In this article we will examine chromium. This mineral will increase your glucose uptake and help you eat more carbs and gain less fat.
We will also check its health benefits, contraindications and ways of administration.
CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer
Table of Contents
My experience with Chromium
I first tried supplementing with chromium back in 2005 after reading an article about its effects on insulin sensitivity from Charles Poliquin. The price of the supplement was miniscule compared to that of other overhyped supplements (which mostly did not work) so I thought why not? About a week after using it, I actually saw changes in my body composition; fat was actually melting off without any changes in my diet. This was probably attributed to chromium’s ability to increase glycogen uptake from carbs (which can be used from your muscles more efficiently).
I still use it from time to time, especially when winter kicks in and I start taking in more calories (and carbs). I highly recommend it to people who wish to stay lean while eating more.
What is Chromium?
Chromium is in fact an essential mineral that can be found in grains in small quantities. Its role is to regulate and optimize insulin production in the body by controlling chromodulin activity. Chromodulin is a protein that enhances the signal of insulin receptors. If your chromodulin is inactive then chromium deficiency takes place and your insulin cannot properly keep your blood sugar levels in check.
When your chromium levels are low, your blood sugar levels increase so by making sure your chromium levels are adequate, you can also optimize the way your blood sugar is affected by insulin. But sugar levels are not the only ones that go up when your chromium levels are down: triglycerides go up as well and so does the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
In other words, your body is able to make better use of carbs and make sure that they are utilized to build and repair muscles rather than having them stored as fat.
So for people who are deficient in chromium (and quite a few people tend to be), this supplement can help you utilize your carbs better. However, if you are not deficient, this product will not give you any visible results.
Chromium can also be found in protein sources such as cheeses, lean meats but also whole grain breads, black pepper and thyme.
Chromium does have a lot of benefits, including the following:
- Since chromium can optimize the use of carbs in the body by controlling and stabilizing blood sugar levels in chromium-deficient people, it found its place in the bodybuilding world. Optimized carb intake means more glucose in the muscles and in turn that means better energy management and bigger muscle mass (that is until your chromium levels get back to normal).
- Also athletes who take steroids tend to have high blood sugar levels and can benefit from chromium supplementation.
- In medicine it is used to help with insulin sensitivity in people with prediabetes, diabetes of type 1 and 2 as well as healthy people provided they are insulin-resistant.
- It is used for depression (when used with the appropriate mental therapy) and raising good cholesterol levels in people who take beta blockers.
- Chromium can help with obesity and fat loss when taken along with a solid exercise program and an accurate nutritional plan (especially when the dieter is chromium deficient). Note that after the chromium deficiency is gone, diet and exercise will be the only ones working.
- Statements that it can increase athletic performance and strength are marketing tricks since no studies have proven them. However, it does help with insulin resistance.
When and how to take it
Chromium supplements usually come in pill form of 50 to 200 mcg. These need to be taken (as one would expect) along with your carbohydrate meal or drink.
There are several different forms of chromium, such as:
- Chromium nicotinate,
- Chromium histidinate,
- Chromium picolinate,
- Chromium-enriched yeast,
- Chromium chloride,
- Chromium citrate.
There is not enough research to establish the best form but we do know that chromium chloride has the poorest bioavailability and the most famous form is chromium picolinate.
For athletes, the best approach is to use it with your post-workout shake in order for the glucose to reach your hungry muscles. Generally speaking, you can take it at any time you need to optimize your blood sugar levels (like when you are about to eat carbs).
Safety and side effects
Chromium is considered to be SAFE for most adults when taken for duration of up to 6 months.
Reported side effects from chromium supplementation include:
- Skin irritation,
- Mood changes,
- Impaired thinking and judgment,
- Bad/lack of coordination
- Blood disorders,
- Liver or kidney damage in high doses (over 1000mcg).
See contraindications and interactions below for more information on when not to take Chromium supplements.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
According to WebMD, Chromium is considered to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding when the daily amounts are less than the RDA. However, chromium supplementation should be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women only after their doctor’s instruction.
Do not give Chromium to a child unless instructed by a doctor.
Always check with your doctor before taking chromium if you have diabetes or any other related condition.
Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:
Consult with your doctor before using this supplement especially if you have any of the following conditions or take the following medication/substances:
- Kidney problems as it can lead to kidney damage.
- Liver problems as it can lead to liver damage.
- Diabetes as it can interfere with your medication and drive lower blood sugar even lower.
- Chromate or leather contact allergies as it can cause redness, swelling or flaking of the skin.
- Psychiatric or behavioral conditions such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia as it can interact with your medications and make conditions worse.
- Corticosteroids as they can make the drug less effective or interfere with chromium absorption.
- Antacids as they can interfere with chromium absorption.
- Diabetes medication as it can drop your blood sugar levels too low.
- NSAIDs as they can increase chromium levels and cause adverse side effects.
Do I need to cycle off?
Yes. Since chromium is a mineral I recommend using chromium for up to 60 days and then taking 30 days off before starting again.
Over the past 20 years I have experimented with literally hundreds of herbs, supplements (and other natural products) and was finally able to discover the right doses for amazing results.
If you wish to learn more about the dosages that I use with my clients for different purposes (better health, hormonal balance, stress management, testosterone boost and more) or how I combine this herb/supp with others, leave a comment below or reach out to me for a consultation through the “Hire me” link.
Also make sure you subscribe to my newsletter and receive the latest website updates and articles directly to your email!
Summing up, chromium supplementation is recommended for:
- Athletes and people with chromium deficiencies.
- Diabetes 1 and 2.
- Athletes with high blood sugar levels as a result of taking anabolic steroids.
- Depression along with the appropriate therapy.
I do recommend it for increasing glucose uptake but it needs to be part of a complete nutritional and exercise program for maximum results.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share buttons below and show your support to this blog.
Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!
by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
Chromium Studies and sources:
- Frauchiger MT, Wenk C, Colombani PC Effects of acute chromium supplementation on postprandial metabolism in healthy young men . J Am Coll Nutr. (2004)
- Morino K, Petersen KF, Shulman GI Molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in humans and their potential links with mitochondrial dysfunction . Diabetes. (2006)
- Cefalu WT, et al Characterization of the metabolic and physiologic response to chromium supplementation in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. (2010)
- McLeod MN, Gaynes BN, Golden RN Chromium potentiation of antidepressant pharmacotherapy for dysthymic disorder in 5 patients. J Clin Psychiatry. (1999)
- Davidson JR, et al Effectiveness of chromium in atypical depression: a placebo-controlled trial . Biol Psychiatry. (2003)