Fat Burners must be among the most sought-after and controversial supplements. But, what everyone wonders before buying is them is…do they actually work?
Starting fron the name, they set an already high and even inaccurate expectation since there is no ingredient capable of ‘burning fat’ on its own so it is important to understand how fat burners actually perform so you can have a more realistic expectation.
I think if they were called “Pills that can help increase your metabolism, keep you full and give you energy”, I’d say those work 100%. But guess that is a terrible marketing name.
What I am trying to say is fat burners can help you lose fat when paired with other conditions. So it is up to you to decide if that counts as working.
Now let’s take a look at the mechanisms fat burners use, their ingredients, benefits and possible side effects.
Do Fat Burners Work? How?
It would be awesome if fat burners were magic pills that melt body fat away as you continue with your same eating habits and lifestyle…but they are not.
If that were the case, there’d be nobody struggling to lose weight plus they’d be way more expensive.
So, while fat burners are not a magic solution, they can have a positive effect on weight and fat loss. How? Here are the main mechanisms fat burners use to help you lose fat:
Increases your metabolism
One of the most popular ways in which fat burners work is by increasing your metabolism. This results in your body burning more calories than it usually does and having to use some of its fat stores for energy.
These type of fat burners are also known are thermogenic since your body generates heat when it burns calories.
As you can imagine, this is only possible if you are eating on a caloric deficit. Otherwise, if your body has plenty of calories to use for energy, it won’t be forced to use fat stores no matter how many calories you burn.
Thermogenic fat burners are available over the counter and can be made of one thermogenic ingredient or a blend of them. Here are some of the most popular:
boosts metabolism, helping you burn more calorie. is also increases adrenaline stimulating your fat cells to release fatty acids into your bloodstream, where they can be used by your cells for energy.
- Green Tea / EGCG
Green tea contains caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another thermogenic compound. EGCG slows down the breakdown of adrenaline so the impact in fat cells is amplified.
Research has found that caffeinated green tea supplements can increase metabolism by roughly 4% and boost fat burning by 16% for 24 hours after ingestion (1).
Capsaicin is the compound responsible for making chilli peppers spicy. It acts in a similar way as caffeine increasing metabolism but it also reduces appetite making it a powerful thermogenic substance.
Studies have linked a 6mg supplement of capsaicin daily to reductions in belly fat but there is also evidence this effect reduces over time so you should only use it temporarily.
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid which in the body is used for the creation of the neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline.
When these neurotransmitters go up, so does your heart rate and body temperature which results in a bigger caloric spend. It is a subtle difference so you won’t feel an obvious adrenaline rush, but it’s enough to make a difference in weight and fat loss.
L-Tyrosine also plays a role in helping to reduce appetite.
They reduce appetite
Another mechanism in fat burners is suppressing appetite and cravings.
While weight loss is something a lot of people struggle with, in paper, it is actually a very simple formula: eat less than your body needs and you will lose weight.
However, hunger and cravings along with other mental factors like stress and habits, make it hard for people to stick to a caloric-restricted diet.
In this sense, fat burners make that help suppress hunger and cravings can be a powerful tool to help with fat loss. This way, you’ll be able to maintain a consistent caloric deficit and your body will need to use fat stores for energy.
Some of the common appetite suppresant ingredients used in fat burners are:
- Garcinia Cambogia
This popular ingredient has shown in some human studies to suppresses appetite and make you feel full (2,3). The mechanism isn’t fully known but it is believed to increase serotonin which is a known appetite suppressant.
A review of 12 studies found that taking Garcinia Cambogia supplements over 2–12 weeks leads to a 2 pounds greater reduction in body weight compared to a placebo. More research is needed sine since other results have been mixed (4, 5)
Is a natural, water-soluble dietary fiber that is exceptionally viscous.
This unique property is believed to promote weight loss by taking up space in your stomach making you feel full and making you eat less. It also reduces the absorption of protein and fat.
Lipolysis is a fancy word for the breakdown of stored fat (in the form of triglycerides) into the bloodstream to be used for energy. This process is induced by hormones such as glucagon, epinephrine, norepinephrine, ghrelin, growth hormone, testosterone, and cortisol.
These are some of the ingredients that are used in fat burners which are believed to promote lipolysis.
Yohimbine is a stimulant compound that blocks the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors located in fat cells which, in theory, can help promote fat loss especially when taken pre exercises and in a faster state.
It also has a diuretic effect so some of the weight loss can be attributed to water weight making the results temporary.
There are some fat burners in the market that has this compound as its only ingredient but further studies on its fat loss effects are needed since the current ones are not conclusive.
Synephrine is a naturally occurring substance found in plants particularly abundant in the bitter orange fruit.
During the fat-burning process, some fat cells are resistant to mobilization. In this case, Synephrine can aid in mobilizing stubborn fat cells by blocking the activity of alpha-receptors which are responsible for hindering fat mobilization
In other words, synephrine can help prevent the alpha-receptors in your fat cells from putting the brakes on fat mobilization.
L-carnitine is an amino acid naturally produced by your body but it is also commonly sold as a fat-burning supplement since it helps transport transports fatty acids into your cells to be processed for energy.
Using L-carnitine as a weight loss supplement makes a lot of sense but studies are mixed. Several studies showed no difference in fat loss but one review of nine studies showed that obese individuals lost an average of 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg) more weight while taking L-carnitine (5).
More research is needed to confirm the benefits of L-carnitine in a younger, more active population.
Increased energy and better mood
An added feature of most fat burners is that they help increase your energy and overall mood. Since most fat burners have an effect in your metabolism, it is natural that they give you and energy boost.
In a similar way to drinking a cup (or two) of coffee, fat burners can give you the energy needed to complete your workouts and improve your performance.
Additionally, you are more likely to stay motivated with your exercise and diet regime if you are feeling energetic and in a good mood than if you are feeling tired and grumpy.
But this is only a secondary benefit of fat burners. If you are only looking for an energy boost you can get it from a pre-workout or some caffeine.
When do Fat Burners Work The Best?
Now that we have established what fat burners can and can not do, it is important to consider the other conditions necessary to let fat burners do its worK:
1. You are eating on a caloric deficit
I have probably said this already but I can not emphasize it enough. The first and most important condition required for weight and fat loss in that you eat less calories than you burn on a daily basis.
If you doing the opposite and eating more calories than your body needs, there is no fat burner that can prevent your body from storing those extra calories as fat.
You can use any online calorie calculator to see how many calories you burn on a daily basis and then reduce it on a 15%-25% depending on your goals and what you consider sustainable.
2. You are eating on a good macronutrient split
You have probably heard about proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Well, those are macronutrients and each one of them has a different function in your body.
While a caloric deficit is essential to lose weight, a good macronutrient split is important to help your body lose fat and hold on to muscle. Which at the same time is key to achieving that lean look and keeping a healthy metabolism long term.
If your goal is to lose fat, I’d advise you to take a look at your macronutrients and try to adjust your diet around them. You can find a good and easy calculator at Macros Inc.
If you want to learn all about macros for vegans and why they are so important make sure to check out this article later.
3. You follow an exercise routine
If you are thinking “what is the point of taking a fat burner if I still need to diet and exercise?”. The truth is, fat burners can only work if you do, think of them as the final 20% to your 80% weight loss habits.
Which is why this point is important. While exercise is not 100% necessary for weight loss it can definitely help you by increasing your caloric expenditure and allowing you to eat more while still being on a deficit.
Even more importantly, ressitance training such as weight lifting can help you maintain your muscle mass making your body burn those fat stores for energy.
Some people think the key to weight loss is to do long hours of boring cardio. But when it comes to fat loss, resistance training and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) are much more efficient at burning fat long term.
4. You switch and cycle your fat burners
Fat burners are not supposed to be taken long term or permanently instead they are meant to be used as a temporary aid in fat loss.
On one side, this is because they can cause some side effects if taken long term but also because your body will get used to them and they will stop having results.
A good way to prevent this is to cycle your fat burners so you are taking them for a while and then stop for a certain period before deciding to take them again. You can also have a rest period and then switch to a different fat burner to give it an even better chance to have a full effect.
How long the on/off phase will depend on each supplement so make sure to check the label for the manufacturer’s recommendation.
5. Avoid excess of stimulants
Most fat burners have some type of stimulant in order to boost your metabolism and burn more calories but stimulants can also have side effects like anxiety, insomnia and even blood pressure complications.
So, if you are taking a fat burner with some type of stimulant (99% of them) try to avoid caffeine and other stimulants in your diet.
Even more importantly, if you have any history of heart and blood pressure issues, avoid them at all costs.
6. Have realistic expectations
Sounds ironic but one of the keys to enjoying the effects of fat burners is to have a realistic idea of what they are capable of doing.
If you are aware of the benefits AND limitations of fat burners, you can make an informed decision and make the lifestyle changes required to make the most out of fat burners and not end up disappointed.
Do you still have doubts? Check out the following video on whether fat burners work or don’t:
What are some natural alternatives to fat burners?
If you have decided to stay away from fat burning pills, there are some natural foods you can incorporate into your diet to get a subtle thermogenic effect without the possible discomforts of fat burners.
- Ginger: Besides its many antiinflammatory and digestive benefits, ginger also has a thermogenic effect that can help increase your body’s internal temperature and give your metabolism a boost.
- Turmeric: in a similar way as ginger, turmeric can also increase your metabolism temporarily thanks to its thermogenic effect. Additionally, it can help suppress blood vessels that are required to create fat tissue so it is believed to help avoid this process
- Cinnamon: has been used for ages as a beauty and health secret and you can take advantage of its thermogenic properties by adding it to your oats or tea.
- Garlic: If you like your food with a strong garlic flavor, you are lucky. Garlic is also. a thermogenic food that can be an ally in your weight loss goals by simply adding it to your meals.
- Caffeine: you do not need to take fat burning pills to get the benefits of caffeine. If you are not sensitive to caffeine, you can get a similar thermogenic effect with 3 cups of coffee or green tea. But make sure you are not mixing it with other stimulants since it can have negative effects.
Who can benefit from fat burners?
Wondering if fat burners are from you? take a look at the following list to make sure you are on the right track to getting the benefits of fat burners.
1. People who are already on a diet and exercise regime
If you are starting or have been following a healthy diet and a workout routine and you want to get some added results, then you can definitely maximize the benefits of your lifestyle changes with fat burners.
Fat Burners work great in conjuction with these requirements since the energy they provide allows you to perform at your best at your workouts, not only helping you burn more calories in that moment, but giving you the long term results of an efficient workout program.
2. People who have never taken them
As I have mentioned, fat burners work their best at first since eventually your body gets used to them. If you have been taken fat burners for. awhile and wondering why you are not getting results then it can be that your body is used to them.
The best, in this case, is to stop taking them for at least 3 months and then reintroduce them, even better if it is a different one.
3. Obese individuals
Studies have shown the best results of fat burner supplementation in people with obesity.
A study on the effects of L-carnitine as a weight loss supplement showed that obese individuals lost an average of 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg) more weight while taking L-carnitine (5).
4. People who have hit a plateau
https://veganfitguide.com/vegan-female-bodybuilders/If you are a bodybuilder or figure competitor you probably have no issues sticking to your diet and workouts but even in that case, your results can plateau once your body gets used to a certain regime.
In thsi case, besides mixed things up, a fat loss can provide that extra metabolism and energy boost to keep you on tack and start seeing results again.
But if you compete on natural bodybuilding shows you want to get careful with the ingredients since some might get you disqualified.
Why is my fat burner not working?
If you have been taking a fat burner for 4-6 weeks and are not seeing any changes, it comes down to the one of the following causes in 99% of the cases:
1. You are eating more than you think
I am not saying you are sleep walking and eating behind you own awake-self back but you might think you are eating on a caloric deficit when you are not really.
A lot of people underestimate the amount of calories there is their food so if this is you case you might want to try tracking what you eat through an app like myfitnesspal or chronometer.
If you have never track your food it can be a bit tedious and overwhelming but it is the only way to rule out this possible reason and make sure you are eating 15%-25% below your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).
You don’t need to do this forever but once you get used to eyeballing portion sizes you can b=go back to eating more intuitively.
Another good way to keep you calories on track is to meal prep for the week so that you only have to count your calories once a week and be set for success.
2. Your body has gotten used to your fat burner
If you have been taking a fat burner for more than 6 months, then your body is probably used to it and it is causing zero fat loss effects.
In this case, give your fat burner a break for at least 3 months before start taking it again.
3. Your fat burner doesn’t work
While we have come to the conclusion that fat burners do work in certain conditions, it doesn’t mean all of them do.
SOme might have the right igredients but in a too low dose or some might act in ways that don’t work for you like being appetite suppressant if you never struggle with hunger.
Try looking for another fat burner that has a transparent label with the amount of each ingredient and the reviews.
4. You haven’t given it enoguh time
I know how frustrating. itcan be to want to lose fat and not seeing results quick but, as anything worth working for, sustainable fat loss takes some time.
Stay consistent with your workout and diet for at least 4 weeks before deciding to continue with your fat burner or maybe change it for a different one. (After you have ruled out all the previous reasons).
Fat Burners FAQ
How long does it take to see results from a fat burner?
For most fat burners, you want to wait a minimum of 4 weeks before assessing your results. Also, consider that weight fluctuates and is not really an accurate factor so make sure to take measurements and pictures you can later compare.
Can anyone take fat burners?
Since every person has a completely different health history, it is important to ask a pharmacist or healthcare professional before taking any fat burner. For a lot of them you have to be over the age of 18, not being pregnant or breastfeeding, and avoid them if you are taking certain medications that interact with them.
Do fat burners have side effects?
There used to be some fat burners that has serious side effects that could even cause death but those are already prohibited in most markets and today’s fat burners are generally safe.
However, they can still have some uncomfortable effects like stomach ache, bloating, nausea and headaches.
Since most. ofthem have high doses of caffeine, they can in some cases cause insomnia and anxiety so it is advisable to not take them close to your bed time.
You should also take lots of water since they can have a lot of fiber and otherwise you can get dehydrated and get a whole set of side effects from that.
What is the best time to take fat burners?
That will totally depend on the product you are taking and the instructions of the manufacturer.
Most fat burners are meant to be taken with food in order to avoid upsetting your stomach but there are also some that work best when taken in. afasted state and some have even been created to be taken at night which used to be avoided.
So it is best to check your fat burner label and follow what they recommend.
Can I mix fat burners with other supplements?
This will also depend on what supplements you are thinking about. Most fat burners won’t interfere with vitamins and minerals but it is best to consult with your pharmacist just to make sure you are not canceling the effects of any of them.
Supplements like protein powders and meal replacements shakes are also fine to take with fat burners but pre-workouts, on the contrary, should be avoided since both contain stimulants and too much of those can cause negative effects.
Do you have to exercise when taking fat burners?
It is not 100% necessary to exercise for fat burners to help you lose weight as long as you eat on a caloric defit.
However, you are much more likely to lose muscle and not fat if you do not exercise which can result in you losing weight but not looking toned or lean.
How can I burn fat quickly?
The “fastest” way to burn fast is to eat a high protein diet while maintaining a caloric, lifting weights and doing some HIIT sessions.
I say “fastest” because there is no shortcut to fat loss, if you try to lose fat faster than what is humanly possible, you can end up losing muscle and prejudicing your metabolism and goals in the long term.
How much fat can you lose in a week?
If you are just starting with your diet and exercise regime, you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week while eating on a consistent caloric deficit.
But an active person with an average or larger frame and fairly sizeable fat reserve can realistically expect to lose 2.5 to 3.0 pounds of fat per week.
Which fat burner should you take?
If you want to skip reading thousands of labels and reviews, these are the two best fat burners we found in our research and can confidently recommend.
For men Performance Lab vegan fat burner supplement has a superior formula that works to due to suppress appetite and give you an energy boost at the gym helping you make the most of your workouts while enhancing fat-burning metabolism.
For women, LeanBean, it’s been specially formulated with Glucomannan to curve cravings, which has been proven to work differently in men and women. It is also filled with nutritious fat-burning ingredients such as Chromium Picolinate, Konjac Fiber, and Vitamins B6 and B12.
For a more detailed review and other fat burner options, you can check out this article.
Bottom Line: Do Fat Burners Work?
The verdict is…yes, fat burners do work WHEN other conditions such as a healthy and active lifestyle are in place.
However, fat burners are not magic pills and can only give you an extra push in your fat loss journey. By keeping your expectations realistic and making this a long term goal, you can make the best of fat burners and maintain a healthy metabolism.
As with any other supplement, make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking them, especially if you are taking other medications or have a medical condition.
Looking for the top vegan fat burners out on the market?