Support your Workout

With the holidays right around the corner, it's hard to find time to work out as often as we'd like. And with all the added calories that come along with this time of year, most of us can use advice on how to boost our metabolic rate and avoid packing on extra pounds. Obviously staying in shape during the holidays starts with diet and exercise, but scientific research supports the use of some supplements for assisting with your exercise regime. The term often associated with these supplements is ergogenic aids. Simply put, an ergogenic aid is a substance, device, or practice that enhances an individual's energy use, production, or recovery. Here are a couple of safe ergogenic aids to consider.

Green Tea
Not fermented or oxidized like black tea, green tea (Camellia sinensis L.) contains much higher quantities of several polyphenolic components: epicatechin (EC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC), and the most studied, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Research on green tea catechins has shown promise with energy expenditure and fat oxidation.

While tea also contains caffeine, which is frequently used for weight control, green tea's effect cannot be due to its caffeine content alone, because the thermogenic (heat-producing) effect of green tea is greater than its equivalent amount of caffeine. A number of clinical studies have been conducted on green tea extracts showing benefits in terms of both weight control and energy expenditure-without unwanted side effects. Green tea may also have additional beneficial health effects, which appear mediated by tea catechins.

Until recently, most nutrition experts recommended a low-fat, carbohydrate-rich diet. Now many are touting the benefits of certain fatty acids, and recognizing that fat's proper role in the diet has a profound effect on overall health. One such fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), was discovered at the University of Wisconsin.

While CLA occurs naturally in small amounts in dairy and beef, getting a beneficial amount from foods would mean potentially negating any benefit by adding more cholesterol, saturated fats, and calories to your diet. Additionally, the amount of CLA in beef and dairy has diminished due to the prominence of grain-fed beef over natural, grass-fed livestock, yielding less CLA in most meat and dairy products.

CLA favorably affects body composition, specifically reducing the proportion of body fat to lean body mass (LBM), an important factor in weight management. This fatty acid is more likely to increase LBM while decreasing the proportion of fat when there is an anabolic stimulus, like resistance training or aerobic exercise. CLA has been used in several studies in humans, with no reports of significant adverse effects for most individuals.

A varsity athlete at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and former owner of Chicago-based Explosive Fitness, Daniel Fabricant, PhD, is the vice president for scientific affairs at the Natural Products Association.

"Bioactive food stimulants of sympathetic activity . . ." by A. Belza and A.B. Jessen, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005 "The conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) isomer, t10c12-CLA, is inversely associated with changes in body weight and serum leptin . . . " by M. A. Belury et al., J Nutr, 1/03 "Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for one year reduces body fat mass in healthy overweight humans" by J. M. Gaullier et al., Am J Clin Nutr, 6/04 "Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat . . . in men" by Tomonori Nagao et al., Am J Clin Nutr, 2005 "Modulation of endocrine systems and food intake by green tea . . ." by Yung-Hsi Kao et al., Endocrinology, 2000

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