What is Chromium?
Chromium is one of the essential minerals, and is needed for carbohydrate and fat metabolism. It is thought that supplementation with chromium may be able to improve lean gains as well as aid in fat loss.
Where Does Chromium Come From?
Chromium is a mineral found naturally in a large variety of foods such as whole grains, vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy and eggs.
Chromium is said to be able to increase insulin sensitivity within the body. Consequently, it is possible that chromium may also have an effect on body composition.
Chromium Benefits for Muscle Gain
Evidence exists to suggest that chromium may be able to increase lean muscle gains in people. One study observed an increase in lean muscle gain in a group of college football players after supplementing with chromium (Anderson, 1998). A similar phenomenon was observed in a group of swimmers supplemented with chromium, in which chromium resulted in a 3.3% increase in lean mass (Bulbulian et al, 1996). Such an effect would be beneficial for bodybuilders and strength athletes.
Chromium Benefits for Weight and Fat Loss
The group of swimmers mentioned above not only increased their muscle mass, but also decreased their fat mass by 6.4%. Another study showed that chromium supplementation was able to preserve lean mass while subjects were on a very low calorie diet (Bahadori et al, 1997). Several other studies have reported subjects losing more weight and fat when supplemented with chromium when compared to a placebo (Kaats et al, 1992; Kaats et al, 1996). Results such as these are backed up by various animal studies. Whether you are a bodybuilder looking to shed some fat, or a middle aged house wife wanting to lose some weight, chromium supplementation may be beneficial for you.
Negatives of Chromium and Side Effects
Quite a few studies have found conflicting results about chromium supplementation. However, these may be a result of a variety of variables. The efficacy of chromium appears to depend on the baseline level of chromium you already have, the type and amount of chromium consumed, and the length of supplementation (Anderson, 1998). In regards to safety, one author has reviewed the safety of chromium and deems it to be extremely safe (Anderson, 1998). However, there has been one report of toxicity from a severe overdose of chromium picolate (1200 to 2400 µg/day) over four to five months (Cerulli et al, 1998).
Chromium Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing
Studies have shown that doses of 200 µg and over have been effective for lean mass gains and fat loss. However, keeping in mind the above reported case of toxicity, it would be wise to not exceed 400 µg/day. Unlike some other supplements, chromium does take a while for it to kick into action. It may be 24 weeks before you notice the effects of chromium, so patience does pay off. Chromium can be taken any time of the day.
Chromium Supplements and What to Look Out For
As mentioned, the type of chromium is important. It appears that the most effective form is chromium picolinate, so this would be the one to look out for. You can find chromium as chromium picolinate in stand-alone supplements, sometimes advertised as carb blockers. Multivitamins also contain chromium, but these are generally in relatively low concentrations that may be too low to be of benefit. Additionally, chromium can be found in a range of fat burners, fat loss proteins, and meal replacement bars.
Chromium is best used for cutting or weight loss. Therefore it can be stacked with weight loss proteins, fat burners, fat blockers, and carb blockers.
Anderson (1998), Effects of chromium on body composition and weight loss. Nutrition Reviews. 56: 266-270
Bahadori et al (1997), Effects of chromium yeast and chromium picolinate on body composition in obese non-diabetic patients during and after a very-low-calorie diet. Acta Med Austriaca, 5: 185-187
Bulbulian et al (1996), Chromium picolinate supplementation in male and female swimmers. Wed Sci Sports Exerc, 28: 511
Cerulli et al (1998), Chromium picolinate toxicity. 32: 428-431
Kaats et al (1992), The short-term therapeutic efficacy of treating obesity with a plan of improved nutrition and moderate calorie restriction. Curr Ther Res, 51: 261-274
Kaats et al (1996), Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition: a randomised double-masked placebo-controlled study. Curr Ther Res, 57: 747-756