Any sophisticated dieter knows that a diet supplement which contains thermogenic ingredients can help tremendously with the fat-burning process. A thermogenic agent is one which has the ability to create heat; thermogenesis is the creation of heat through the burning of fat. What many don't realize is that fat-burning is not enough. If you want to be in top condition, if you want razor-sharp definition and a distinct set of "six pack" abs, then you need to do more than just burn subcutaneous fat. You also need to shed subcutaneous water.
Professional bodybuilders know that holding excess water just beneath the skin (subcutaneous water) can mean the difference between winning and losing. Even with 3-4% bodyfat, if your skin is holding extra water, your look can appear soft and puffy. This condition can hide those deep muscular striations and overall vascularity you've worked so hard to achieve. That's why professional bodybuilders supplement their nutrition with thermogenics and diuretics. Diuretics, simply put, are those substances which can help the body rid itself of water. Professional bodybuilders have an entire arsenal of strategies for shedding excess water. One important strategy is the selective use of several key herbal and nutritional ingredients.
Certain herbs and other nutrients can not only impact diuresis directly, but also promote the health and function of the urinary tract system. There's no sense trying to flush something out when the pipes aren't clear. By ensuring the proper function of your plumbing, you can accomplish your goals more efficiently and quickly.
In Germany, many herbs are considered pharmaceutical drugs. Today, there are some 600-700 "plant drugs" which are sold in Germany. To ensure herbal safety and efficacy, the German government set up body of experts to oversee herbal drug and phytomedical preparations in 1978-Kommission E. This body, akin to the FDA in the United States, has collected data (e.g., clinical trials, cases, published studies, scientific literature, etc.) on herbal drugs. This collection can today be found in the Kommission E Monographs.
The monographs recognize certain herbs which can aid in the management of water. First and foremost, is the common dandelion. Though a nuisance to many suburban autocrats and their insuperable gas-powered mowers, this menacing "weed" has clear nutritional benefits. Dandelion, or Taraxacum officinale, has certain chemical constituents which can promote diuresis. These constituents, often found in the root, include sterols such as taraxsterol which can exert potent diuretic effects.
Just how effective is dandelion as a diuretic? In one study, dandelion was favorably compared to the prescription drug Lasix®. In fact, that study concluded that dandelion exerted diuretic actions comparable to Lasix®. Safer and without side effects or toxicity, dandelion is a natural alternative for those individuals trying to shed water weight. Plus, dandelion is rich in vitamins, minerals, and potassium. Potassium, an electrolyte, is important because potassium-depletion can result in flat, lifeless muscles. To achieve a maximum "pump" while losing water, getting enough potassium is critical.
Another powerful diuretic herb is bearberry, or Arctostaphylos uva ursi. Uva ursi's diuretic ability is found in the chemicals ursolic acid, isoquercetin, and arbutin. Arbutin is so powerful that in Europe, it is the active constituent in several approved drugs (e.g., Arctuvan®, Nephronorm®, Cystinol®). Uva ursi is also known as a tonic for the urinary tract. According to the Kommission E, uva ursi can promote urinary tract health. As excess water will pass through the urinary tract system, maintaining this system is very important.
The average American gets enough caffeine per day to fill a cup of coffee. As you've probably noticed, when you drink coffee, you usually end up going to the bathroom. That's because caffeine is a well-documented diuretic. Caffeine, a xanthine alkaloid, is found in coffee, soda, and many over-the-counter (OTC) diet products. There are many natural sources of caffeine as well. Coffee beans. African kola nut. Guarana nut. Whatever the source, caffeine helps you lose water.
Stinging nettle is a fairly common herbal supplement that's widely used in natural formulations. Stinging nettle is primarily employed as a diuretic. In addition, according to the Kommission E, this herb has been proven to help increase urinary volume and flow. Stinging nettle can help make sure that your internal plumbing has no clogs or other obstructions which may result in less than efficient drainage. Vitamin B6 can help too.
Found in many OTC diuretic preparations, buchu (Barosma betulina) has long been used as an effective diuretic. In fact, buchu can be found in the U.S. National Formulary as a diuretic and antiseptic. Research suggests that buchu's volatile oils and flavonoids such as diosphenol may be responsible for its water-shedding effects. Furthermore, like uva ursi, buchu can promote urinary tract health.
When using a diuretic, whether pharmaceutical or herbal, a few caveats are in order. Chronic or extended use of diuretic preparations can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies. For example, dieting for any period of time can dramatically deplete your body's stores of key electrolytes such as potassium. For the bodybuilder, this is of great importance as potassium-depletion results in flat, soft, lifeless muscles. To ensure thick, full muscles, you need additional potassium. Dandelion is naturally rich in potassium. Supplementing with extra potassium would be a great idea when using a diuretic.
Magnesium can be severely depleted when using diuretics. Magnesium deficiency can result in fatigue, mental confusion, weakness, muscle cramps, loss of appetite and a host of other side effects. As magnesium plays a key role in energy production and in the activation of the sodium and potassium pump, getting enough of this nutrient is vital for the dieter. With respect to the potassium pump, magnesium deficiency can lead to decreased potassium levels. When this occurs, muscles can appear flat and lifeless, as mentioned earlier.
Consequently, when dieting, it's important to consider weight loss of any kind-whether fat or water weight-from a nutritionally complete approach. Taking a good multivitamin can help. And, contrary to popular belief, drinking extra water can actually help you hold less subcutaneous water. Whatever your goals, try adding a few of the herbs mentioned above to help you lose extra water weight.
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