First things first. When it comes to burning fat a structured exercise plan and good nutrition is key – you simply can’t down a few pills and expect excess fat to just melt away. Many of you will know that already but it’s always good to repeat it.
But do fat burning supplements work? Or are they just a fad and a way for pharmaceutical companies and health stores to take advantage of naive consumers desperate to do anything to shift some excess weight?
Fat burners have over the past received some serious flack – and for good reason – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t products, and ingredients, out there that don’t work. When taken as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime there is evidence to prove they do have a positive effect – you just need to know what to look for and what to avoid!
How Do Fat Burning Supplements Work?
Fat burning supplements or ‘fat burners’ increase the metabolism of the body to help burn more fat and reduce the amount of fat the body absorbs. They also help to suppress the appetite meaning they reduce hunger to help you consume less overall calories across the day. That said, they are really only effective at doing this if you’re priming your body by exercising regularly and in a slight calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than your body needs through food and exercise). In this respect they can help to complement your efforts and speed up the process of fat loss helping you to see results faster than you would without the aid of additional supplementation. They do this in three ways:
Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in both animals and humans. When your body burns calories it produces more heat which forms part of the metabolic process. Many fat burning supplements are designed to encourage thermogenesis, increasing the speed of your metabolism thus increasing fat burn.
Lipolysis is a process that occurs in the adipose tissue (the fat that covers and protects our organs) and breaks down lipids (fat) by way of enzymes and water. The body will naturally store excess calories as fat so that it can use it when energy levels are low and we’re unable to obtain that energy from food. When this happens this fat is then burned to produce that energy. Fat burners assist the body in this process.
3. Suppression of appetite
Appetite is the body’s signal to the body that it’s time to eat due to hunger or through food cravings. Fat burners that help to suppress the appetite decrease hunger pangs and subsequently lessen the urge to consume food. They achieve this through blocking the body’s ability to absorb macronutrients and making our stomachs feel full. They also affect the hunger hormones ‘ghrelin’ and ‘leptin’, by suppressing ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and increasing leptin (which makes us feel full).
Are All Fat Burning Supplements Safe?
Generally yes, although there have been a few over the years that have been banned through unsubstantiated claims that have not been fully researched or clinically proven. The real danger is that some of the fat burners are marketed as being effective solely based on animal or laboratory studies and not human trials and they are not validated in the same way as drugs are before they’re authorised on to the market. Basically this gives manufacturers the responsibility for determining if their products are safe and some of the claims on the packaging are not always truthful.
Some supplements are processed and contain lists of fairly unhealthy ingredients which don’t mix well with certain medications and can worsen symptoms of underlying conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have a medical condition, you should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist prior to taking any new supplement.
The main thing to look for when considering a fat burner is the use of natural ingredients, in particular the ‘key’ fat burning ingredients that will increase thermogenesis, lipolysis and appetite suppression as mentioned above. There are a number of natural fat burners on the market today that are free from processed ingredients, the most common including caffeine, green tea extract, L-Carnitine, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Let’s look at these in a little more detail.
What are the most common natural fat burning ingredients you should look for?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in things like coffee, tea and chocolate and is legal and unregulated across the world. Caffeine is a well-known fat burner and helps increase fat mobilisation by stimulating the nervous system to send signals to the body’s fat cells telling them to break down fat. It achieves this by increasing levels of the hormone epinephrine and increasing the body’s metabolic rate.
There have been a number of positive reviews into the effectiveness of caffeine in promoting weight, BMI and fat reduction over the years. The thing to remember with caffeine is that the body can develop a tolerance to it so its effects on boosting energy and burning fat can decrease over time. You should also be aware that, as it’s a stimulant, consuming too much caffeine can negatively impact sleep – which is key for general health and wellbeing and to your overall weight management goals.
A good example of a caffeine-based supplement on the market today that is safe and has been proven for its effectiveness is B4 made by BPI Sports. This is readily available in health stores and through online retailers such as Amazon which is worth a visit to read some of the consumer reviews alone. With this product, its worth trying to cut out other sources of caffeine before using it to prevent over-stimulation.
Green Tea extract
Green Tea extract is another well-known stimulant that contains caffeine but at around half the levels you’ll fine in coffee. It also contains catechin which is an antioxidant and helps to boost the metabolism. In fat burners, epigallocatechin (EGCG) works to increase levels of the hormone norepinephrine to help break down more fat.
Again there have been positive studies into the use of green tea extract to help with weight management and fat burning through thermogenesis and fat oxidisation while also helping to preserve muscle mass. As it’s slightly less stimulating than caffeine, it can be a better alternative for those who experience the jitters when consuming too many caffeine-based products.
Green Tea Extract is widely available as a key ingredient in many natural fat burners including Applied Nutrition Green Tea Fat Burner widely available in health stores and online through Amazon.
L-Carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in foods sourced from animals such as fish, eggs and meat, which means that those on vegan diets can have a hard time trying to consume enough of it. L-Carnitine helps to mobilise fatty acids into cells so they can be used by the body as energy. Research into the efficacy of L-Carnitine is mixed with some studies showing no added benefit to fat loss and others demonstrating a positive effect when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise. It’s also supported for its effect on overall health, brain function and for boosting the immune system
L-Carnitine is sold through many reputable retailers, including MyProtein – one of the world’s leading health and sports nutrition brands.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid that can be found in dairy products and beef. When manufactured as a supplement, it claims to help burn fat, increase muscle and elevate energy levels. Again, past studies have been positive showing that a daily dose of around 3.2 grams helps to burn around 0.11 Ilbs or 0.05 kg of body fat per week with no adverse side effects. It has also been found to help control Type 2 diabetes – the type often associated with obesity – when used in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise program.
CLA has also been found to be effective when used by those following a Ketogenic diet which is a nutrition plan high in good fat and low in carbohydrates which helps to force the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates (your body’s typical macronutrient energy source) for fuel.
Keto Actives is a well-known tried and tested natural formula containing CLA that has been shown to help burn fat whilst providing the body with a host of other benefits such as digestive health and energy levels. I’ve just written a review on this product and combined it with other user feedback. You can read it below.
Part Of The Solution But Not A Magic Pill
Whilst fat burning supplements are no magic pills to fat loss, they have been proven to speed up the metabolism, oxidise fat and suppress the appetite to help burn fat from the body when used sensibly and in conjunction with an exercise program and good nutrition.
If you’re considering using a fat burner, always do your research and opt for natural fat burners such as those I’ve listed above over anything that is unrecognisable which could mean it is unsafe. Always look at consumer reviews for a good measurement of it effectiveness and any potential side effects.
Have you used a fat burner before, or are you considering trying one? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share your experiences. Above all, if you have any questions or concerns I’ll be happy to help you out.