There are thousands of celebrities, models, and trainers claiming a “fat burner” is the reason for their success.
Well guess what?
They lied! It’s not a fat burner that transformed their body.
They got their body mostly by eating super healthy, kicking butt in the gym, getting enough sleep, making time to meal prep, and putting in the work.
I don’t care how many testimonials you read, if someone claims a fat burner is the main reason for their success, then they are just trying to sell you a product.
So let’s start by setting the record straight when it come to what fat burners can and can’t do before we move onto the science.
A fat burner is NOT A MAGIC PILL that will suddenly make you look lean enough to be a fitness model.
Even the best fat burners on the market can’t replace the fundamental basics of a clean diet and challenging training.
Just like pre-workout supplements, it’s difficult to make conclusions about the safety and effectiveness of fat burners because they are made up of a cocktail of different ingredients.
In fact, cocktail drinks are a great analogy to help better explain these products.
This drink would be made from only one ingredient and you’d know exactly what you were getting.
Fat burners on the other hand, would the equivalent of a specialty cocktail called, “The Flamingo Volcano”, that contains vodka, syrup, apricot, and a mystery brew of liqueurs creating an orange flavor.
It’s this mystery formula of ingredients, in which you don’t know exactly what you’re getting and in what amounts, that makes it difficult to provide clear scientific recommendations.
In most cases, I can find studies that support the use of an individual ingredient, but there isn’t much data on specific combinations of specific doses of ingredients.
So today, I’m going to tell you about specific ingredients that have been shown to help with fat loss, then I’ll cover safety, and finally about my personal experience with fat burners.
For the record, fat burners are also commonly referred to as thermogenics, so when you hear this term, we’re talking about the same thing.
The prefix “thermo” means heat and signifies that these supplements commonly work to “heat up” or speed up your metabolism.
By increasing your metabolic rate, the goal of these products is to help you burn more calories, especially in the form of fat tissue.
While all fat burners contain a different blend of ingredients, there are some to look for with actual data to support their use.
Similar to pre-workout supplements, caffeine is usually the main ingredient found in most weight loss supplements.
This is due to the fat that caffeine actually has scientific data to support is ability to increase the breakdown of fat tissue, also known as lipolysis.
Drinking caffeine has a thermogenic effect, which means it increases heat production.
This, in turn, raises your body’s basal metabolic rate and increases the amount of energy burned at rest.
The more energy your body burns every day, the more fat you can lose, and that’s why caffeine is an effective fat burner.
The only downside to caffeine as a weight loss aid is that it only works if you aren’t used to its effects.
As a result, most fat burners are only used for 3-5 days per week with at least 2 caffeine-free days to prevent tolerance.
Now, onto the next ingredient, that like caffeine is actually supported by research.
The next ingredient is green tea extract or EGCG, and it’s important to note that this is not the same things as coffee bean extract, which I’ll cover in a minute.
There are human studies that shows the green tea extract, EGCG, helps burn more fat and decrease overall fat mass.
While it’s not a ton of extra benefit, there is at least evidence to show that it works.
Again, the catch is that it only helps those who don’t regularly consume caffeine. If you regularly drink coffee or tea, the fat burning effects of green tea extract will be minimal.
As a pharmacist, I get a lot of questions about the next ingredient, garcinia cambogia, all thanks to Dr. Oz’s description as a “breakthrough” or “magical” fat burner.
Well guess what? It isn’t!
If you were to come up to the pharmacy counter and ask me about this ingredient, then I’d tell you to save your money.
This ingredient is a good example of something that has been shown to reduce weight in rats, but not humans.
A recent review of over 12 clinical trials and 700 participants concluded that garcinia cambogia has an irrelevant effect on bodyweight.
Given the research that’s currently available, it’s safe to say that garcinia cambogia just doesn’t live up to the hype.
This same lack of effect in humans is also seen with the “fat burning” ingredient, known as raspberry ketones.
Raspberry ketones were found effective in rat studies at a very high dosage, but that’s it.
There are no legitimate studies in humans, which is why you should always be careful of the term “backed by research” because it might not be the type of research that really matters.
Moving on to the next ingredient, we have Green Coffee Bean Extract.
This supplement is made from green coffee beans, which contain high amounts of a chemical that’s supposed to help with weight loss.
It was found to have a slight effect in obese people, but many of these studies were small and poorly conducted, so the benefit is still unclear.
Honestly, this list could go on forever, so if you have any additional questions, then please feel free to reach out to our BiteSized Body Lab Team for help.
Now that we’ve talked about the effectiveness of fat burners, aka how well they work, let’s move on to safety.
Even if something works really well, it’s still not worth using if it puts you at unnecessary harm due to side effects or interactions.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say if fat burners are or aren’t safe for women.
The fact is some fat burners are downright unhealthy, and have caused serious side effects in people.
If you looked up the product, Hydroxicut, you’d find several cases of liver failure and a number of lawsuits against the company. This product has since been reformulated, but it’s a good reminder that even products without a prescription can have a serious impact on the body.
Side effects of fat burners will vary based on the ingredients and quantities of ingredients listed per serving.
For example, if you fat burner contains caffeine, then it may make you feel jittery or like your heart is beating really fast.
Whenever someone asks me if a fat burner is right for them, there are a lot of things I take into consideration.
For starters, I’d only recommend these products to healthy adults, between the ages of about 20-50 years old, who are already getting the basics right.
If you’re someone with a fast metabolism who struggles to gain muscle, then you probably won’t need thermogenics to reach a low body fat percentage.
But, if you’re someone who easily gains muscle mass along with fat, then your slow metabolism may benefit from a fat burner supplement.
Of course, I don’t believe fat burners are a magic solution and I don’t think they are absolutely needed to see results.
I’ve gotten results while taking a fat burner and I’ve gotten results without one.
Personally, I’ve only used one fat burner, 1st Phorm’s Bliss, because I wanted to be able to tell you about my experience first hand.
I have an endomorphic body type, so I gain fat quickly. When you look at both my body type, in addition to the fact that I don’t regularly drink caffeine, you can see why I’m a good candidate for benefiting from Bliss Thermogenic.
It’s not something I use all the time, but rather something that helps me really double down when I’m ready to kick things up a notch or break past a current physical plateau.
The key thing to remember is that no supplement is going to do the work for you.
If you plan on popping a pill without doing the work, then save your money.
But if you plan on using it as recommended for a short-term goal, then it may make the overall process of losing fat easier and have a positive impact on your overall weight loss experience.
When you first start using a fat burner, take the minimum recommended dose to gauge your body’s response.
If a product calls for 1-2 capsules, then you should start by taking 1 capsule in the morning along with a full glass of water.
Also, if you have a sensitive stomach or experience stomach upset, try using fat burners in combination with food instead of on an empty stomach.
Remember, fat burners aren’t meant to be taken every day and their use should be cycled to prevent your body from getting used to the effects of the product.
In addition to conventional fat burners, another supplement, known as BCAAs, have also been show to aid with fat loss.
Here’s a summary of some of the research on BCAAs for fat loss…
- Wrestlers who were placed on a calorie restricted diet lost more fat when taking BCAA supplements than those who didn’t have BCAAs included in their diet. In this study, the BCAA group lost the greatest amount of weight (9 pounds), body fat (17% loss), and fat tissue around the stomach (34% loss).
- An animal study found that by adding leucine to a high fat diet, you could significantly decrease the amount of fat gained. This is thought to be due to leucine’s ability to impact pathways that eventually effect protein synthesis.
- Dietary BCAA intake was compared amongst approximately 5,000 people and at the end of the study, participants with higher dietary BCAA intake were less likely to be obese.
- When BCAAs were given to participants involved in a strength training routine, they maintained lean muscle mass while burning fat mass at the same time.
- And finally, one study showed that a dose of 12g BCAA in combination with oleic acid and DHA resulted in about a 4lb weight loss within a period of only 2 weeks in women over the age of 38.
As you can see the effect of BCAAs on fat loss is well documented.
Based on personal experience and the above studies above, I’d consider using 5-10 grams of BCAAs (about 1 scoop) per day to aid in weight loss.
If you’ve already tried a conventional fat burner, but didn’t see results, then this is another option to help maximize results.
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