Bodybuilding is an exercise in self-restraint, work-ethic, and pushing your body to its limits. And a fat burner could give you that extra push.
Natural bodybuilding, especially, relies heavily on nutrient timing, weight room stimulus, sleep, and clean supplements to get the look you’re going for (the same goes for enhanced bodybuilders, by the way).
During a cut, you’ll need to pay extra attention to diet and training, and this typically means adjusting your carb/caloric intake to lose body fat.
Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source, fueling athletic performance and muscle growth during a bulk. But during a cut, removing the readily-available pool of them, your body will dip into fat storage.
How do you do so while still fueling performance so you don’t lose your hard-earned muscle?
Combined with a well-adjusted diet, fat-burners accelerate fat loss by enhancing metabolism, reducing cravings, and increasing intra-workout energy.
The best ones even go the extra mile to protect against muscle breakdown.
Good fat burners for bodybuilding can:
- Accelerate metabolism
- Increase mobilization of adipose tissue
- Combat hunger
- Decrease muscle breakdown
- Improve lean body mass
- Keep you healthy
Unfortunately, lots of fat burners on the market are loaded with stimulants and substandard ingredients.
While, on the surface, stimulants might sound good and make you feel like it’s working, they're not necessarily effective at the cellular level.
What really works is combining daily exercise with a healthy dose of lean proteins, lots of fiber, good fats, and fruits and vegetables. Good fat burners simply accelerate those efforts.
With that being said, how do you sift through the chaff to pull out one that works?
Fortunately, we did the hard work for you.
In this article, you’ll uncover:
- The benefits of fat burners (and how they can expedite your stage prep)
- Which ingredients to look for
- Which ingredients to absolutely avoid
- Extra tips to increase results
- ….AND ultimately, our pick for the best fat burner in 2020
*If you want the quick answer, then go straight to our #1 fat burner this year:
Performance Lab Burn
How Fat Burners can Help Bodybuilders
For the average person, fat loss depends heavily on how much you eat rather than when you eat.
If you expend more energy than you take in, your body is going to reach into its fat stores to survive.
That fact still holds true for bodybuilding, but it takes a LOT more detail to go from lean to super lean.
Things like intermittent fasting, fasted training, and meal timing help lose fat AND maintain enough energy to support muscle growth.
Most fat-burning supplements focus on things like thermogenesis and fatty acid mobilization, which makes sense.
By moving fat into the bloodstream, good fat burners help you use stored fat to fuel both exercise and daily living. Depending on where you’re at with training, however, you might not have a ton of stored fat to burn.
So where does the energy come from?
Low-calorie, low-carb diets combined with hours of daily training essentially put you into starvation mode.
During this absence of “normal” food, protein breakdown can occur in an effort to provide amino acids to the liver.
From there, the liver either converts them to glucose or ketone bodies for energy. While losing stubborn fat is its own struggle, a bodybuilder’s biggest concern during a cut tends to be muscle protein preservation.
Therefore, bodybuilders should look for fat burners that mobilize whatever body fat they have left, increases metabolism so it burns off, yet also protects muscle.
Best Fat Burning Ingredients for Bodybuilding
We mentioned above that you should choose fat burners that are able to promote fat loss, while protecting your muscle mass.
After all, you don't want to cut body fat just to be left with a skinny frame...
For this reason, we've researched the best ingredients to help you maintain muscle mass during a cut. As well as some thermogenics to boost your metabolic rate to promote fat loss.
Check them out:
HMB (ß-Hydroxy ß-Methylbutyrate)
As a metabolite of everyone’s favorite BCAA, leucine, HMB can protect against muscle breakdown, aid recovery, and add energy during fasted training.
That’s why, in my opinion, HMB is THE number one ingredient you should look for in fat burners.
You’re not just looking to shed pounds, like the majority of the general population.
You’re after lean muscle mass and a chiseled, balanced look for bodybuilding.
Research suggests supplementing with HMB1 can preserve muscle protein during fasted training.
As such, during a cut, you can carry on shedding fat through your diet and training while protecting that hard-earned muscle.
You see, there’s another thing about training when you’re really low on energy - it sucks.
And your body, in an attempt to save itself, will be incredibly stubborn about losing its tried-and-true method of energy storage - fat.
So, whether you’re dragging yourself to the gym early in the morning or practicing IF throughout the day, your body will struggle to pull energy from elsewhere. Unfortunately, that can mean wasting away lean muscle mass.
Supplementing with quality fat burners featuring HMB:
- Gives you a little energy boost by accelerating metabolism to burn fat AND
- Keep muscle intact
If you ask me, that sounds like a win-win.
Coleus Forskohlii is an herb with roots in Ayurvedic medicine known for its active ingredient, forskolin.
This naturally-occurring enzyme stimulates the production of something called cyclic adenosine monophosphate, or cAMP. Cyclic AMP2 helps regulate both lipid and glucose metabolism, promoting calorie burn.
It’s also been shown to raise natural testosterone levels slightly, which contributes to muscle maintenance during a fat loss phase.
Coleus Forskohlii Benefits:
- Helps regulate both lipid and glucose metabolism
- Promotes calorie burn
- Appetite suppressant
- Able to raise testosterone levels slighty
- Supports muscle maintenance during fat loss
Cayenne Pepper Extract
Cayenne pepper extract comes from the same plant culinary artists use to add flavor to a variety of meals.
However, when pared down to supplement form, it can be standardized for its main active ingredients - capsaicinoids.
These compounds activate the release of norepinephrine and epinephrine, AKA catecholamines that start a “fight or flight” response.
While eating cayenne pepper won’t make you leap tall buildings in a single bound, capsaicinoids CAN help generate heat to burn calories. This is a rare find in substances that aren’t stimulants.
Furthermore, a recent study5 shows that these compounds can mobilize white fat (the bad kind) while triggering lipase to burn it. It does so by converting it to brown (good) fat and activating its calorie-burning qualities.
Cayenne Pepper Extract Benefits:
- Boosts metabolic rate
- Can mobilize white fat while triggering lipase to burn it
- Promotes fat loss
Our #1 Fat Burner for Bodybuilding
Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Our pick for best fat burner this year is…
Performance Lab Burn
- Safely stimulates catecholamines for fat burn
- Elevates post-workout muscle growth
- Yields greater metabolic efficiency
- Activates thermogenesis
- Protects against muscle breakdown
- Vegan, plant-based, gluten and dairy-free
- All-natural (no artificial sweeteners or flavors/additives).
Performance Lab Burn features three active ingredients, with a little black pepper extract to enhance bioavailability.
Pay attention to the quantity of their first ingredient, HMB.
HMB is the minimally effective dose to combat muscle breakdown during fasted training, AKA perfect for bodybuilders.
Furthermore, the company third-party tests their supplements to make sure you get exactly what’s on the label, and nothing more.
Performance Lab Burn Ingredients:
- 1000 mg of ß-Hydroxy ß-Methylbutyrate - the minimally effective dose for fighting muscle breakdown
- 5 mg Black Pepper Extract - for better absorption
- 50 mg of Cayenne Pepper Extract - to promote thermogenesis
- 200mg of Coleus Forskohlii - shown to raise testosterone levels slightly to maintain muscle mass
Instead of packing their product with potentially dangerous stimulants, fillers, and more, they include ingredients that bolster each other.
For example, black pepper and cayenne pepper work together to increase total calorie burn.
The catecholamines stimulated by capsaicinoids connect with the cAMP brought up by forskolin to torch visceral fat.
And HMB protects the hard-earned muscle in which your metabolic factories live.
Fat Burning Tips for Bodybuilders
Tip #1 - Stay hydrated
Unless you’re cutting water weight the week before a show, it’s imperative to drink tons of weight while burning fat (and even then - you don’t need to completely dehydrate yourself to achieve that “hard” look).
Our cells literally rely on water to do almost everything… including burn fat. Dehydration, therefore, not only slows down your ability to shed fat, but it negatively impacts muscle recovery, growth, mood, and joint health.
Drink plenty of water throughout a cut, and check your hydration levels through your urine color.
Tip #2 - Sleep!
Lack of sleep can hamper metabolism and fat burn in the regular population. For bodybuilders… it does that and more.
Your performance will suffer, you won’t recover as well, and your cravings will skyrocket, making it THAT much harder to stick to your diet.
You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again - make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours per night of QUALITY sleep.
Limit caffeine intake in the afternoon where possible, and take naps during the day if need be.
Tip #3 - Continue to eat a balanced diet, despite calorie restriction
During a cut, while you’re not literally starving, you’re severely restricting your calories. Add in a few hours at the gym, and your body will be scrambling for nutrients.
You could feed it before training, of course, and have some glucose ready-to-go.
However, that’s extra calories you have to calculate in your daily macros. So what do you do?
Fortunately, most bodybuilding workouts are either heavily reliant on creatine (short, heavy lifting) or they’re more aerobic (building a pump, steady-state cardio).
During aerobic training, you can stay in that so-called “fat-burning zone”, when the body runs on stored fats during longer, lower-intensity exercise.
Still, a sharp decline in carbs, fats, or overall calories can lead to a sharp crash and burn.
Use a diet you can maintain that covers your bases in proteins, carbs, and recovery-enhancing fats.
Drop the fried foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, and more.
And, finally, start early.
The more weeks you have to cut before a show, the more gradual, sustainable changes you can make.
Tip #4 - Eat often (and on a schedule, if you can)
The idea of eating “6-8 small meals throughout the day” to lose fat originated in the bodybuilding community for a reason - it works.
While increased meal frequency can theoretically boost metabolism, research shows the effects are negligible.
Rather, when forcing down the same bland protein source and steamed vegetables over and over, limiting hunger is critical to avoid shoving the nearest cupcake in your face.
Plan high-quality meals when you’re likely to feel that twinge of hunger arise and take them with you. That way, you won’t lash out from the hanger, sprinting to the nearest convenience store for a snack.
Tip #5 - Improve your training
The harder you train, the more energy you burn during your workout.
And the more muscle you put on, the more energy you burn at rest.
It’s a great cycle if you can keep it up...BUT, there’s more to building muscle and burning fat than effort.
- You have to train smart.
- Use large, compound movements with perfect form.
- Practice things like blood flow restriction or tempo training to increase metabolic response or time under tension, respectively.
Shorten rest periods with things like compound sets and supersets, or even sprinkle in some cardio in between.
For best results, work with a coach and pay very close attention to what works for YOUR body during each specific week of preparation.
Tip #6 Fuel for performance
Traditional wisdom suggests that fasting before a workout lowers exercise intensity.
Yet, if you eat beforehand, you’re more likely to burn off blood sugar than fat. So, instead of choosing between the two, why not try something else?
Taking BCAA’s or a fat burner with HMB keeps blood sugar levels down while still preventing overtraining.
Add in the hormone-releasing effects of cayenne pepper or Coleus Forskohlii, and you’re likely to get a better workout.
Bodybuilding requires excruciating attention to detail about what you put into your body and how you train.
Tightening up your diet and exercise regimen reigns supreme, but, if you need a little help during a cut, add in a high-quality fat burner.
Stay away from that artificial stuff and protect your muscles with Performance Lab Burn. Good luck with your training!
- Alon T. Supplementing with beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) to build and maintain muscle mass: a review. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 2002;111(1-4):139-51.
- Earl W S. The Role of Cyclic AMP in the Control of Carbohydrate Metabolism. Diabetes 1969 Dec; 18(12): 797-819.
- Shonteh H. Effects of Coleus Forskohlii Supplementation on Body Composition and Hematological Profiles in Mildly Overweight Women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005; 2(2): 54–62.
- Vladimir B. Preclinical and clinical effects of Coleus forskohlii, Salacia reticulata and Sesamum indicum modifying pancreatic lipase inhibition in vitro and reducing total body fat. Journal of Functional Foods
Volume 15, May 2015, Pages 44-51.
- MSHS. Sympathetic nervous system key to thermogenesis, new study suggests. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2017.