What Supplements Should I Take to Lose Fat?
Of all the questions I get, there is one question that comes up more than any other.
“What supplements should I take to lose fat?”
Before I talk about what I recommend to my clients, I need to say that supplements are not necessary. For anyone. Unless your diet is consistently on-point, supplements won’t do much for you.
You’ll see much more benefit from putting effort into hitting your nutrition goals on a daily basis, so make that your priority if it isn’t already. Think of your nutrition and training as the layers of the cake, and supplements as the icing on top, because dessert analogies are the best analogies.
Supplements may give you an extra 5% boost, but unless you’ve taken yourself 95% of the way through proper training and nutrition, they are a waste of money.
With that being said, once you’ve locked in your nutritional plan, I do believe there are some supplements that can be useful, particularly when trying to lose fat.
Before we move on.
It would be wrong to talk about supplements without mentioning Examine.com. Examine is the only non-biased, and completely comprehensive supplement database out there. They don’t review brands, they review ingredients. Anytime I consider taking a new supplement, I research all of the ingredients on Examine, and I suggest you do the same.
Another useful tool is Labdoor. Labdoor independently tests brands for quality, label accuracy, contamination, and more. Between Examine and Labdoor, you should have no problems finding high quality products.
What follows are the supplements I personally use while dieting, and recommend to my clients.
I want you to pay the most attention to the supplement categories themselves. I will link to my favorite brands, but any brand will work, as long as it’s from a high-quality, trustworthy company. Some of the brands below are only available online, but I believe they are the best. Plus, online is usually much cheaper than spending your money at an overpriced retail store.
Lastly, please avoid fat-burning pills, and be very careful with any stimulants you try. Ask your doctor before taking anything. Most fat-burning pills are full of worthless ingredients, or overloaded with stimulants, so you want to look for high-quality supplements that fully disclose what’s inside; no proprietary blends. You’re much better off picking and choosing individual ingredients that work.
A high-quality greens powder is the number one supplement I recommend that everyone take year-round. Unless you’re eating a very well-rounded diet, full of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, you’re probably missing out on some essential nutrients. A greens powder is a great way to cover your bases nutritionally.
When you’re in a caloric deficit, you’ll be eating less food than usual. As you progress through your diet, your food intake will become even more restricted. It’s hard enough to get your nutrients in when you’re eating as much as you want, but even harder when food portions are limited.
If you’re only going to take one thing, take a greens powder.
My personal favorite is Athletic Greens. Yes, it’s not a cheap supplement, but you get what you pay for, and Athletic Greens is hands-down the best one I’ve ever tried.
If you want to give it a try, I reached out to them and got the hookup for you. You can get 50% off your first order and a free bottle of Omega-3s with this link right here.
Fish oil is another general health supplement that becomes very important during a fat loss period.
It has way more health benefits than I feel like listing, but the one of most consequence to fat loss is improved insulin sensitivity. This simply means that when you take fish oil regularly, you’re going to process the carbs you eat much more efficiently. It also does a few other things, like improve your heart and brain health, decrease inflammation, and more.
Take fish oil. I’ve been using this one the most, but you can go with any trustworthy brand. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, two fatty acids. For general health, a combined 250mg of DPA and EHA is the recommended minimum dose, but we don’t do minimum here. For fat loss, I like to aim for at least 2 total grams of combined DPA/EHA, if not higher. Spread the doses out over the course of the day.
Look for a brand that has a high concentration of DPA/EHA. Fish oil is a fat, after all, and if you get a low-quality supplement, you’ll have to take a lot more to get your DPA/EHA dose, which means a lot more fat coming into your diet.
This one from OmegaVia is the best I’ve found yet, and the one I use on a regular basis.
Caffeine is an interesting one. Not only does it provide energy, which usually suffers on a diet, it can blunt your hunger when consumed. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, it also slightly increases your metabolism, or calories burned.
I mostly drink black coffee, iced americanos, or cold brew coffee, and rarely add creamer. Coffee is magical, so I don’t like to get my caffeine from pills. However, if you’re in a pinch, or don’t want coffee breath, a supplement containing caffeine can get the job done.
Dosing depends on the individual, but you can probably get away with around 250-300mg without negative side effects. Start with half of that to assess your tolerance.
If coffee isn’t your thing, here are some high-quality, low-price caffeine pills you can grab.
This is a very tricky one. First, it’s proven to be effective at increasing fat loss, especially in stubborn areas like love handles, lower back, etc…
It’s particularly effective when taken with caffeine, and most fat burners will have a combination of the two.
While it works, be very careful. Most people I know are just fine taking it, however, some people may get headaches, nausea, or upset stomach from the stimulant overload.
Start small, and increase your dose over time.
Oh yeah, if you’re a guy, this stuff can improve your boner quality. So, there’s that.
Here’s the info on dosing, straight from Examine:
“Dosages of 0.2mg/kg bodyweight have been successfully used to increase fat burning without significant implications on cardiovascular parameters like heart rate and blood pressure. This results in a dosage of:
- 14 mg for a 150lb person
- 18 mg for a 200lb person
- 22 mg for a 250lb person”
There a plenty of brands out there that work. I like this one from Prime Nutrition, but you can choose whichever you’d like.
Alright, time for the bro in me to come out. I know this one doesn’t have a ton of scientific support, but I still think it’s useful to take.
L-Carnitine is an important part of the fat-burning process. It supports the function of the mitochondria, which are the fat-burning furnaces in your body. It can also improve mental functioning.
Taking L-Carnitine will only increase your fat burning if you are already deficient. If you’re getting enough in your diet, you don’t need any.
I like to cover my bases, and L-Carnitine isn’t too expensive, so I think it’s worth it if you want to maximize your fat burning. It’s definitely low on the list of priorities, but it’s on the list never the less.
There are several different forms of L-Carnitine, but Acetyl-L-Carnitine, or ALCAR, is my weapon of choice. Take 500-2,000mg daily.
I use this one from Jarrow, as they tend to make high-quality supplements.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are definitely a luxury supplement. As long as you are getting enough protein in your diet, you really don’t need BCAAs.
They can help reduce muscle breakdown and improve recovery time, and I personally use them year-round. The main ingredient in a good produce, leucine, is the main trigger of muscle growth. If you get enough leucine in you, your body flips on the switch of muscle building. Many products also have some added electrolytes to help with hydration.
When it comes to fat loss, you want to hold on to as much muscle as possible, so you actually looked jacked when you get lean, not just smaller. Adequate protein is the main thing to worry about, but BCAAs added between meals definitely can’t hurt anything once you’ve got your protein covered.
Lastly, many of my clients will workout fasted, or on an empty stomach. If you haven’t eaten a meal in a few hours, and you are going to lift, I think it’s definitely worth investing in some BCAAs to drink before and during your workout.
BCAAs have the added bonus of giving your water a nice flavor, so at the very least, if you’re struggling to get your daily water in, mixing up some BCAAs in ice cold water is a great way to make your water more appealing.
When choosing a brand, look for one that has at least a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine, has an honest label with no proprietary blends, and minimal other ingredients.
I like the Blue Raspberry XTEND BCAAs. I’ve tried tons of other brands, but this is the one I always come back to.
I hope this list helped you out. The important thing is to get your nutrition and training down, and once that’s done, if you have some extra cash and want to grab some supplements, consider the ones above.
Edit: People have been I forgot to add ephedra to the list; this is very intentional. I know it works well, but here in the United States, it’s illegal to sell it in a fat loss stack. It’s also quite a potent stimulant, so I have a hard time suggesting it to anyone. There are other ways to get ephedra and make the famous ECA stack, which I won’t explain here, but as a coach who’s concerned with client safety over everything, I don’t officially recommend ephedra to any of my clients due to the risk of negative side effects.