Join the community and get our Workout Secrets Plan for free!
Do the Fat Burners Work? The Ultimate Guide
BY AMANDA BERRY
April 3rd 2019
Don’t you wish there was a miracle switch you could flick that made you lose weight and gave you the body of your dreams?
If so, you are not alone!
Unfortunately, life is not always that simple and sustainable weight loss results can take time and hard work.
However, in spite of this, there is still a huge demand for products that help to speed up fat loss. But are these so-called “fat burners” effective and, more importantly, are they safe?
In this article, we delve into the world of fat burner to draw out the myths and truths in order to answer the question, do fat burners work?
What Are Fat Burners?
Originally designed for bodybuilders and fitness models as an alternative to illegal performance enhancers, natural fat burner supplements have recently gained more widespread awareness in the weight loss industry. These supplements usually come in pill or powder form and are typically intended to be taken before a workout to boost energy or with food in order to help with overall absorption.
Fat burners contain a variety of different ingredients that claim to work in different ways to help us accelerate fat loss, the most effective of these can be found in natural plant extracts and spices. Whilst the majority of these products have been declared safe for human consumption, the industry itself has not escaped controversy. This is because some manufacturers have utilised banned or illegal substances that can have adverse side effects for the user, especially when the proper dosages are not followed. Only a handful of natural ingredients have actually been approved by the European Food Safety Authority as being effective and safe in aiding fat loss and improving aerobic capacity.
We’ll cover some of these key ingredients used in fat burning supplements later on in this article, as well as some natural ingredients you can add to your diet to support fat burning. And before we go into more detail about how fat burners work, remember that these are not miracle pills. They are intended to be used in addition to a healthy diet and active lifestyle to help your body burn fat more efficiently. You can’t follow an unhealthy diet and expect a supplement to pick up all the slack for you.
How Do Fat Burners Work?
When it comes to losing weight your metabolism is at the centre of whether you gain or lose fat. More specifically, something known as your ‘basal metabolic rate’ is crucial when it comes to fat retention and body shape.
‘Your ‘basal metabolic rate’ refers to the number of calories your body needs in order to perform its most basic functions, including; respiration, digestion, and blood circulation. Any excess calories you consume in excess of what is required for these basic functions will be stored as fat.
This is where a supplement can come in and work in a few ways in order to help you achieve a calorie deficit and weight loss:
- Increase body temperature – A higher body temperature boosts a bodily process called thermogenesis, which can also help your body to burn more calories at rest.
- Suppress appetite – Soluble Fiber can help with weight loss by suppressing your appetite, meaning you can consume fewer calories through your diet.
- Boost energy levels – Fat burners often contain stimulants like natural caffeine. These give you more energy, allowing you to exert yourself more during a workout, which may mean you burn more calories.
- Increase fat metabolism – A number of essential vitamins and minerals can support your body’s natural ability to metabolise fats and carbohydrates.
- Reduce fat absorption – Ingredients like Konjac Fibre can help your body absorb less fat from the food you eat.
The Different Types of Fat Burners
Before you add fat burners to your regime, it is worth doing some research into the different types of supplements to work out which are the most effective and which you should avoid. It may take some trial and error, as something that works for one person might not work for another. It can often be worth testing a product and assessing its results before continuing with its use.
Here are few of the different weight loss options on the market:
Prescription fat burners
Prescription fat burners and other weight loss aids may be recommended for patients who are obese or have health conditions as a result of being overweight. These will be prescribed alongside diet and exercise in order to maximise weight loss results.
To be approved for prescription use, these fat burners have been confirmed to be safe at the prescribed doses and to be effective in weight loss studies compared to placebo control groups. As with other fat burners, they help patients to slightly increase fat burning potential when combined with a balanced diet and a small caloric deficit.
After prescribing weight loss medication, your doctor will monitor your progress, expecting a loss of at least 5% of your body weight after 12 weeks of use. If these results are not seen or if you experience side effects from the medication, then the treatment may be discontinued or you may be switched to a different drug.
Given that the products listed above are all pharmaceutical grade it is an unavoidable fact that they come with a longer list of potential side effects. For this reason prescription fat burners are generally used as short-term solution, to help kick start fat burning for patients who are struggling to lose weight. They are not particularly useful as a long-term weight loss solution as your body may not react well to continued use of a particular medication.
Natural fat burners
There are lots of natural alternatives to weight loss medications. Plant extracts, spices, vitamins, and other naturally occurring ingredients have been shown to offer fat burning properties, such as helping to reduce your appetite or improve your endurance capacity so that you can lose weight quicker during exercise.
Whilst it has been the subject of great controversy, there are natural fat burners that can provide comparable benefits to prescription medications while potentially offering fewer side effects. However, like pharmaceutical fat burners they still require you to undertake regular exercise and healthy eating in order for them to be effective.
These natural alternatives can be broadly broken down into the following categories:
Stimulant Fat Burners
Many weight loss and fat burning pills have stimulant effects, containing ingredients like caffeine that aim to increase your metabolic rate.
Caffeine can be very effective at increasing your endurance capacity in order to enable faster fat loss in the gym. It has also been found to increase fat oxidation when ingested before a workout, although a study found that this was more effective in participants of a healthy weight compared to obese participants.
However, consuming too much caffeine and other stimulants does have its side effects. If you’ve ever gone too hard on the espresso, then you’ve probably experienced that crash you get afterwards, where you feel tired, irritable, and jittery. If you normally have several cups of coffee a day and then add a stimulant fat burner on top of that, it could prove to be too much for your system, causing more serious symptoms like an increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
Taking stimulant fat burners late in the day is also likely to affect your sleep pattern. Since restful sleep is a key component of healthy, sustainable fat loss, this can have a detrimental effect on achieving your weight loss goals.
Appetite suppressants may also be considered as a class of fat burners. Rather than activating any mechanisms in your body that prompt more fat to be expended or less fat to be absorbed, appetite suppressants simply make it easier for you to limit your food intake.
By reducing the frequency and intensity of feelings of hunger, you can consume fewer calories, making weight loss and fat loss occur more readily. This can be a good solution for anyone who struggles with cravings and effective portion control when trying to lose weight. Some natural appetite suppressants like soluble fiber have been shown to lower the amount of calories you absorb from your diet.
What Are The Most Effective Fat Burning Supplements?
If you’re looking to add natural fat burning supplements and ingredients to your diet, then here are some of the best fat burners and the science behind how they work.
Soluble Fibre – Glucomannan
Soluble fibres like glucomannan have been found to be effective at suppressing appetite, making it easier for you to create the conditions needed for effective fat loss. There are a number of factors that may contribute to this. Firstly, it has been proven to increase the levels of hormones that contribute towards feelings of fullness, and to reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that prompts hunger.
Feelings of fullness after eating may also be prolonged thanks to soluble fibre because it slows down digestion, releasing nutrients more slowly whilst your body breaks down food. Plus, research has found that people with higher levels of soluble fibre in their diets actually absorb fewer calories and less fat from the food they eat.
We’ve already mentioned that caffeine can have positive effects on our metabolism, inducing thermogenesis and allowing us to burn a higher number of calories. It is also considered to be a fairly effective appetite suppressant, although research on this has garnered mixed results.
There are lots of ways you can consume caffeine for its fat burning effects. Normal cups of coffee give you a good caffeine boost, as do energy drinks, although these also contain high amounts of added sugar that could hinder your weight loss. Green tea is a healthy source of caffeine due to all the antioxidants it contains. You can either drink regular green tea or take green tea extract in supplement form. Then there are specific fat burner supplements that have caffeine as a key ingredient.
Be sure to limit your caffeine consumption as your body may also develop a tolerance to caffeine, reducing its effects over time. When using caffeine or a stimulant fat burner for weight loss, it is recommended that you cycle its use to increase its long-term effectiveness.
The mineral chromium can be found naturally in foods, including lean meats, whole grains, and various fruits and vegetables. The effect of Chromium can have a positive effect on insulin and insulin resistance as it helps to maintain normal blood glucose concentrations, preventing damaging spikes that lead to unhealthy body weight and composition. Weight loss supplements often contain chromium picolinate as this form of the mineral is more easily absorbed in the intestine.
Choline supports normal lipid metabolism, increasing the amount of fat that is burnt for energy. This helps to promote fat loss and preserve muscle mass when burning calories through exercise. A study examined the use of choline in female athletes preparing for martial arts competitions. Choline supplements helped to aid more rapid weight loss in the week leading up to their competitions. Both the BMI and the body fat percentages of the participants decreased as a result of choline supplementation.
Vitamin B6 + B12
The B vitamins are important components of our metabolism, supporting the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. B12 is especially important when it comes to metabolising fats, and supplementary levels of B6 helps this function to work efficiently. You can find B vitamins in a range of foods, especially animal products. If you are struggling to get enough B vitamins in your diet or are following a vegan diet, then you can take supplements of B6, B12, or more general B-complex vitamins.
Spicing up your meals could be the key to boosting your weight loss efforts. That’s because these foods can potentially help to induce thermogenesis – the action of heat being generated inside the body. This slightly boosts your metabolism and prompts your body to burn through more calories in attempt to cool down. It is the capsaicin in cayenne pepper that has this effect, resulting in temporarily boosted metabolism, reduced appetite, and greater fat burning potential.
Turmeric is another example of a thermogenic food. The antioxidant found in turmeric, called curcumin, has also been found to suppress the growth of fat tissue and increase metabolism of fat in studies conducted on mice. Human trials have also found that participants consuming curcumin lost more weight and more body fat than those in the control group. You can add turmeric to your food for a small boost to your metabolism and rate of fat loss, or you can take curcumin supplements for a more concentrated dose.
Several minerals, including chloride, are essential for our bodies to maintain normal digestion. Chloride is needed for our bodies to produce hydrochloric acid, which is an important part of the digestion process in the stomach. Chloride, along with minerals like sodium and potassium, also keeps your body’s water levels balanced, which can help to reduce bloating.
We get most of our dietary chloride from table salt, or sodium chloride. However, the high levels of sodium that result from a high-salt diet can cause problems such as high blood pressure, so you can increase your chloride levels with supplements instead.
When to Take Fat Burners
Once you’ve decided on the best fat burner for you, whether that’s a medication, thermogenic or a natural dietary fiber, you need to create a routine for when to take them. This will depend on what kind of fat burner you are taking.
For example, taking caffeinated fat burners right before a workout could give you the energy boost you need to improve your workout performance while also boosting your fat metabolism during exercise. However these supplements should not be taken too late in the day as they are likely to disrupt your sleep pattern.
If you’re taking a supplement or prescribed medication, then they should give you guidelines of when to take your fat burners and how much you need. Do not exceed the dosage stated. If a range is given, e.g. 1-2 tablets, then it is imperative to follow the dosing instructions exactly. This is because certain ingredients have only been certified to work when used in certain dosages.
If you’re taking soluble fiber as a fat burner, then it is better to take this with your meals or shortly before them. The main reason for this is that the food will help the natural ingredients to reach your intestine intact. From there the fiber can swell in your stomach and keep you fuller throughout the day.
Fat Burner Side Effects
It is important to be aware of the potential side effects of fat burners before you decide to take them. Prescription medication and fat burners containing illegal or unapproved ingredients can especially have some nasty side effects. Other than the side effects that come from the high levels of caffeine in fat burner pills, other risks include mood swings, behavioural changes, dehydration, and sensitivity to temperature. When illegal ingredients are included, serious complications can occur in relation to the heart and other vital organs.
Natural fat burners are much safer, but you should always stick to the recommended dose in order to avoid potential side effects. Consuming too much caffeine, for example, can have a variety of side effects, especially for women since it can interact negatively with the contraceptive pill. Other than this, high levels of caffeine can cause anxiety, tiredness, high blood pressure, and rapid heart rate.
Soluble fibre like glucomannan can have side effects if not taken properly, so make sure you drink plenty of water with it so that it can reach your intestines easily. Taking it with food can also help.
Fat burners come in various guises. When it comes to losing weight, natural ingredients like Glucomannan and caffeine are the most effective fat burners supported by evidence and should help you to achieve greater weight loss than you could on your own.
Supplementing minerals and vitamins like B6, B12, Choline, Chromium, and Chloride will support your body’s natural ability to metabolize fat and stay in shape. Just make sure you’re still eating a balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle to achieve effective and sustainable weight loss.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Prescription weight-loss drugs (2018). Link.
- Acheson KJ. affeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals (1980). Link.
- James M. Lattimer. Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health (2010). Link.
- St-Pierre DH. Fiber intake predicts ghrelin levels in overweight and obese postmenopausal women (2009). Link.
- Baer DJ. Dietary fiber decreases the metabolizable energy content and nutrient digestibility of mixed diets fed to humans (1997). Link.