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Amino acids and their significance for fat burning

Amino acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements play a significant role in weight loss.

Whether we gradually put on weight or stay slim generally depends on our hormones. And herein lays the key to weight loss: the systematic supplementation of certain amino acids allows us to stimulate the body to produce enough fat-burning hormones – in a natural manner and in harmony with the body's needs.

One important fat-burning hormone is the growth hormone (somatotropin, STH). We produce this hormone while we sleep. It stimulates protein synthesis and boosts fat oxidation. Overweight patients generally have lower STH concentrations, which often hinders weight reduction.1 Unfortunately, the growth hormone is very expensive (approximately GBP 400–650 for a monthly ration) and must be injected under close and competent medical supervision. It is thus safer to simulate our bodies to secrete this hormone naturally. Certain amino acids have been shown to do this in many cases if sufficient quantities are taken on an empty stomach at night.

Amino acids capable of this are:

The synthesis of the growth hormone also requires vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and zinc.

Studies have shown that obese patients may have a carnitine deficiency.

In this case, carnitine substitution (food supplementation) is certainly worthwhile. Carnitine is a biocarrier (transport substance), which is synthesised in the liver – and its precursor in the kidneys – from the two essential amino acids lysine and methionine. It acts as a carrier molecule that transports long-chain fatty acids through the inner mitochondrial membrane. Long-chain fatty acids can only pass through the membrane if they have been esterified with carnitine, whereas medium- and short-chain fatty acids can pass without this carrier (transport molecule).

Carnitine as a fat burner

Carnitine transports fatty acids more quickly and throws them into the metabolic furnace.  This means that the body is burning fat instead of storing it. Owing to its fat-oxidising effect, carnitine is also used for weight reduction and is often referred to as a “fat burner”.

Carnitine is synthesised in five steps that also involve the essential co-factors vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin and folic acid. A deficiency in any of these substances may limit carnitine biosynthesis.

Professor Luppa from the University of Leipzig wrote about the fat-burning capabilities of l-carnitine in his essay from 2004, “in regards to the prevention of obesity, it can be said that current measures to improve the breakdown of fat are more effective than the propagated restrictions on fat intake in the diet. However, the precondition is the optimal functioning of the fat metabolism and its regulation. L-carnitine plays a decisive role as an essential co-factor in both cases. A deficiency in l-carnitine reduces the breakdown of fatty acids in the mitochondrial matrix due to its function as a carrier. L-carnitine is also important in regulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism for it is a substrate of the carnitine palmitoyl transferase (CPT).”

Furthermore, “restrictions in the availability of l-carnitine are not only recognisable in the adaptability of the lipid metabolism as the carbohydrate and protein metabolisms are also affected. As a consequence, reduced blood sugar levels and increased protein degradation can occur.”

There was clear evidence that carnitine can increase fat oxidation in certain cells of the body.

Furthermore, work by two scientists from Switzerland and the USA has now proved that the administration of carnitine can boost mobilization of fatty acids from the adipocytes (fat cells) and also increase oxidation of fatty acids in these cells.

Moreover, sufficient data has been obtained from seven animal models which all clearly prove that carnitine supplementation during a calorie-reduced diet can lead not only to a significant decrease in the body fat compared to a placebo, but also to a simultaneous increase in fat-free muscle mass.

Carnitine facilitates weight management

A 2013 clinical study has attracted a great deal of attention. It showed that dietary supplementation with 500mg L-carnitine per day, in combination with motivational training, already ensures significant weight loss in overweight individuals. Study participants were able to lose an average of 400g of body fat within four weeks, without changing their diets or level of exercise. Waist circumference measurements showed an average decrease of 1.3cm.

Glutamine counteracts fat storage

Glutamine can be converted to glucose in the kidneys without affecting the glucagon and insulin counts. Therefore, it also contributes to the energy supply while being able to bypass insulin-induced fat storage.

It counteracts the storage of dietary fats and thus helps regulate weight. One study showed that supplementation with glutamine in a high-fat diet resulted in a loss of body fat. Furthermore, glutamine can reduce cravings for sugar and alcohol.

The B-vitamins and zinc are also important for fat burning. Vitamin B is very helpful when trying to lose weight, as almost all of the B-vitamins stimulate the body’s ability to break down fat. Moreover, they are also a nutritional source for the nerves, a factor which should not be underestimated, especially by those who wish to lose weight. The B-vitamins riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), biotin (B7) and cobalamin (B12) are responsible for controlling the metabolism and stimulate the breakdown of body fats. They are particularly effective and fast in regards to fat burning. Vitamin B2 is important as it quickly converts proteins, carbohydrates and fats to energy. The trace element zinc has similar properties for it supports the body in processing fat and carbohydrates and it is indispensable for a functioning protein metabolism. Amino acids can therefore only fulfil their important tasks for the lipid metabolism with a sufficient supply of zinc.

What Is CLA?

CLA has been gaining a lot of attention within the fitness industry and is a growing popularity amongst gym goers, bodybuilders, and individuals looking to burn fat. You may have already heard of CLA, but what actually is it and how is it connected to weight loss? CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, belongs to the omega family of fatty acids- specifically; CLA is a mixture of at least 28 positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid- an essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Being essential means these fatty acids cannot be produced by the body alone and therefore must be consumed through the diet. CLA has a series of functions within the body, whereby its consumption is required for normal food and energy metabolism and to achieve a healthy nutritional status. CLA can be found in common foods that come from animal products, including meat and dairy, however, a large growth in interest in CLA supplements has recently emerged in relation to its weight loss and other health benefits.

CLA Benefits

1. CLA for Weight Loss and Increased Metabolic Rate:

So the first benefit and the number one reason why CLA appears to be flying off the supplement shelves is its connection to weight loss. But you can’t lose fat with fat, can you?

Actually… you can! Especially when essential fatty acids such as CLA are combined with a good diet and exercise regime! For example, it has been proposed that consuming CLA can help increase weight loss and decrease body fat through a series of biochemical reactions that act to increase the basal metabolic rate. Our basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of energy the body requires just to function, whereby an increase in BMR simply means food can be converted into energy at a more efficient rate. CLA is involved in a series of metabolic reactions that regulate fat tissue in the body whereby it is actually thought that through increasing the metabolic rate CLA doesn’t decrease overall body weight, but actually acts to alter the body fat to muscle ratio and increase energy expenditure.

But do we know this for a fact? CLA has been of massive nutritional and scientific interest over a series of decades, meaning there have been tons of scientific studies performed. Initially, the effect of CLA was extensively studied within several different animal models, for example in a study by West et al (1998) the effect of CLA on body fat and energy metabolism in mice was examined over 6 weeks. In this study, half of the mice were given a CLA whilst the other half did not receive CLA. After 6 weeks the study revealed CLA significantly reduced energy intake, growth rate and body fat mass, independent of diet composition. These findings demonstrate that CLA increased the metabolic rate in mice, causing a reduction in body fat.

But the science doesn’t stop there, nowadays there appears to be more and more human studies revealing the emerging benefits of CLA. For example, a meta-analysis of 18 studies by Whigham et al (2007), concluded that supplementing with 3.2g of CLA a day can act as an effective supplement for reducing fat mass. The effect of CLA on weight loss is especially prevalent amongst overweight individuals whereby a study investigating the long-term supplementation over 2 years, in 134 people, revealed that CLA can decrease body fat mass in overweight people and may actually help to maintain initial reductions in weight in the long run. Not only this, but the effect of CLA in healthy exercising individuals was also analysed by Wadstein et al (2001) in a double-blind randomised trial including healthy participants with a normal BMI and weight. The study confirmed that CLA could not only reduce body fat mass in individuals who are overweight but can also effectively reduce body fat in healthy exercising individuals, making it a good addition to many fitness regimes.

2. Enhanced muscle growth:

As mentioned in the benefit above, through increasing the basal metabolic rate, CLA can act to decrease our body fat percentage. However, despite a decrease in body fat percentage an overall decrease in weight is often not observed. This is because CLA can effectively increase the muscle to fat ratio and act to enhance the growth of lean muscle mass. This is beneficial for several reasons- not only does an increase in muscle mass mean you’ll burn more calories without even trying, but it also means you’ll be left with a more toned physique!

3. Lowers cholesterol and blood glucose levels:

Although CLA has a major benefit of helping to reduce body fat there are also several other health benefits associated with this supplement. For example, CLA has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. For example, Kritchevsky et al (1994) found that supplementation with 0.5g/d of CLA in rabbits caused a significant reduction in both LDL and total cholesterol, whereby an examination of the rabbit’s heart showed less atherosclerosis when compared to rabbits who did not receive CLA treatment.

Not only this, but a meta-analysis in humans by Brown et al (2003) also concluded that because CLA increases the use of stored fat as energy, it can also help to prevent heart disease and act as an antioxidant through isomer specific mechanisms to lower blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. CLA is therefore thought to have anti-diabetic properties including improving insulin sensitivity, based on reductions in fasting glucose and insulin levels.

4. Supports the immune system:

When dieting and exercising regularly, the body can often become run down and become more susceptible to illnesses. However, supplementing with CLA can help to boost your immune system and may prevent you from catching those common colds! For example, in several studies, CLA has been shown to increase immune system response and may also act to prevent catabolic effects of the immune system in times of illness.

CLA Side Effects

To date, there have been no harmful reported side effects of CLA. In extremely rare case supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid may cause nausea or an upset stomach, however, these effects can be diminished when CLA is consumed with meals.

Sources of CLA

CLA can be found in a number of commonly consumed foods- in particular, animal products including meat and dairy products.

However, in order to achieve all the benefits of CLA, the amount consumed through diet alone isn’t always enough- that’s where CLA tablets and capsules can be added to your diet plan and training regime.

When to Take CLA Tablets and How Much

There are various dosages of CLA recommended, whereby in order to help reduce body fat 1.8 to 7g of CLA is recommended daily.  For optimum results we recommend 2 soft gels to be taken with meals 1 to 3 times daily.