Dripping your wallet dry, the skinny on sweating for fatloss
I've been bombarded with images of these products in the last few years, being a part of the fitness industry and specifically with my promotion on bodybuilding you see a lot of topical fat loss products. They claim that adding a cream with their special blend of vitamins and minerals can help with fatloss. I see a lot of girls slathering it on their bellies and either wrapping it in Saran Wrap or wrapping a sweat band around their waste. The sweatband being essentially a neoprene waste belt that makes you sweat more around your abdomen. One company claims "Our active ingredient is responsible for over 300 bio mechanical reactions in the body". The main "active ingredient" being their special form of magnesium. They claim that magnesium and all the other components of their product "balance and restore the body". They go on to make quite a few more claims for their products;
-aid in increased blood flow and circulation to the muscles
-free up testosterone so it can be used more freely by the body
-allows for metabolism of cortisol
-helps replenish energy stores in the muscle, leading to faster recovery
-pull out excess water to the skins surface
-enhance localized sweating, leading to a pronounced reduction in size
-pull out impurities from your body allowing you to achieve better overall health and rid your body of harmful toxins(we will cover "toxins" in another post)
-a ‘plumping’ effect, giving the skin the appearance of reduced lines and wrinkles
-highly effective all natural anti inflammatory
-Calcium is what binds the muscle and prevents them from relaxing – DripFit helps to rid this calcium buildup from your tired muscles enabling you to get back to your life
Many of these claims are generic claims made by most supplements in this industry and are too vague to prove or disprove. First thing to note is that no studies or sources are provided on these company websites. Anyone can sell a product and make a list of claims with no sources, how people buy into this in the google age is beyond me. Lets focus on a couple of the more extreme claims and see what we can find in the literature.
First I want to look at topical magnesium. Magnesium is a popular supplement because it is an essential mineral required for healthy humans. For supplements to be effective a few things need to happen;
1. the product needs to fix a deficiency, this would improve health and performance (or)
2. the product needs to have a benefit above baseline physiological amounts, what this means is, even though the body regulates amounts of nutrients pretty tightly, example urinating excess electrolytes or retaining water to dilute it in the body, there would need to be a benefit for superphysiological amounts, example, caffeine improving performance through its stimulatory effects, caffeine however is a drug, not a supplement. In most cases supplementation provides little value if there is no deficiency.
3. There needs to be an effective and efficient delivery mechanism, oral (by mouth) vs. transdermal (via skin), we will look at the research for this below.
4. The product needs to contain bioavailable forms of the nutrient, vitamin or mineral, we see this a lot where non-bioavailable products are sold as miracles, an example would be turmeric amazing claims, but you just can't get it into the blood.
5. Lastly the product needs to contain effective doses, so there not only needs to be bioavailable ingredients but they need to be in a dose that would provide a benefit. For instance many products add low doses of BCAA to add another ingredient to the list, but they are often a power of magnitude to little in terms of quantity,
So lets take a look at magnesium, the main ingredient in these products. Here are a few benefits of magnesium supplementation. It is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body. Muscles need this mineral to contract; nerves need it to send and receive messages. It keeps your heart beating steadily and your immune system strong. Most people can get enough magnesium by eating foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fish The kidneys are quite effective at regulating urinary magnesium, so magnesium deficiency isn't very common in the general population. select groups such as those with GI disorders may be more prone to magnesium deficiency. The main side effect of too much magnesium is diarrhea or worsening of chronic diarrhea. The good news is, your doctor(see MD, NOT naturopath) can do a simple blood test to determine if you are deficient, then decide whether supplementation is required. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is 420 milligrams (mg) per day which is easy to hit with a diverse and mostly whole food diet according to Harvard.
Next lets take a look at delivery, these creams are transdermal, meaning through the skin, this can sometimes be a benefit for some products as they can be broken down in the acidity of the stomach or denatured by enzymes in the stomach and gut. However, magnesium is an inorganic mineral, and this doesn't seem to be an issue. This review study looking at available literature on transdermal magnesium hoped to look at whether applying a magnesium cream could be suitable alternative to oral supplementation. The benefits of oral supplementation are well documented, a transdermal option could prove beneficial for those who have diarrhea symptoms. Oral supplementation has come under fire by marketing claims made by proponents of transdermal products, these claims are unfounded. First we need to acknowledge that to our best knowledge magnesium uptake requires specific magnesium transporters and not by diffusion, these transformers are not found on the skin but within body cells, there may be evidence that limited uptake could happen near hair follicles and sweat glands and these only constitute 0.1 to 1% of the skin surface, no studies are able to show that the effective dose of magnesium can even be absorbed via skin due to this very small area of absorption. Some very poor clinical research exists showing magnesium uptake in hair when supplemented via skin, but serum levels(blood) is not tested. Extensive studies of the Israel army with a magnesium-containing skin protectant lotion (IB1) showed that magnesium is not absorbed through the skin. Conclusions from this lengthy review article by the author are "we cannot yet recommend the application of transdermal magnesium".
The next claim we should look at is the "Calcium is what binds the muscle and prevents them from relaxing – DripFit helps to rid this calcium buildup from your tired muscles enabling you to get back to your life" First off, if you remember into biology or physiology, you'll remember the sliding filament theory and how calcium binds to troponin, the troponin changes shape, removing tropomyosin from the binding sites. The sarcoplasmic reticulum stores calcium ions, which it releases when a muscle cell is stimulated; the calcium ions then enable the cross-bridge muscle contraction cycle. What they are proposing is that calcium does not return to the sarcoplasmic reticulum resulting in muscle cramps and soreness post workout. Firstly this process happens very quickly, calcium uptake is almost instant as your muscle doesn't actually contract like a rope being pulled but more like a million inchworms crawling, if calcium was left in the cell you would end up with a permamanet muscle contraction, this is seen in many hereditary muscle diseases and quite painful and debilitating.
Last we should look at the most visible effects of these creams which is dehydrating the skin, temporarily(minutes) via localized sweating. First know that sweating is a bi-product of the body trying to cool itself. Sweating does not indicate an effective workout. Sweating also does not indicate fat loss. Weight lost due to sweating is just that, water weight. It will return when you drink water and eat, if you rely too often on over sweating you may actual gain excess water weight as you lose electrolytes as well. The other false notion is targeted body fat loss. You cant chose where fat comes off, so thinking your sweat on your belly will lead to belly fat loss is just false, getting hung up on these types of scams will likely take away from any real potential progress.
Like most supplements you add an ingredient that has miraculous effects in sick and deficient populations, you package it in a unique and sexy delivery method and you make wild claims for the general population. Its very unlikely that this product can do more but dehydrate your skin temporarily and you wallet permanently. Always be cautious when purchasing products that promise to give you quick and lasting results.