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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thermogenics - the latest fad leading athletes off track

"Put simply a thermogenic is any product that increases thermogenesis (heat production) in the human body. Heat is a by product of metabolism so when more heat is being produced this means that more calories are being used. This is in isolation from activity. Obviously this has had big implications for the fitness industry because if you are using more calories for no greater input of activity the result should be greater fat loss. Added to this is the fact that most thermogenic compounds are very stimulatory giving greater energy and decreased rates of perceived exertion and also have nutrient partitioning effects (greater utilization of fat over other fuels). The impact thermos have had on the industry is profound at it’s easy to see why.

Picture: Once on the slippery slope of substance abuse, where does it end?

There has always been a running battle between the supplement formulators and regulatory bodies and it seems that there are always compounds being banned only for others to take their place."

(The author goes on to list and explain the various substances that are banned and those that are still legal and how they work - Gary)

"For performance benefits I would suggest sticking with caffeine as a stimulant but be careful to not exceed allowable levels if you are subject to drug testing. Neurotransmitter formulas may prove VERY effective and would provide focus and decreased RPE without a stimulatory action and I theorise that in conjunction with certain adaptogenic compounds and caffeine with tyrosine would kick ass (watch this space ;) ! )

If you are needing to lose bodyfat……sort your diet out! Once you have sorted that out with the help of a good consultant you could look at one of the synephrine and caffeine, green tea formulas to speed things up. Also drink tea frequently, I really can’t see a down side to drinking tea, it’s thermogenic, increases insulin sensitivity and is a potent antioxidant! Only use dedicated thermogenic formulas for a set defined goal, don’t just take them in the hope that without changing anything else you’ll develop a lean physique…it just ain’t gonna happen!"
For the full article by Cliff Harvey, go here.
Gary Moller comments:
Articles like these by supposed conditioning experts leave me with feelings of deep dismay for the future of sport - and weight loss!

Performance that is derived from a stimulatory substance - be it green tea extract or ephidrine, is a really dumb conditioning strategy. The same goes for using the same "thermogenic" substances for weight loss.

Encouraging the use of substances that artificially stimulate the senses and the metabolism to either increase physical performance or to burn fat go completely against the spirit of natural health and fair sport. Even if small amounts are considered safe to use, we all know that there are plenty of young and desperate people out there who will take many, many times more than that if they think it will give them an advantage. The abuse of "soft" drugs often leads on to harder substances. In sport, using stimulants may progress to the dangerous abuse of anabolic steriods. View my Power Point Presentation about Drug Cheats in Sport here.

Athletes who seek an artificial edge (cheating) by using chemicals might win spectacularly for a while; but they quickly disappear off the scenes. While clean athletes last longer career-wide they suffer financially and they miss out on their rightful share of the Gold medals and the Records.

I do not know of any chemical stimulants that do not quickly addict the user chemically and psychologically. When these substances are pumped into the body, the body responds by reducing its own production of the equivalent chemicals. This is the basis of addiction and once a person is in its grasp, wrestling free is much easier said than done. The downside of addiction to stimulants is inconsistent performances, poor decision-making, bad temper, bouts of fatigue and depression and the need to take more and more for the same effect. Oh - and I almost forgot: Weight gain! Please read my article about caffeine addiction here.

Conditioning experts who encourage such dubious practices do not impress me at all. They give my profession a bad name.


Wayne said...

as you commented previously on caffeine, it's all too readily acceptable to abuse caffeine intake as it is an acceptable drug to abuse. the downside of stimulants like caffeine and guarana arent widely known but i think we've all heard anecdotes of people who've had a bad reaction and its uaually laughed off, and repeated over and over. NZ has too much of a mentality of accepting drug abuse, like bragging about how drunk you were and the stupid antics you got up to. although not generally as damaging as alcohol these other stimulants still ahve their negative impact on the body , damaging the adrenals which has serious consequences to the health

Cliff said...

Hi Gary.
I'm not sure if you bothered to check out this 'supposed experts' philosophies on health, wellness, performance and nutrition…
If you had you might have found that you and I share many similarities. I have written extensively on sun exposure and vitamin D, stress, sleep and many other natural health topics.
You would have found out that I have a very pragmatic, realistic and rational approach to the advice and information I provide.
The article you quoted (which I originally wrote some years ago) was published for athletes. Many athletes’ use and abuse stimulatory thermogenic products and in some cases also use illegal drugs. Both of these practices I neither endorse nor condone in any way. I would prefer that people used supplements in general less and where they do to have access to good and unbiased information. Something that I would like to think I have provided to my readers and to my patients and clients.
The reality is that there are specific performance benefits associated with, for example caffeine and some of the neurotransmitter precursors. I of course prefer natural and whole foods based approach to nutrition (something else you would know had you done your research) but with top performing and elite level athletes sometimes supplementation can be justified. Judging by the amounts of advertisements for supplements scattered throughout your site this too is something you are not averse to as a concept.
For lay people and for my general populations patients and clients I do not recommend the taking of stimulatory or thermogenic products and in fact only prescribe them for (as I mentioned in the article) specific goals and in specific cases (and these are often limited to pre-competition bodybuilders.)
I understand that you have an opinion that caffeine is not an ergogenic aid and that is absolutely fine. I have a different opinion and that is, that it can act as an ergogenic aid, an opinion that is backed up with research (even ‘supposed experts’ read studies Gary!)
I do not however in any way agree with the over-consumption that is prevalent in our society nowadays…I’m actually a pretty ‘moderate’ guy…something else you also would have known…
As for being a ‘supposed expert’….you must have high standards Gary!
I thought after ten years in practice helping NZers to compete at World Championships and Olympic and Commonwealth Games I could drop the ‘supposed’ prefix!
I figured that perhaps I could after helping hundreds of people here and around the world to live healthier and more fulfilling lives?
At the very least I figured that after beating the effects of Crohn’s disease and going on to become a world champion and world record holding strength athlete I could finally be considered an expert…..No?
Well that’s OK….I am after all a pretty moderate, laid back guy!
As I mentioned initially, and after looking around your blog, I think we have many similar views on health and nutrition and I would prefer to not be misrepresented. I welcome your comments Gary and I invite you and your readers to find out abit more about me at

Gary Moller said...

Dear Cliff,
First of all, thanks for responding to my article which I was hoping would eventuate. While you certainly may drop the the "supposed" prefix and I congratulate you on your achievements I still stand by what I have said here. When I reread your article it leaves me with no doubt that it leads athletes down the wrong path - the path to eventual sporting oblivion. Simon Poleman is a good example of one whol slid the slippery slope, as was the late Robin Tait. Start with one - add another. Start with a little - add a little more and so on it goes.

I do advocate the use of nutritional supplements where the need is evident, but that does not apply to stimulatory ergogenic aids which are very different.

Cliff said...

Thanks Gary, I'll be sure to do that (drop the 'supposed' that is!) Thanks also for publishing my reply in full. I think that this open and intelligent banter between practioners is really valuable (not to mention a bit of fun!) While I think that you overstate the case I can see your point. I don't necessarily agree, but I see where you are coming from nonetheless. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree this time.

Wayne said...

i think we should still be careful about what we promote for enhancing performance, under cliffdogs argument steroids enhance performance too, its proven , but long term they burn out the body. theres mounting evidence of the hazards of long term cafeeine intake even in "socially aceptable doses" cafeeine consumption is higher than it ever was in "energy drinks" this is a massive uncontrolled social experiment. ginseng i sused asa stimulant, but i've found long term use of it is proven to burn people out through over stimulation of the adrenal glands,
you have to remember that "enhancing someones performance" even through normal training methods without stimulants is a process that is temporary in its effect, the body gets reved up to perform at a peak level it can only sustain for a limited period of time before the body starts to fail in its ability to sustain that fitness, the energy required to manufacture all the extra blood and biochemials in teh body, and constantly repair damaged tissue, eventually you must back away from stimulating the body with heavy training and let it rest if you expect to achieve enhanced performance again