Chromium Picolinate and chromium nicotinate. No news sounds better to a bodybuilder than hearing about a supplement that can burn body fat. Better still, one that also spares lean muscle. A study performed several years ago at Bemidji State University in Minnesota showed purported ergogenic benefits of chromium in well-trained athletes. Few supplements (except for creatine) have received as much popular press. Some say that many of the claims surrounding chromium are plain hype. Then again, this mineral does appear to be of benefit in certain populations. Remember, just because it may not work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for anyone.
What Is Chromium?
Chromium is a mineral that’s vital for normal insulin function. Insulin is one of the anabolic hormones in the body. The other two, in case you’re curious, are testosterone and growth hormone.
What Is Chromium Picolinate & Chromium Nicotinate?
Chromium picolinate is a somewhat newer form of chromium that absorbs better than other forms. Chromium nicotinate is chromium bound to niacin. Absorption is always a key selling point among different versions of the same ingredient.
Chromium Picolinate & Nicotinate Research
Some research (not all) has shown a favorable effect of chromium on risk factors related to cardiovascular disease. In addition, other evidence suggests a positive effect on body composition.
In a recent investigation conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, a group of healthy, sedentary, obese women was given either chromium picolinate or chromium nicotinate. They received (200 mcg twice a day) for nine weeks. The subjects were divided into four groups: 1) chromium picolinate, 2) chromium picolinate with exercise, 3) chromium nicotinate with exercise and 4) exercise plus placebo. The twice-a-week exercise was extensive. It involved step aerobics, cycling for 30 minutes, and resistance training.
Supplementing with chromium picolinate resulted in statistically significant weight gain (+2.9%), caused by a gain in fat-free mass with a slight gain in fat mass.
Exercise plus chromium nicotinate caused a significant reduction in body fat (-1.6%). It also caused a lower insulin response to an oral glucose load. Exercise by itself or with picolinate didn’t significantly affect body weight, fat mass, or fat-free-mass levels.
Each Version Has Different Benefits
It’s rather intriguing that chromium picolinate may cause weight gain without exercise. A 2.9% increase in weight over nine weeks may not seem like much. Still, it would be quite noteworthy if it was muscle. The doses used here were twice the amount used in previous studies on women.
This is the first study to show that chromium nicotinate plus exercise can cause a significant decrease in body fat. It also caused a slight gain in muscle. The study authors didn’t suggest a mechanism for this effect. Nonetheless, it would seem that chromium picolinate given to healthy, obese women supports fat loss. Using chromium nicotinate plus exercise, however, may increase the weight loss that normally occurs with regular exercise. So before you buy a bottle of chromium, ask yourself whether you’re seeking fat loss or muscle gain.