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Experts Q&A: The pros and cons of fat-burning supplements

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Q. What is your opinion on Garcinia Cambogia?

– an Army major 

Tell us: Do you have a fitness or nutrition question for our experts panel? Send them to us at pt365@militarytimes.com.

Dietician Faye Krause writes: 

Garcinia cambogia comes from the tamarind fruit that is commonly used as a condiment in Thai and Indian foods. It has been studied since the 1970s for potential contributions to weight loss by increasing metabolism, decreasing appetite, and reducing body fat. However, to date, studies have not supported these claims. Many of the positive results were seen in animal studies, and similar results were not found in human studies. Numerous testimonials from people who have taken the supplement and were successful in losing weight and body fat can be found on the websites of manufacturers (along with many others who did not). Keep in mind that these are opinions and are often the result of the placebo effect.

An important note is that dietary supplements are not regulated the same as food and medicine by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, buyers are not guaranteed that the supplement is safe, effective or pure. According to the law, it is up to the manufacturer of the supplement to ensure that the product is safe and that claims made on the label are accurate and truthful. (We know that does not always happen!) The FDA can remove a dietary supplement from the market only after they have proven that it is unsafe or ineffective.

(Click here for more information regarding the regulation of dietary supplements.)

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that guarantees weight loss. The best way to reduce body fat is to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats and to engage in regular physical activity. A safe and effective weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week. For a great resource to help you get started, visit www.choosemyplate.gov. A Registered Dietitian can help you develop an individualized, effective program based on your goals and current health concerns.

The bottom line … When considering taking a dietary supplement, think WHOLE FOODS FIRST! If you take any prescribed or over-the-counter medications, always be on the safe side and consult your doctor before adding other dietary supplements.

And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Trainer Pauline Nordin adds:

Fat burners that are sold OTC contain ingredients that have a slightly positive effect on your metabolism when used in moderation and as a part of a diet and training program. Caffeine is the main component and it’s been proven in many studies to increase performance. With continuous use you’ll feel a decrease in ‘the buzz’ which doesn’t mean it’s less efficient, you just don’t feel it as much. This is when people increase the dosage, which is where the danger lies. You keep on increasing the stimulants and your body becomes intolerant to it.

So what do these fat burners do for you?

They might help you burn a tiny amount more calories, however, if you do not pay attention 100% to diet and training you will not see results at all. You can train and keep up a good diet and lose lots of fat. But if you use fat burners, train well but not diet properly you may not see any fat loss.

You can drink lots of caffeinated drinks and coffee and still not get lean. Diet and exercise are key.

My recommendation is to prioritize diet and training, then when you have that under control, add a fat burner if you like. Only use it pre-workout. Do not use it more than twice a day. Only purchase products with the ingredients showing, no proprietary blends. I have my own fat burner which has no banned substances, called FDxtreme BURN. www.fighterdietapproved.com

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Longtime Army wife Faye Krause is an ultrarunner, registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. She holds a Master of Science in exercise, fitness and health promotion from George Mason University and is the owner of Energized Intentions LLC, providing in-home nutrition consultations and specializing in sports nutrition and weight management. 

Pauline Nordin, a native of Sweden who lives in Los Angeles, is the founder of the Butt Bible workout system and creator of Fighter Diet, a website focused on fitness and nutrition — and through which she sells e-books and supplements. Read their full credentials here.

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .