In 2014, the weight-loss market accounted for more than $59 billion in sales. The main focus of most weight-loss diets and exercise programs is to burn more fat a.k.a fat burners. There are supplements on the market that claim to help with that, but not all are created equal. If you want to know the truth about the ingredients companies claim will work, you have to look deep into clinical research, university studies and physician suggestions. We’ve done just that because far too many dieters are buying, and relying, on supplements that just don’t work.
What is a Fat Burner?
A fat burner is a dietary supplement that claims to boost weight-loss by increasing metabolism. Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories or energy. The more you burn, the more you lose as long as you keep calorie intake under control.
Supplements and fat burners are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which means you need to look closely at the formula, clinical evidence and safety issues. Side effects and drug interactions should also be considered.
Clinically Proven Fat Burners
What you want from your fat burner is simple – effectiveness. The majority of supplements on the market claiming to drastically improve weight-loss have no clinical backing, but there are a few bright lights out there.
ECA Stack – The ECA stack, which stands for ephedra, caffeine and aspirin, is clinically proven as a fat burner. The ephedra part of the formula is no longer legal for use by companies offering fat burners. The ingredients work synergistically with the ephedra elongating the time caffeine is present in the body and the aspirin thinning the blood to get everything moving faster.
Based on a study completed at Harvard University, the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity offers support for ECA, “ECA in these doses is thus well tolerated in otherwise healthy obese subjects, and supports modest, sustained weight-loss even without prescribed caloric restriction, and may be more effective in conjunction with restriction of energy intake.” You must take into consideration that ephedra can be addictive and with higher intake come a stronger risk of side effects, some of which can be deadly.
Caffeine – This popular stimulant is utilized by a huge percentage of the population as coffee and caffeinated sodas. When used in fat burners, there is clinical evidence it has a thermogenic effect. Thermogenesis refers to the production of heat in the body. More heat means you’re burning more calories. “Interestingly, in the final hour of measurements, fat oxidation was significantly higher after caffeine ingestion compared to placebo,” offers the journal Obesity Reviews.
Green Tea – That mild hot tea you drink every morning may offer you more than you thought. When combined with caffeine, green tea can spark thermogenesis. The journal Physiology and Behavior reports, “Taken together, these functional ingredients have the potential to produce significant effects on metabolic targets such as thermogenesis, and fat oxidation.”
EGCG – EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, is found in green tea. It can be isolated and used in fat burners to promote thermogenesis, according to studies. “Green tea has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by its caffeine content per se. The green tea extract may play a role in the control of body composition via sympathetic activation of thermogenesis, fat oxidation, or both,” as reported by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this study, green tea refers to a combination of caffeine and EGCG.
Chili Powder – This spice can be used for more than seasoning food. There is some connection between chili powder and increased energy expenditure, which leads to fat loss. “It was observed that consumption of capsaicinoids increases energy expenditure by approximately 50 kcal/day, and that this would produce clinically significant levels of weight-loss in 1–2 years,” says the journal Appetite. This may not seem like much, but remember you’re going for a formula with multiple clinically proven ingredients.
Ginger – Another ingredient in your kitchen also has some fat burning qualities. The journal Metabolism reports ginger can be a helpful part of your weight-loss program. “The results, enhanced thermogenesis and reduced feelings of hunger with ginger consumption, suggest a potential role of ginger in weight management.”
Whey Protein – You may think that protein shakes are just for bodybuilders and athletes, but that’s not the case. Clinical studies have proven that protein can improve thermogenesis or fat burning. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sums it up perfectly, “Dietary proteins stimulate thermogenesis and satiety more than does carbohydrate or fat.” The article goes on to say, “The thermic effect was greater after the whey…meal.” It is suggested that dieters drink the protein shake 90 minutes before a meal, but not in place of the meal because there are not enough nutrients to replace a meal.
Fat Burning Ingredients and Serious Side Effects
Just because a fat burner is proven to work, does not mean it is safe for everyone. Most of the clinically proven ingredients we’ve mentioned are generally considered safe for otherwise healthy dieters. It is always a good idea to speak with your physician if you have an underlying medical condition or you take prescription medications. Fat burners dieters need to take a closer look at include synephrine, ephedra and DNP.
Synephrine – Though synephrine is commonly used as a replacement for ephedra there are some side effects that you may need to worry about. “The growing use of synephrine has raised concerns since it has been accompanied by reports of adverse effects. Cardiac adverse events, including hypertension, tachyarrhythmia, variant angina, cardiac arrest, QT prolongation, ventricular fibrillation, myocardial infarction, and sudden death, have been the most common adverse effects associated with synephrine intake,” as written in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicity.
Ephedra – You have to look no further than the FDA to see why ephedra was pulled from the market. “The substance raises blood pressure and otherwise stresses the circulatory system. These effects are linked to significant adverse health outcomes, including heart attack and stroke,” as reported in a news release from the FDA in 2004.
DNP – DNP, or 2, 4, Dinitrophenol, is a chemical pesticide that just so happens to work as a strong fat burner. Thermogenesis, which is at the heart of a fat burner, means producing more heat. DNP takes this a little too far with some news reports claiming it literally “cooks” dieters from the inside. Some side effects to consider include, “fever, dehydration, vomiting, excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat.” The report from the NHS in the UK goes on to say, “The combination of these side effects can have an extremely damaging effect on the body and can result in coma and, as we have seen, death.”
Are There Other Safety Concerns With Fat Burners?
Two important factors that need to be addressed before starting any fat burner are prescription medications and medical conditions. WebMD offers a list of potential interactions ranging from moderate to severe.
Medical conditions are another potential issue. Take mental health into consideration. Ingredients in fat burners like St. John’s Wort and kava affect mood. This can interact with medications that also affect mood. You should consult with your physician if you have high blood pressure, liver conditions, kidney conditions and more. The safest bet is to contact your doctor before taking any supplement, not just a fat burner.
What’s the Final Word on Fat Burners?
Fat burners, when taken in moderation as a safe formula, can work to help improve weight-loss efforts. The results will not be unrealistic – you won’t lose 20 pounds in a week. But, with a healthy diet and exercise program, the right combination of ingredients can significantly improve results.