used stimulants and didn't lose lots of fat.
There could be a million reasons for your lack of results, but the most obvious culprit is an improper diet. Another important factor could be suboptimal exercise (or an absence of exercise altogether!). It's critical to remember that stimulants alone are not going to cause you to lose weight.
Rather, they're used in order to help people who already have their diet and exercise programs dialed in. Only after these two keys are in place will stimulants confer any advantage.