Losing weight is hard work. Hours at the gym and following a strict diet can be frustrating when all you end up doing is losing half a pound each week. It can sometimes seem like you’re getting very little reward for hours and hours on a treadmill. Creating the calorie deficit required to lose just a pound of fat a week means huge amounts of self-control. Wouldn’t it be great to burn more calories while you were resting? How awesome would it be to be able to take a pill which sped up your metabolism? Well, that is exactly what thermogenic supplements claim to do.
What are Thermogenic Supplements?
Thermogenic supplements are often referred to as “fat burners”, due to their supposed ability to, well, burn fat. These supplements are widely available online and in health stores. Thermogenics are believed to aid the production of heat in the body. Their purpose is to mimic the effects that cardio when not exercising, enabling you to burn calories while you are at rest watching TV or sitting in front of your computer.
That does not mean to say though, that thermogenic pills are a miracle weight loss cure, they’re not. They are designed as a supplement to help weight loss in conjunction with a regular exercise routine and healthy diet. Thermogenic supplements should not be considered a “miracle weight loss pill”, like many sites on the internet seem to proclaim.
Do Fat Burners Work?
The medical world is involved in a great deal of discussion on this exact question at the moment. However, the general consensus is “yes”. Alongside a healthy diet and exercise routine, it is thought that thermogenic supplements do have a beneficial effect on weight loss.
Multiple studies have found that thermo supplements increase energy expenditure. This study reported that resting metabolic rate (RMR) in patients who uses thermogenic pills showed significant elevations in RMR as compared to baseline. They also found no adverse side effects in relation to resting heart rate, only a slight increase in blood pressure.
The study above is just one of many, and they all seem to come to the same conclusion at the end:
Taken on a daily basis, thermogenic supplements may increase an individual’s overall energy expenditure and burn more calories, however, future studies are needed.
The Science of Thermogenic Weight Loss
Thermogenic weight loss is a little tricky to explain without being over-complicated. The scientific term used for the process is called “thermogenesis“. Basically, it is just a long word given to the way your body heats up. There are 3 different ways the human body achieves thermogenesis, depending on whether movement of muscles are involved:
- Exercise-associated thermogenesis
Self-explanatory. When a body moves, it heats up. Shivering is one way the body can warm up involuntarily. It recognizes a drop in temperature, so tries to heat up by rapidly moving muscles.
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis
This process is a little more difficult to explain. Brown fat contains thermogenin, which is a protein with electrochemical potential. This allows protons to be dissipated as heat when traveling within the human body naturally.
- Diet-induced thermogenesis
There is a common theory that celery contains so few calories, that more calories are burned by eating a stick of it than you get from it. It’s a common saying and has even been recited on medical websites.
The problem is, while an interesting anecdote, it’s just not true.
The fact is there are more calories burned digesting celery than we get from it, not by eating it alone. When we digest food, calories are burned, therefore we heat up as a result.
This is how thermogenic supplements work. They trick your metabolism into thinking you’re digesting food or exercising. Thermogenesis occurs as a result and calories are burned.
Thermogenic Pills Ingredients
Although thermogenic supplements come in all manner of different packaging and claim a wide range of benefits, they nearly all contain these same ingredients:
Caffeine. What would the nations of the western world do without it? How would America wake up in the morning? Apart from the “pick-me-up” it gives in the morning though, caffeine has a real effect on weight loss.
It is proven to increase metabolic rate, which as has been outlined already, which can increase fat burning in the body. Caffeine also helps to stimulate the nervous system and increases Epinephrine in the blood stream. Epinephrine is another name for adrenaline, which apart from giving us the “kick” we need in the morning. Adrenaline breaks down fats and releases fatty acids into the bloodstream, which can then be burned for fuel.
Guarana is made from seeds of the climbing plant of the same name grown in the Amazon region. It’s a common ingredient in energy drinks, and is a proven appetite suppressant. Guarana seeds contain high concentrations of caffeine, over twice the amount found in coffee seeds.
- Green Tea Extract (GTE)
Often accompanied with sushi as a drink, green tea also has some wonderful ft burning properties. Containing high concentrations of caffeine, green tea extract is also choc full of anti-oxidants.
GTE is extremely good for the body’s main organs, and is known to benefit the heart, lungs, brain and liver.
- Garcinia Cambogia
Ever since appearing on the Dr Oz Show, Garcinia Cambogia is a citrus fruit which grows in Southeast Asia. In the last few years it has been aggressively promoted as a weight loss supplement and appetite suppressant, despite the fact that the evidence of its effectiveness is mixed at best.
That is not to say that Garcinia Cambogia is not an effective fat burner though. The main component in Garcinia Cambogia to note is hydroxycitric Acid (HCA). HCA is proven to increase the human metabolism, as well as stamina and endurance.
Are Thermogenics Safe?
Yes. Although there are caveats to that statement.
As with any supplement, take only as directed. Start with the minimum dosage to begin with recommended and test your sensitivity to them. Thermogenic supplements can be potent, and excessive use can have negative effects.
The FDA is not required to test all fat burners before they go on sale. However, if you use common sense when taking any thermogenic supplement you should be fine.
Side Effects of Fat Burners
Side effects of fat burners can include:
Anxiety sufferers especially should be careful with thermogenic supplements. The common ingredients have been known to increase cortisol – the body’s stress hormone.
As with any supplement, it is always advisable to consult your GP before taking them.
What are the Best Thermogenics?
Since most thermogenic fat burners contain mostly the same ingredients, the high priced supplements should really be avoided. Thermogenic pills can retail well over $100 per bottle online, which is often a waste of money. You’re paying for essentially the same thing as a $50 bottle, just with better packaging and a more polished sales pitch.
Likewise, the cheaper products, for the most part should also be avoided. Often they have the right ingredients but only extremely low dosages in them – hardly enough to have any effect.
For a run down of the best fat burners currently on the market, check out our Best Fat Burners for Women article.