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Chromium Supplements Not The Fat Burner They’re Hyped Up To Be

One of the most challenging things as a fitness trainer is seeing people spending hard earned money on supplements that just don’t work. If it’s possible to help keep a few extra bucks in your pocket by researching and reviewing supplements, I’m all for it.

That being the case, it’s about time we talked about chromium. Chromium has been headlined as being a “fat burner” and can be found in all sorts of products from protein shakes to weight loss snack bars. And then of course it’s been promoted as a fat burner to be taken in straight supplement form, typically a pill or capsule.

In today’s post we’ll review the effectiveness of chromium as a fat burner and get down to the nitty gritty on what this supplement really does.

More after the jump…

The claims on chromium as a fat burner contain a lot of speculation but don’t really connect the dots. Research shows that chromium helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, aiding in the breakdown of these substrates for energy production.

The idea is that adding more chromium to your diet would therefore boost the breakdown to greater levels, thus increasing fat loss.  Here’s the problem though,  unless you are deficient in chromium levels, adding more chromium would be unnecessary because your body could metabolize carbs and fats just fine.

Chromium deficiency is extremely rare, despite what infomercials or advertisements may try to tell you. That is of course unless your diet is comprised mostly of processed and refined foods, which is a whole other problem in itself.

Further reason to be suspect on the hype about chromium is that the research just doesn’t really support the claims. Studies looking at the addition of chromium to a moderate exercise routine have shown no differences between the exercise-only group and the exercise plus chromium group.

Any weight loss that occurred was attributed to the addition of physical activity and exercise promoting caloric expenditure. Other studies have even suggested that chromium supplementation may be counterproductive in dieting attempts.

For those swearing that chromium is an alternative to anabolic products for muscle-building, no evidence has been found to support that claim either.

Many experts advise against taking chromium as there have not been many studies examining adverse effects of chromium over-supplementation.

However, an “acceptable intake” has been established to be somewhere around 20-35 micrograms/day for women (depending on lactation/pregnancy and age), and 30-35 micrograms/day for men (depending on age).

Eating natural, whole foods helps people meet their chromium needs pretty easily.

Foods that contain chromium include:

- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables

- Whole wheat

- Green leafy vegetables

- Garlic, Basil and other herbs

- Potatoes

- Turkey breast

- Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes and other fruits

With even this short list, you can see how getting enough chromium in your diet shouldn’t be much of a problem with a healthy diet.

Back to this whole idea of chromium being a fat burner.

Based on the research I’ve found chromium does nothing in the process of fat oxidation…

Chromium is actually a component in the glucose tolerance factor, which aids in the transport of sugars.

There is some research that supports the claim that chromium can help individuals regulate blood sugar levels, but even that is inconclusive.

I will admit however that there seems to be a correlation with chromium and the role of insulin on blood sugar regulation.

There have been several clinical studies with chromium supplementation in diabetics. In some of these studies of type II diabetes, supplementing the diet with chromium was shown to decrease fasting glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, and lower insulin levels.

While I did find other studies that have shown chromium doesn’t have much effect in improving glucose tolerance in diabetics, I do believe this is worth investigating further.

Bottom line on Chromium…

I would say that chromium supplementation may be of potential benefit for those individuals with type II diabetes or those who are pre-diabetic. Of course this should be discussed with your physician before starting a supplementation regiment.

What is pretty clear however is that chromium is not a magic bullet for reducing unwanted body fat. While it may play a role in insulin function and blood sugar regulation, it’s not going to directly impact thermogenesis, or the burning of fat.

If you’re looking at supplementing with chromium to help you speed up the process of dropping fat you’ll probably be disappointed. Because of this I give it a thumbs down as a straight up fat burner.

This isn’t to say you should avoid supplements that contain chromium (like some meal replacement shakes, vitamins, etc). It’s more that supplementing directly in pill form wouldn’t provide much of a direct impact on lipolysis.

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Just know that a lot of supplement manufacturers will throw in a little bit of anything that may impact metabolic processes. Quite frequently these will be vitamins, minerals, or other compounds that are easily obtained in sufficient amounts with a whole food diet.

The best supplements are ones which fill in the gaps or optimize levels in an otherwise supportive nutrition diet of whole foods. Unless your diet is poor with mostly processed and refined foods you’ll have no problems getting in sufficient chromium.

Save your money for some high quality whey protein, fish oil, etc.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker and founder of Shaping Concepts. His Charleston personal training studio specializes in weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. Burst training workouts and supportive nutrition strategies are used in combination with a wide array of hormonal and metabolic testing. Each program is customized to the unique needs of the client and includes hands-on coaching and accountability. Sign up for a free no-obligations consultation and trial today.

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Category: Supplements.