Thermogenic Supplements and Weight Loss

Thermogenic supplements are designed to increase athletic performance and support weight loss by increasing the body’s temperature, with the aim of reaching a state called thermogenesis, in which your body burns calories as heat instead of storing them as fat. Most thermogenic substances have similar ingredients, and we review the scientific literature surrounding 4 of the most common of these ingredients to determine whether such supplements can actually assist with weight loss and performance.

Below is our review of 4 key fat loss ingredients found in most current pre-workout/thermogenic supplements.

Beta Alanine

Beta Alanine is needed for intramyocellular synthesis of carnosine and this process is limited to its availability in the body (Bakardjiev A, Bauer K. Transport of beta-alanine and biosynthesis of carnosine by skeletal muscle cells in primary culture. Eur J Biochem 225: 617–623, 1994.)

In a study conducted by Harris et al, a daily oral intake of 6g of Beta Alanine for a period of 4 weeks increased the carnosine content of the vastus lateralis (quads) by 60%. A 10 week supplementation increased the carnosine content by 80%. Muscle carnosine content has been shown to be an effective predictor of increased muscle performance in high intensity activities (Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK,Wise JA, Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity Amino Acids (Vienna) 32: 225–233, 2007.)

Carnosine is a dipeptide of beta-alanine and Histidine and plays a role in physical performance as it is highly concentrated in muscle and brain tissues.

In a nutshell, taking a beta alanine supplementation can increase carnosine content in the muscle tissue and can therefore lead to increased performance during physical activity.

Hordenine HCL

Hordenine has a role to play in the stimulation of the Central Nervous System. A study by Jitmor et al highlights the process that hordenine HCL plays in the human body.

“Hordenine and other compounds stimulate the β-AR, thereby activating cyclic AMP (cAMP), while also inhibiting the α-AR that illicit an inhibitory response. Activation of the SNS neurons stimulates the release of two primary catecholamine signalling molecules, epinephrine (E) and NE.”

“After NE acts as an SNS stimulatory neurotransmitter (NT) in the brain, the adrenal medulla is prompted to release NE (norepinephrine) into blood. E or NE binding to an AR will produce a range of responses, the nature of the response depends upon on the receptor subtype to which the hormone binds…norepinephrine (NE) release from the nerve terminal, the drug has an impact on all adrenergic receptors (AR)…Initially, hordenine… may stimulate the SNS in a non-specific manner. Once SNS stimulation is initiated, N and NE circulate in higher than normal amounts, which activate AR throughout the body.”

Basically what this study is saying is that Hordenine HCL has a role to play in stimulating the CNS which in turn makes the body release norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline) from the nerve terminal—which has an effect on adrenergic receptors, because it activates them.

There are many types of adrenergic receptors in the body so depending on which subtype norepinephrine or epinephrine bind to (remember norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline) can be released from the nerve terminal by the ingestion of Hordenine HCL), determines which response the body will exhibit.

The point of this article is not to go into the types of adrenergic receptors, so put it simply the responses the body can exhibit from stimulation of the adrenergic receptors ranges from enhancement of lipolysis in adipose tissue (beta receptors) to vasoconstriction in many blood vessels, including those of the skin, gastrointestinal system, kidney (renal artery) and brain (alpha receptors).

If this is getting too complicated, it is suffice to say that depending on what adrenergic receptors that noradrenaline and adrenaline bind to dictates what type of processes involved in fat loss occurs—in the field of science, stimulants that affect adrenergic receptors are labelled Adrenergic Agonists.

The Beta receptors are the receptors which, when activated, aid the most in fat loss.

Acacia Rigidula

Acacia Rigidula is a shrub found primarily in the Northern States of Mexico such as Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis and Chihuahua (could explain the temperament of the Chihuahua dog).

Acacia Rigidula is another adrenergic agonist due to its role in stimulating adrenergic receptors. Acacia Rigidula can stimulate these receptors due to the presence of 4 key Amines, which are organic compounds that can stimulate certain receptors.

Acacia Rigidula contains many amines including N-methyl-b-phenethylamine (NMPEA), tyramine, N methyltyramine, and Hordenine (Clement et al.).

All these amines have the ability to stimulate adrenergic receptors and thus produce effects beneficial to weight loss—decreased appetite and enhancement of lipolysis (to name a few).

It is interesting to note that the Acacia Rigidula tested in the study conducted by Clement et al. contained up to 11.8PPM (parts per million) of amphetamine and 12.4PPM of methamphetamines.

It also contained up to 152.4PPM of Nicotine and 27.5PPM of Mescaline, a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid (Clement et al.).

It has long been believed that methamphetamine and amphetamine were human synthesized. Many believe that Acacia Rigidula needs to be tested further to ascertain if the results obtained by Clement et al. were the result of cross contamination. Unfortunately there are limited studies conducted on the Acacia Rigidula to determine if this was the case. Obviously the amount detected in the plant was on a very small scale, but still interesting if the study is accurate.

Bitter Orange

Citrus Aurantium (bitter orange) is a plant that contains multiple phytochemicals including Octopamine and Synephrine alkaloids. Synephrine Alkaloids are a-adrenergic agonists that also have some b-adrenergic properties (D B Allison et al.).

As stated above, an adrenergic agonists is a chemical which stimulates certain receptors causing different reactions in the body.

A study conducted by F. Pellati, S. Benvenuti, and M. Melegari (2005) found that extracts of unripe fruit from Chinese farmers growing the Citrus Aurantium (bitter orange) contained synephrine levels of about 0.1-0.3% (3mg/g).

To understand how bitter orange aids in fat loss we must first understand the role of synephrine on the adrenergic receptors.

Synephrine stimulates adrenergic receptors, namely the alpha receptors (beta receptors are still stimulated, but at a much lower level than Alpha types).

“Specific actions of the α1 receptor mainly involve smooth muscle contraction. It causes vasoconstriction in many blood vessels, including those of the skin, gastrointestinal system,kidney (renal artery) and brain.” (Graham et al).

It should be noted that Bitter orange was banned by the FDA in 2004 after it was suggested that bitter orange can cause fainting, heart-rhythm disorders, heart attack , stroke and death.

A study by Ferguson Et al examined the case of a 24-year-old man who suffered a segment-elevation myocardial infarction (heart attack) within hours after taking the product Nutrex Lipo-6x.

“Emergent coronary angiography revealed the presence of extensive, diffuse thrombus in the left anterior descending coronary artery. The patient had no risk factors for coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction.” (Ferguson Et al)

The product Nutrex Lipo-6x contained Synephrine, the same chemical contained in bitter orange.

In summary, synephrine has been proven to aid in fat loss, but there is some doubt regarding its safety in the scientific community.

A study conducted by Stohs, Preuss and Shara (2012) showed that:

“P-Synephrine alone as well as in combination products were shown to increase resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure, and modest increases in weight loss were observed with bitter orange extract/p-synephrine-containing products when given for six to 12 weeks.”

Article by CS.


photo credit: pb photoworks via photopin cc

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