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Fat Burner Supplements 101: Do Fat Burners Work? Are They Safe?

Some may research fat burner supplements and never exactly know if they are safe, effective, or even practical to integrate in a healthy lifestyle.

There are various studies that contradict each other, making the research confusing.

Luckily, this guide will help you decide if fat burner supplements are worth your time, effort, and money.

Are Fat Burners Supplements?

Fat burners can be supplements, but they do not always have to be in the form of a supplement.

In essence, fat burners help the body eliminate fat by focusing the metabolism on fat burning.

Fat burners train the body to absorb less fat and therefore reduce the amount of fat being put on the body as well.

Fat burners can be found in pre-workout supplements, or they can be supplements taken by themselves.

Many fat burners are a combination of active and natural ingredients.

How Do Fat Burners Work?

How fat burners work depends greatly on the kind of fat burning supplement you use and how you are using them.

Some fat burners aim to reduce the amount of fat that the body absorbs, or it tries to block the absorption of fat.

Other fat burners are targeted at the metabolism and aim to increase the speed and power of the body’s metabolism.

This means that fat is metabolized faster, which leads to an increase in body fat burned by increasing the energy used by body.

Some fat burners use a combination of ingredients that are aimed to both improve the metabolic processes and reduce the amount of fat absorbed.

The various ingredients target different metabolic processes and fat cells in the body. However, these fat burners should be used alongside a healthy lifestyle and diet for effect.

Fat burners must be used in moderation. Increasing the intake of fat burners does not mean that you will burn more fat.

Increasing the dosage will not push your body further. Instead, a balanced diet and the recommended dosage of fat burners will more likely boost your ability to burn fat through two main processes.

Lipolysis

Fat burners promote the process lipolysis in the body. During this process, lipids are reduced and made chemically unbound. As they become unbound, the fatty acids move freely through the bloodstream.

The lipid triglyceride is reduced to its components of glycerol and fatty acids. The body can then burn off these lipids by using them to expend energy.

Thermogenesis

Fat burners also target thermogenesis, which when the body burns more calories to produce heat that warms the body.

Thermogenesis is one of the body’s heating processes. This burning of the calories allows the body to raise its temperature, especially from a cooled state.

Are Fat Burners Safe to Use?

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Fat burners are safe when the ingredients are proven safe and when the fat burner supplements are used safely, meaning the recommended dosage is taken or adjusted for each individual body.

Not all ingredients in some fat burners are safe or recommended by doctors or government agencies.

For instance, Ephedrine is one ingredient that is not approved by the government or recommended by doctors.

Ephedrine is known to cause heart palpitations, arterial spasms, arterial constriction, reduced blood flow, and dysfunction of the heart.

These negative side effects are only increased when ephedrine is taken alongside aspirin and/or caffeine.

Ephedrine is dangerous and can cause users to lose consciousness within seconds without signs of symptoms of distress.

One woman who took ephedrine in a fat burner was to the hospital after collapsing from an atrioventricular block after taking the supplement.

However, this is an example of a fat burner with a substance known to be unsafe. Many fat burners have natural and safe ingredients that are proven to be safe for consumption.

The journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology offers a long list of the common ingredients found in fat burners and their safety ratings.

The study also lists the safe levels of doses (daily) for each compound or extract.

The study shows that compounds and substances found in fat burners, such as caffeine, taurine, fucoxanthin, forskolin, ginseng, and irvingia gabonensis are safe profiles as determined by studies and tests.

Fat burners are safe to use as long as they contain ingredients known to be safe, and they are safe as long as the user is using them in good conscience.

What Ingredients are in Fat Burners?

The ingredients in fat burners vary between brands, formulas, and function.

A fat burner that aims to improve metabolic rates will contain ingredients different from a fat burner aimed to improve fat oxidation.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea is specifically included in some ingredients to boost the metabolism. Specifically, EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, is an antioxidant that found in both green and black tea, as well as a few other plants.

EGCG in green tea has been shown to lower lipid levels and effects.

Aside from lowering fat levels, it has been shown to prevent or improve conditions related to inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. It has also been used in various cancer treatments.

Scientists believe that green tea and the antioxidants with it can reduce the body’s carbohydrate absorption rate and improve insulin levels, which in turn improves the body’s ability to burn fat.

Synephrine / Bitter Orange

Bitter orange, which may also be referred to as citrus Aurantium, is aimed at promoting the body’s ability to burn fat directly by both enhancing metabolic processes and improving energy levels.

While this substance is often used to treat nausea and indigestion, it also helps control or suppress appetite, improve heartburn, and promote weight loss.

The citrus supplement is also known to improve energy levels and focus. This means your workouts can last longer, or you can sustain higher levels of intensity.

Improved focus and energy can help you lose the fat through improved exercise performance.

Those who take this supplement should be careful. This supplement is known to increase heart rates.

Always be certain to observe your heart rate and assure that your heart rate is within a normal range.

Caffeine

Caffeine is an ingredient commonly found in many at burners. Caffeine aims to improve energy output by focusing the mind and body.

It also boosts metabolic processes, so it helps you both spend more energy exercising while burning fat.

Caffeine consumers should be careful, as the body can become tolerant to caffeine. Therefore, it is ideal to track your intake and reduce caffeine intake as needed to reduce the possibility of caffeine tolerance.

Cissus Quadrangularis

This plant, also called the veldt grape or the devil’s backbone, has been used in medicine to treat different ailments and illnesses.

It is traditionally used for joint pain and bone health. Studies using this substance showed significant reduction in weight and BMI of users.

The study also showed a decrease in triglycerides and blood glucose levels.

Chromium

Chromium is a mineral that is specifically used in fat burners to target glucose levels in the blood and sugar regulation. Humans eat and use trivalent chromium: other forms of chromium are toxic to humans.

Chromium is used to treat depression, prediabetes, and both types of diabetes. It is also used to reduce cholesterol and manage binge eating.

Chromium directly affects glucose levels in the body and metabolic rates of fat. Chromium has been shown to have a great impact on weight loss and weight management.

It can be found in supplements, but it is also found in mussels, brazil nuts, and oysters.

Are there Different Types of Fat Burners?

There are several different types of fat burners, and each works with the body different and targets different processes of outcomes.

Carb Blockers

Carb blockers specifically work to hinder enzymes that primarily digest and break down carbohydrates in the body.

Therefore, rather than breaking down the carbohydrates and absorbing them into the body, the carb blocker convinces the body to allow the carbs to pass without absorbing the calories or nutrients.

Without having carbohydrates to burn for energy, the body then moves to fat reserves and burns fat cells for energy.

Stimulant-Free Fat Burners

Many fat burners have caffeine as a main ingredient. Caffeine boosts energy keeps the mind and body focused, and it can increase metabolic rates. However, not everyone is able to or wants to consume caffeine.

Stimulant-free fat burners are fat burners that target metabolic processes and the burning of fat without the use of caffeine or other caffeine-like stimulants.

These stimulant-free fat burners do not influence your levels of adrenal or induce increased adrenaline.

Instead, stimulant-free fat burners may contain ingredients like fucoxanthin. This is a carotenoid that is commonly found in seaweed.

Fucoxanthin has been shown to help prevent obesity, diabetes, tumors, and cerebrovascular diseases. It is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Appetite Control or Suppressants

Fat burners, rather than aiming to improve the metabolism, may be aimed to control or suppress appetite.

These stimulants interact with leptin and ghrelin, which control our feelings of hunger, to decrease appetite.

This fat burner is especially useful for those who have a tendency to overeat.

The fat burner allows you to feel full or satisfied with your food intake and not consume more than a healthy portion.

Some of the fat burners that control appetite may convince the body to burn fat stored within the body, causing the body to feel full.

Other suppressants may increase endorphins to improve mood and therefore make someone less likely to eat out of stress or other emotions.

Do Fat Burners Actually Work?

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Fat burners do work, as their ingredients are specifically targeted to improve the body’s ability to metabolize fat, reduce fat absorption, improve energy levels, and improve fat-burning workouts.

This is not to say that fat burners should be used by themselves or used as the only means to burn fat.

Fat burners should be considered a supplement—meaning they supplement your diet and exercise. They do not replace a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Fat burners can help suppress or manage appetite, but this does not mean that the food you eat should be fatty or unhealthy.

Fat burners help the body focus on exercise. They allow the body to work out for longer periods of time, or they allow the body to sustain a high-intensity workout.

This means your body can work harder to burn fat. The fat burner supplements the workout: it does not replace a workout routine.

Do Fat Burners Have Side Effects?

The side effects related to fat burners are directly related to both the negative side effects of overconsumption or overdosage of the ingredients as well as misuse by the consumer.

When used in recommended daily doses, caffeine is a safe substance. However, caffeine is high daily dosages can cause adverse side effects. This is especially true to individuals who are susceptible to caffeine.

Excessive consumption of caffeine daily can lead to nausea, vomiting, heard palpitations, tachycardia, seizures, and disorders relating to electrolytes.

Those who consume both fat burners with caffeine and caffeinated drinks like coffee or carbonated beverages are at a higher risk of experiencing these side effects.

Some fat burners use L-carnitine as a main ingredient. L-carnitine is known to help muscle function, ADHD, diabetes, and brain function.

It has a positive safety profile and is noted as almost entirely safe and having no major side effects. However, prolonged intake or overconsumption has been known to cause a fishy body odor.

Ma huang is the Chinese name for Ephedra/Ephedrine, the substance banned by the FDA in 2004.

Ephedrine is known to pose a serious threat to cardiovascular health. It causes hypertension, and arrhythmia. It has been associated with liver failure as well.

The ingredient known as irvingia gabonensis, also called the African mango, is safe but can cause a few minor side effects.

These include difficulty sleeping, sleep irregularities, indigestion, flatulence, headaches, or migraines.

The side effects when taking fat burners range from mild to serious.

These side effects are significantly dependent upon the composition of the fat burner supplement, the chemicals within it, how they are taken, what they are taken with, and how much is taken.

These are the milder side effects that can be experienced:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping / insomnia
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Light-headedness
  • Flatulence
  • Indigestion / upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchiness (due to an allergic reaction or response)
  • Change in mood or behavior (aggression, passivity, depression, etc.).
  • Mood swings
  • Cough
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Acne

These are the more serious side effects that can be experienced and should be taken seriously:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations/ arrythmia
  • Liver damage / problems
  • Kidney damage / problems
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • High blood pressure
  • Fainting / collapsing / passing out
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Arterial blockages
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Severe mental changes or problems
  • Panic attacks / increased anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Urinary tract issues / blood in urine

While these lists may seem long, you may take fat burners and experience none of these signs, symptoms, or side effects.

These lists are intended to give you a good idea of any of the possible side effects that could occur after fat burners are consumed.

Fat burners work differently in every body; therefore, users should track any noticeable changes in the body or any changes in mood or temperament.

How Can I Minimize Side Effects?

While some side effects may be unavoidable or uncontrollable, there are a few steps you can take to minimize side effects of fat burners.

These include taking the recommended daily dosage, adjusting the supplement to your body, staying hydrated, eating healthy, and maintaining sleep schedules.

It is crucial to take no more than the daily allotted dosage for supplements and certain ingredients.

For instance, the recommended daily dosage of caffeine is 3/mg/kg/day or less. This means you should look at the amount of caffeine in your fat burner and adjust accordingly.

The daily dosage is an average and does not mean that it is the average for your body. You can always adjust the dosage.

If you are experiencing negative side effects, lower the dosage until you are feeling comfortable. The recommended daily dosage does not require you to take the full dosage each day.

Taking the correct daily dosage also requires that you know the ingredients in the fat burner. This is crucial.

Know how the ingredients are supposed to work and if they are regarded as safe for consumption. Avoid ingredients that are known to be unsafe, like ephedrine.

Be sure to drink plenty of water. Fat burners, alongside increased exercise, can leave you dehydrated.

Dehydration can lead to headaches, migraines, heart palpitations, and feelings of faintness. Always drink plenty of water.

Another great way to decrease side effects is to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. If the fat burner has a stimulant, it could keep you up at night.

If this is the case, do not take the fat burner after 6 pm. You could also switch to stimulant-free fat burners.

Sleep helps regulate the body’s hormones and repair processes. It helps maintain energy levels during the day.

Moreover, lack of sleep is known to lead to overeating. Getting your recommended hours of sleep can help you feel both energetic and full during the day.

It is also essential that you maintain a healthy and balanced diet as you take your fat burner.

Undereating can lead to weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, and some of the more serious side effects. Your body needs enough nutrients and energy to make it through the day.

The same is especially true for those who are taking appetite suppressants. These users may feel full and satiated; therefore, they may not eat enough.

It is important for these fat burner users to track their eating to ensure that they are eating enough nutrients and calories in that day.

Calories and nutrients should be coming from a healthy diet. Fat burners are intended to supplement this diet, along with exercise.

Do I Need to Cycle My Fat Burner?

It is highly recommended to cycle your fat burner. Your body may become tolerant or desensitized to the key, active ingredients after some time. This is especially true if the main ingredient in your fat burner is caffeine.

Your body may also begin to slow down metabolic processes if you become tolerant to the ingredients. Therefore, it is a good to cycle your fat burners.

A general rule of thumb is to use your fat burner between two and four weeks. You may notice the effects of the fat burning starting to wear off.

You may not feel as energized or “feel” the effects. Once this begins to occur, it is time to cycle off the fat burner because it means you have hit a plateau.

You should take a two- to three-week break before you go back on your fat burner. This time off will allow your body a needed break an wean it off of the fat burner.

That way, when you return to the fat burner, the supplement will be useful again.

Are Fat Burners for Me?

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Fat burners are safe and effective when used correctly.

They supplement your fitness and health regime by stimulating the metabolic processes of the body. They can allow you to work harder to burn that targeted fat.

As seen by the side effects, it is important to know what is in the fat burning supplement and to notice how it interacts with your own body. Not all supplements will be right for you.

It may take you some time to find a good supplement, but do not become discouraged. With patience, you will find what works for you and what helps you reach your goals.

 

References:

Abdelmageed, R. E. M., & Xiao, H. B. (2017). Symptomatic first-degree atrioventricular block in a young woman after taking a fat burner supplement. International Journal of Health and Science, 11(5), p. 9-80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5678045/

Chu, C., Deng, J., Man, Y., Qu. Y. (2017). Green tea extracts Epigallocatechin-3-gallage for Different Treatments. BioMed Research International, 2017, p. 9.

Jakopin, Z. (2019). Risks associated with fat burners: A toxicological perspective. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 123, p. 205-224. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691518307907?via%3Dihub

Oben, J., Juate, D., et al. (2006). The use of a Cissus quadrangularis formulation in the management of weight loss and metabolic syndrome. Lipids Health Discovery, 5, p. 24.

Suntar, I., Khan, H., Patel, S., Celano, R., Rastrelli, L. (2018) An overview on Citrus Aurantium L: Its functions as food ingredient and therapeutic agent. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2018, p. 1-12.

Zhang, H., Tang, Y. et all. (2015). Fucoxanthin: A promising medicinal and nutritional ingredient. Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine, 2015.

 

Our Fitness Life Team

Our Fitness Life is an independent resource, dedicated to fitness lovers, gym goers, health conscious, and those who want a good, healthier lifestyle.