Fat Burners and Thermogenics FAQ
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What Are Fat Burners?
If you’re currently dieting or otherwise trying to drop some body fat then adding a fat burner to your supplement regimen could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
A fat burner or thermogenic supplement is a product that typically comes in pill or capsule form and is designed to work via a variety of different metabolic pathways and processes to help your body either mobilize fat, burn more calories through thermogenesis, or ideally both.
The compounds found in your average fat burner supplement can vary somewhat, but you will usually find a selection of plant extracts such as green tea and green coffee, sometimes combined with amino acids such as L-carnitine.
What Types of Fat Burners are There?
There are several types of supplements which provide either a direct or indirect fat burning benefit, and these include:
- Thyroid Boosters;
- Fat Blockers;
- Carb Blockers; and
- Appetite Suppressants;
It is also worth mentioning that some compounds such as phosphatidylserine and even high-dose Vitamin C are capable of helping to regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is notorious for contributing to the accumulation of body fat in ‘stubborn’ or ‘problem’ areas such as the lower abs and love handles in men, and the hips and thighs in women. By more effectively controlling cortisol and stress in general you may be able to shed those pounds with greater ease.
How Do Fat Burners and Thermogenics Work and What are the Benefits?
As we saw above, there are a handful of different ways in which fat burning supplements can help us to lose weight.
Thyroid boosters such as Forskolin help to stimulate an otherwise sluggish thyroid, which can promote a higher metabolic rate and lead to more rapid fat loss. If your thyroid hormone levels are dwindling due to prolonged caloric restriction then this may help to ramp up your metabolism again.
Thermogenic compounds such as green tea extract, Yohimbe, and even caffeine, stimulate the central nervous system and cause the body to essentially generate more heat by burning more calories throughout the day; hence the name of the process, “thermogenesis.”
Fat blockers such as Chitosan and carb blockers such as White Kidney Bean can help to prevent your body from storing these nutrients in your fat cells. Chitosan in particular actually binds to the dietary fat in your intestine so that it can be excreted rather than being stored as body fat.
Another useful class of supplements that could potentially fall under the category of carb blockers are Glucose Disposal Agents or GDAs.
GDAs like Chromium Piccolinate help to sensitive your body’s cells to the effects of glucose and insulin, thereby enhancing your insulin sensitivity so that when you eat carbohydrates your body is better equipped to shuttle those nutrients to your muscles rather than storing them in your fat cells.
Appetite suppressants such as 5-HTP, Hoodia, Garcinia Cambogia, and Glucomannan can act as a significant psychological aid to help stave off your cravings and hunger pangs while in the throes of a dieting phase.
These compounds can work in a number of ways, including naturally boosting your body’s levels of serotonin and dopamine to stimulate the centers of your brain associated with reward and appetite.
Related: Top 10 Thermogenic Fat Burners
Assessing the Quality of Fat Burner vs. Other Sources of Ingredients
As soon as you take a quality fat burner with thermogenic compounds present you will start to notice an increase in your body temperature, a sharpening of mental clarity, and perhaps an overall sensation of having more energy and focus.
It is difficult to assess the objective quality of a fat burner compared to its standalone ingredients, but if you wanted to use, say, green tea through the day to keep your metabolism humming then there would be nothing wrong with drinking a few extra cups while you go about your daily business.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that concentrated thermogenic formulations are going to provide a far greater bang for your fat-burning buck.
Who Can Benefit from Using Fat Burning Supplements and How?
Anyone who is working hard to drop some body fat can benefit from using a fat burner supplement, but there are a couple of caveats to that statement.
If you are a male with a body fat percentage higher than 20 – 30% than you will likely see diminishing returns from a fat burner the higher your body fat levels are.
At high levels of body fat your cells simply aren’t sensitive enough to really reap the benefits from many of the thermogenic compounds, but you may benefit from using an appetite suppressant to assist you in eating a more calorically restrictive diet.
What’s more, if you decide to adopt a low carb eating plan then you might find 5-HTP to be useful in controlling your cravings and even improving your sleep quality.
Do Any Foods or Drinks Contain Fat Burning Qualities?
Although you aren’t likely to see a direct fat burning effect from food, you can help your metabolism along the way by drinking a few cups of green tea each day, and moderate consumption of coffee can also help to stimulate your metabolism.
(There are some precautions to be taken with any caffeine or stimulant-containing drinks and supplements, as we will see below)
It is also worth mentioning that items such as cinnamon and apple cider vinegar can provide some of the same benefits as other GDA supplements such as Chromium Piccolinate, so adding these to your diet may also help to sensitize your body to carbohydrates.
Spicy food has also been shown to increase your body heat level which in turn makes your body’s metabolism speed up and result in weight loss effects.
Are Fat Burners Effective?
Fat burners have their place, just like any supplement.
If your diet is in check and you are already using a decent range of fundamental supplements such as whey protein powder, fish oil, and a high-strength multivitamin then you are highly likely to benefit from adding a thermogenic product to this list.
If the core of your diet consists of pizza, ice cream, and hush puppies then you’re probably not going to get much in the way of fat loss results from this kind of supplement.
Make sure you are training hard, getting your cardio in, and eating a solid diet full of high-quality nutrient-dense foods with enough protein to support our training and you should be good to go.
Can I Burn Fat and Lose Weight Without a Fat Burner?
Of course you can, but boosting your body’s metabolic rate and thyroid output can produce dramatic results.
Furthermore, appetite suppressants have helped a great many people to retain a little more of their sanity while in the depths of a difficult dieting phase, so if you are currently cutting down for a bodybuilding contest (or just some weekends on the beach) then this could really help you to stay more consistent on your diet.
You don’t absolutely need to use a fat burner of any kind, but choosing the right one / s and using them in an intelligent and responsible manner will definitely pay dividends if your diet, training, and cardio are where they ought to be.
Related: Best Supplements for Losing Weight
Do Fat Burners Have any Side Effects?
The main issue that you should be aware of with fat burners is their stimulant content.
If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine or other stimulants such as ephedra and Yohimbe then you will definitely want to exercise caution when using thermogenic supplements.
It is also highly advisable that you avoid using ephedrine and Yohimbine supplements in combination as this can put a considerable strain on your cardiovascular system, especially when you are training larger body parts such as back and legs.
It is also worth noting that if you are suffering from a severe metabolic or thyroid condition or diabetes then you should speak to your doctor or physician as your first port of call before using any fat burner.
Are Fat Burners Dangerous?
Certainly not; however, rather than using a fat blocker you might want to consider improving the quality of the fats in your diet by choosing healthy fats from foods such as:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
- Coconut Oil;
- Nuts and Seeds;
- Grass-Fed Beef and Dairy;
- Oily Fish like Salmon; and
- Fish Oil capsules
As with any supplement you should always follow the manufacturer’s usage guidelines to ensure both optimal results and safety.
Note: We highly recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
How and When Should I Use Fat Burners and Thermogenics?
As with most supplements you should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, which are typically found on the bottle or packet that the supplement comes in.
Speaking anecdotally, Yohimbine seems to be more effective when taken in the absence of carbohydrates, and it is particularly useful for enhancing the fat burning benefits of your cardio sessions.
Caffeine and other stimulants also tend to be more effective when taken on an empty stomach, so be sure to space out your fat burner doses between meals when your body is going to be most receptive to them.
It is also advisable that you cycle on and off of fat burners so that your body does not begin to develop a tolerance to the ingredients; most manufacturers will include this in their usage guidelines but if not then simply take two weeks off every couple of months to reap the greatest benefit.
How Much Should I Use?
Again, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines. They generally recommend 1-2 servings per day, before and after your workouts.
Choosing the Right Fat Burner Supplement
The fat burner supplement you choose will ultimately depend on exactly what you are hoping to get out of it, so by now you should be able to distinguish between the various benefits that different products can offer.
If you are starting off with a considerably higher body fat level then you would be wise to stick with a simple appetite suppressant and rely on green tea and coffee to rev up your metabolism, but if you can fit a hard-and-fast thermogenic supplement into your budget then this certainly won’t hurt.
What’s more, if you are sensitive to stimulants then you will be pleased to know that there are plenty of stimulant-free and caffeine-free fat burners on the market, so be sure to refer to our Top 10 lists and supplement reviews for more information on this.
Please note: This FAQ has not been written or reviewed by a doctor or medical professional and is therefore not to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness. Nor should it be used as medical reference.