An ingredient found in many weight loss supplements, HCA is found in the rind of the fruit of Garcinia cambogia, which is used in Asian cuisine. HCA is certainly nothing new. Animal studies as far back as the 1970's show that large doses of HCA inhibit the conversion of carbohydrate to fat.
More recently, there have also been claims that HCA can reduce cell levels of malonyl-CoA (an enzyme that slows the rate at which fat is burned as energy). In theory, at least, this would increase the number of fat calories you burn during exercise, speeding up weight loss.
Putting the theory to the test, a team of scientists from Maastricht University persuaded a group of ten cyclists to take part in two trials. Both tests involved two hours of cycling.
During the first trial, the cyclists consumed a drink containing 18 grams of HCA. In trial two, they were given plain water.
When they used HCA, the cyclists burned an average of 0.68 grams of fat per minute of exercise.
When they weren't given HCA, the cyclists burned an average of 0.66 grams of fat per minute of exercise.
Not much difference is there? Now, despite the fact that HCA before and during exercise has little effect on the amount of fat you burn, what's interesting is the large drop in lactic acid levels seen in subjects using HCA.
After 30 minutes of exercise, lactic acid levels were significantly lower in subjects using HCA.
For the rest of the two-hour ride, lactic acid levels remained lower in the cyclists using HCA.
Lactic acid is associated with (rather than causing) that "burning" sensation you get in your muscles when you exercise.
Even at rest, your body produces some lactic acid. During exercise, however, lactic acid can build up because the rate of production is greater than the rate of removal. Although it's often thought of as a "waste product," lactic acid can
Potentially, HCA could increase the rate at which your liver converts lactic acid into glucose. However, whether this would actually improve your performance in the gym is open to debate. The amount of HCA used in this study was extremely high (6-30 times the amount used in previous studies), and most people don't have the time to sit on a bike for two hours.
What about HCA and weight loss?
Most research shows that relatively low doses of HCA has little impact on weight loss. It's supposed to work by limiting the conversion of carbohydrate into fat, also known as de novo lipogenesis. But this really doesn't happen to a significant extent in humans unless you're eating a hypercaloric diet containing large amounts of carbohydrate (which would be a pretty dumb thing to do if you're trying to lose weight).
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