An important piece from Mike Mahler below, about stimulant use.
He confirms my own longstanding concerns about stimulant use in the fitness/nutrition population. (Thus he must be right. Ha ha!)
It seems like every “serious” fitness type is jacked up on something, all the time. In the past I’ve used ephedrine and allowed my caffeine intake to drift up to something like 300 mg daily. DO NOT RECOMMEND.
‘Cause here’s the thing about stimulants. They do not “give” you energy. They BORROW energy from the future. Energy doesn’t come from nowhere. (Cf. Laws of Thermodynamics.)
Your body either has to turn off or inhibit the natural “slow down” brakes of your brain and body, or it has to cattle-prod your adrenal glands into artificially cranking you up; or both.
Stimulants thus have far-reaching systemic — and long-term — effects on all body tissues. These effects persist for at least a few hours after a single dose… and quite possibly months after long-term use.
The other irony is that the body is extremely self-regulating. If you crank it up, it’ll find a way to chill itself out, eventually. If you prod it into a false fat utilization state, it’ll fix it later. In other words, either you do permanent damage or the body makes it all come out in the wash later on. If it can’t self-correct, it’ll burn itself out trying.
Don’t believe me? If you like your stimulants, try going off them all cold turkey. You’ll sleep for a week, that is if you can get through the pounding headaches. If you’ve been using stimulants to suppress your appetite, get ready to eat a buffet.
One more point of note: “Natural” and “herbal” stimulants and “energy boosters” are usually simply caffeine. So beware of labels advertising “alternative to coffee” or some other BS. In some cases there may be something like tyrosine, which is an amino acid, or ephedrine, but in most cases, it’s good old caffeine.
Guarana? Caffeine. Green tea? Caffeine, although you do get some antioxidants — you should probably consume this in tea form rather than supplement form. Yerba mate? Caffeine. Kola nut? Caffeine. You get the picture.
This focus on “fat burners” really pisses me off when I read the sports supplement rags. They’re advertised as part of a larger offering that pretends to be about health and fitness. If we’re concerned with health and fitness, why are we consuming large doses of chemicals that do demonstrable harm? Does that sound like health to you?
(Of course, these substances are also advertised with starved, awkwardly posed, Tammy-Faye’d, electrolyte-manipulated models who would shiv you for a pizza. They do not make me want to run naked with my Ivory-girl skin shining and my Breck hair bouncing through a field of daisies singing “The Hills Are Alive”, as is my understanding of how you feel when you are healthy.)
Anyway, over to Mike.
Adrenaline Resistance and Fat Burning Supplements
Pretty much all of the fat burning supplements on the market have it wrong. They often increase toxicity and inflammation which in the long run will keep people fat and unhealthy.
Pretty much all fat burning supplements are stimulant based products. They jack up the adrenaline hormones: Epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are great when we need them and provide a serious energy and strength boost for short periods (2-15 minutes). When we are dealing with a serious stress we need these hormones to persevere.
The problem is when we jack up adrenaline hormones all of the time. When you take a fat burning supplement you are doing just that and ultimately adding additional stress to your mind and body. Stress in addition to whatever stress you are dealing with in day to day living. You could be on vacation with no stress but if you are taking a fat burner supplement 2-3 times a day you are increasing stress big time as it is all about perception by the brain.
When adrenaline hormones are ramped up constantly the end result is always adrenaline resistance. When adrenaline is working right it sends the signal to the brain that there is fat to burn in stubborn areas: stomach, hips, glutes. Adrenaline helps us use unwanted fat deposits for energy. When you have adrenaline resistance the brain never gets the message that there is plenty of energy to use in those areas. Thus, the brain thinks that incoming calories need to be stored there. As a result adrenaline resistance causes more fat to be stored in areas that are already loaded with stored fat. With adrenaline resistance your receptors are worn out and your energy will plummet.
Every time adrenaline goes up cortisol has to go up to cool off the inflammation that was created by adrenaline. Cortisol is in essence an anti-inflammatory hormone and a stress management hormone. We need the right amount of cortisol for optimal living. The problem occurs when cortisol goes up too often and stays up for a long time. If cortisol goes down after dealing with the inflammation created by adrenaline no big thing. The problem is when cortisol thinks that its job is never over due to a constant bombardment of stress. Now cortisol is going to do whatever is necessary for you to survive such as breaking down muscle for energy.
The end result of too much adrenaline production is too much cortisol production and that keeps one in muscle losing and fat retaining mode. Also, energy is no longer delegated to sex hormones as all energy is going to surviving rather than thriving. Without adequate sex hormone production you can forget about building muscle, losing fat, and having a zeal for life.
One of the keys to losing fat is liver health. The stronger and healthier the liver the less stubborn fat the body holds on to (usually in the stomach in men unless they are estrogen dominant and then it is in the ass and legs, yes like a woman).
Fat cells contain a lot of toxins (as well as estrogen receptors) and the body does not want to release these back into the blood stream as it can harm vital organs. Especially if those organs are already stressed from fighting toxins.
Rather than overstimulate the CNS and ramp up adrenaline hormones, it makes sense to eat a diet that is clean and as low in toxicity as possible. Lots of organic fruits and vegetables to load the liver up with antioxidants to fight the toxicity in fat cells.
Supplements that may be useful for fat loss are ones that help with liver health and stress management. For the liver Milk Thistle and N-Acetyl Cysteine and for stress management phosphatidlyserine and Korean ginseng (PS would be my first pick at 400-800mg per day depending on amount of stress).
Magnesium and zinc are also powerful minerals that are crucial for optimal hormone production. I also think Resveratrol is a great supplement for blocking the conversion of testosterone into estrogen and ramping up the immune system. However, the main way to block the conversion of T into E is to get your bodyfat down and build more muscle. Proper diet and effective strength training again should be the focus.
Proper sleep and restoration activities are also very important. Sleep is critical and without adequate sleep (7-9 hours of deep sleep) you will not have adequate growth hormone production. Growth hormone is critical for repair and for muscle building and fat loss. Restoration activities such as tai-chi, yoga, chi-kung, and meditation will all help with stress management skills and reserves.
Now do not get caught up in the supplement recommendations in this post and miss out on the big picture. Optimize your diet and reduce stress. Determine what is the actual cause of stress in your life and deal with it rather than distracting yourself. Good supplements will do nothing for your liver and stress if your diet is garbage. Diets high in sugar and unhealthy fats load your body with toxicity. Continuing to eat junk and hoping that supplements will save the day is like being in an abusive relationship and taking anti depressants to deal with the stress. Deal with root causes rather than symptoms.
I will be lecturing on this in detail at the Age Of Quarrel course in Los Angeles next month. For more info go to http://www.mikemahler.com/kettlebelltraining.html
Also an outstanding book on Fat loss and hormone optimization is “Mastering Leptin” by Bryon Richards. A scaled down cliff notes version of that book for the masses is “The Leptin Diet” by Bryon Richards.