So is there really any such thing as fat loss in a pill? If you watch TV, spend any time online, or ever read anything in print, you’d be sure that the answer is “yes.” After all I can go onto Hydroxycut’s website right now and see that the ingredients in this product are “clinically proven” to help you “lose more fat than dieting alone.”

How much more? “20.94 lbs. (lost with Hydroxcut’s “key ingredient combination”) vs. 1.70 lbs (for the placebo group).” That’s a big. However, they don’t tell how many participants were in that study, nor the journals you can look that research up in.

What is even more interesting, is that according to a 2011 Federal court ruling, “in a study commissioned by Iovate (the manufacturers of Hydroxycut), the subjects using Hydroxycut actually lost less weight than the placebo group.” This study didn’t make it onto the website.

In the same court ruling, you can also find, “On May 1, 2009, the FDA issued a press release warning consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products based on reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes to seizures, cardiovascular disorders, and rhabdomyolysis – a condition which can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure. The FDA had received one report of a death due to liver failure.”

My editor tells me that this column is supposed to be between 600 and 900 words, so I have to move on to the “what to do instead” portion of the article. Before I do that I think it’s important to keep in mind that you could put ground up mint tea in a pill, and call it “The Super Mega Fat Loss Pill 10,000.” On the bottle for these mint tea pills you could say, “clinically proven to help you lose fat 5x faster than with diet and exercise alone.”

The FTC does technically require that you have clinical proof of your claims at the time you make them, but the FTC is busy and likely won’t have the time or the inclination to bother you until you are extremely successful in the marketplace and have gotten tons of complaints about your product.

The big thing that “OK’s” the above mint tea claim is: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

We’d like the government to be able to protect us, but that is a wish just like I’d love to be able to eat French fries every day and still feel good and look good. You’ve got to do your own homework – your body will always be your own responsibility.

The flip side of this supplement issue is that there really are things you can take that will speed up your fat loss. However, none of them can actually give you 12, five or even two times better results, but the basics of good supplementation really can be quite helpful.

Before I talk about what those are, it’s really important to remember what the definition of “supplement” is. If I type “supplement” into the dictionary on my Mac it says, “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.”

Some companies spend fortunes on marketing to appeal to our “irrational greed” that a pill can do it for us, but in truth supplements can only enhance your smart lifestyle some.

Here’s what I think works (what we’ve seen work well at my facility): Fish oil, vitamin-D, and a post workout protein shake. I am not providing specific medical advice. Specific guidelines from your physician should trump any advice from me or anything else you read.

Fish oil seems to increase fat loss results and generally make people feel better. We suggest two to three of the roughly 1,000 milligram pills that they are usually sold as. Keep them in your fridge. If they make you burp, that is usually a sign of a low quality product. Pay more for something better.

Vitamin-D. If you work inside and wear sunscreen, there is a good chance taking some vitamin-D would be a good idea for you. It seems to help with fat loss, strength, and many other things. We generally suggest (based on conversations with physicians I respect) that people take 4-6,000 iu per day. (Yes, that is a much higher number than you will hear in most other places.)

A 20-40 gram protein shake pretty soon after your resistance training seems to reduce soreness, and there’s quite a bit of research to say it accelerates fat loss and muscle gain. We prefer whey for protein source.

A good rule of thumb is, you’ll usually get what you pay for. Third-party lab results show the cheapest (and one of the most popular) vitamin-D products on the market contains almost no vitamin-D.


Josef Brandenburg is a Washington, D.C.-area certified fitness expert with 11 years of experience.