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Top 6 Fat-Burning Supplements
We continually search for that magic bullet in a bottle, the one that sheds fat without our having to lift a finger or follow a strict diet. But the reality is, when it comes to burning fat and getting ripped, there are no short cuts! We must consistently follow a calorie-reduced diet, along with an intense training program that cranks up thermogenesis and ultimately makes us sweat. Despite this, fat-burning supplements can still provide a great boost and make all those grinding hours spent in the gym that much more worthwhile! Trying to figure out which ingredients and supplements are best can be the tricky part. The good news is there’s a fat burner out there for everyone. No matter if you have a little or a lot to lose, the right fat burner can help you get there!
How Do Fat Burners Work?
Fat burners work by stimulating the release of stored fat so it can be used as fuel during your workouts or at rest. They increase metabolic rate and 24-hour energy expenditure in the body by increasing the production and availability of the powerful fat-burning hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. If you’re not a fan of stimulant-based fat burners, there are non-stimulant options that work to suppress appetite, reduce sugar cravings, and help stabilize blood glucose levels. Read on to find out all about the best supplements for fat burning!
Caffeine is often included as a key ingredient in many fat burners. Some people consider it a “filler” ingredient, but caffeine is far from just filling empty space! Its energizing, focus, and appetite-suppressing effects are a few reasons it’s often included in most fat burner formulas, but that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to its underlying mechanism of fat-burning action. Caffeine has a synergistic effect when combined with other fat-burning ingredients. It blocks the action of phosphodiesterase (PDE), which is an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Stopping the breakdown of cAMP results in a prolonged effect of cAMP-dependent pathways, which include regulation of glycogen, blood sugars, and fat metabolism. Further to that, prolonging cAMP’s actions increases the release and mobilization of fat from fat cells, allowing them to be burned off during exercise, or even while at rest. Increased cAMP activity also results in greater release and availability of norepinephrine, one of the key hormones involved in fat burning!
2. Green Tea Extract
Green tea has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating and preventing disease because of its high concentration of the super antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). When it comes to fat burning, EGCG has been shown in numerous clinical studies to help increase metabolism and thermogenesis. First, EGCG has been shown to inhibit the enzyme catechol-O-methyltranferase (COMT), which can degrade norepinephrine. By preventing norepinephrine breakdown, caffeine allows this fat-burning hormone to stay active for prolonged periods of time. This helps increase the rate of fat release to be used as fuel, allowing you to burn off more fat! As already mentioned, when combined with caffeine, green tea has a synergistic effect. The combination of caffeine and green tea has been shown to significantly increase resting metabolic rate, or 24-hour energy expenditure. In fact, one 12-week study showed that daily green tea supplementation significantly reduced total fat, waist circumference, and subcutaneous fat in human subjects. Another study showed that green tea standardized for 45 percent EGCG combined with caffeine had even greater fat-burning effects! You can purchase green tea extract on its own, but you can also find it combined with caffeine in fat burner formulas.
3. Capsaicin and Capsiate
Capsaicin is the major pungent compound found in hot chili peppers, and it’s been found to have multiple effects when it comes to fat burning. For starters, it can reduce appetite. Secondly, it can increase the release of norepinephrine, which increases fat mobilization and fat burning. It increases norepinephrine by stimulating brown adipose tissue (BAT), which are the fat cells that generate heat because of their high content of uncoupling proteins (UCPs). These proteins uncouple fat oxidation from the production of ATP or energy, allowing the body to generate heat without extra energy! The only major downside to capsaicin is that it’s very pungent (i.e., spicy), and this can cause some very unpleasant side effects such as stomach upset. Thankfully, there’s a non-pungent pepper, CH-19 Sweet, that can provide the same fat-burning effects as capsaicin but without any stomach-burning side effects. CH-19 Sweet is a non-pungent cultivar of red pepper, and it contains three known capsaicinoid-like substances that can boost fat burning: capsiate, dihydrocapsiate, and nordihydrocapsiate. CH-19 Sweet can enhance core body temperature, oxygen consumption, uncoupling proteins 1 and 2 (UCP1 and UCP2), and even gene transcription of UCP2 mRNA in fat tissue!
Synephrine is the primary active compound found in Citrus aurantium, which is also known as bitter orange. It first appeared on the supplement scene to replace to another popular fat-burning supplement, ephedrine. Synephrine works differently than most other fat-burning ingredients. It primarily stimulates the beta-3 adrenergic receptors and has minimal effect on the beta-1 and beta-2 receptors. This is why synephrine has the ability to stimulate fat loss without significantly increasing blood pressure and heart rate. The selected action of the beta-3 receptors is lipolysis (aka fat burning) whereas the selected action of the beta-1 and beta-2 receptors is primarily cardiac muscle contraction and smooth muscle relaxation, respectively. Since synephrine doesn’t overstimulate the heart, it makes for a great ingredient to stack with other stimulant-based fat burner supplements.
5. Green Coffee Bean Extract
Green coffee beans are unroasted coffee beans that contain high amounts of chlorogenic acids (CGAs). CGAs can modulate fat metabolism by helping fat cells release free fatty acids to be burned off. CGAs have also been shown to modulate glucose metabolism and decrease absorption and utilization of glucose from food. In a randomized, double-blind study, subjects receiving green coffee bean extract experienced significant reductions in body weight, body mass index, and body fat percentage without any significant changes to diet; however, the study was of poor design. A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of green coffee bean extract did reveal significant decreases in body fat when compared to a placebo. When choosing a green coffee bean supplement, make sure you use a product that delivers at least 45 percent CGA.
6. Raspberry Ketone
Although raspberry ketone has very little (if any) human research to support its effectiveness, it’s still one of my favorite fat-burning ingredients. The anecdotal results I’ve seen with physique competitors using raspberry ketone have been exceptional. Raspberry ketone is the main aromatic compound found in red raspberries. It’s a natural phenolic compound, and it can improve fat loss through multiple mechanisms of action. It can inhibit pancreatic lipase enzyme activity, and thus reduce the amount of dietary fat that’s absorbed by the body. It can also reduce fat accumulation in visceral and subcutaneous fat tissues caused by the overintake of sugars. Raspberry ketone increases oxygen consumption and can activate thermogenesis, which both result in an increase in caloric expenditure. Finally, raspberry ketone increases the breakdown of fat (triglycerides) by increasing the movement of HSL to the lipid droplets in fat cells. This most unique effect that it has on enhancing fat loss.
Honorable Mention Stimulant-Free Fat Burners
L-carnitine works to support fat loss by transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses found in cells. Inside the mitochondria, fatty acids are burned off through a process called beta-oxidation. Research shows that low carnitine levels in the body will reduce the rate of fat metabolism and halt fat loss.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is considered a “fat-burning” fat. Research shows that CLA increases energy expenditure, decreases triglyceride (stored fat) incorporation into fat cells and inhibits lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and fatty acid synthase (FAS), which are the enzymes responsible for fat synthesis.
DIM is primarily used as a hormone modulator, but it can also support fat burning. DIM can decrease the production of “bad” estrogens and ensure hormonal balance in the body. By balancing estrogen levels, both men and women can burn off those estrogenic fat stores, which are usually in those hard-to-lose spots such as the lower abdominal area and under the arms.
A phytochemical found in Garcinia cambogia called hydroxycitric acid (HCA) has a dual effect on supporting weight loss. HCA has the ability to reduce appetite by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Increasing serotonin levels can decrease food intake, enhance mood, and lower fat gain. Garcinia can also inhibit an enzyme called ATP-citrate-lyase. This enzyme helps convert excess carbs into fat in the body. When HCA inhibits ATP-citrate-lyase, fat buildup and storage is blocked in the body.