Now that we got muscle building supplements and pre-workouts out of the way, it is only fair to discuss fat burners. It may not be summer time yet, or even spring, but educating yourself on these supplements can help you have an action plan as well as save you money and the hassle of going through trial and error with every fat burner on the market.
So, what are fat burners?
Although the name is a bit misleading, fat burners’ function is to help you lose weight at a faster rate than normal. Firstly, you won’t lose weight/fat unless your diet is dialed in and you are eating at a caloric deficit. You also won’t maximize fat loss unless you are training hard and increasing your strength or at least maintaining it.
Fat burners are just the cherry on the top. Anyway, fat burners work through different mechanisms, however, the common pathways are either to accelerate your metabolism and thus make you burn more calories at rest, or make your body more efficient at utilizing fat for energy. These two are the most common pathways, but more pathways do exist. As a rule of thumb, we can put fat burning supplements in two categories: stimulant based and non-stimulant based.
What’s the difference? And which one is better?
Stimulant based fat burners
This type of thermogenic products contain stimulants such as caffeine, DMAA, synephrine, yohimbine…etc. Stimulant based fat burners, in my opinion, are more effective than their non-stimulant based counterparts. Generally, stimulants stimulate your central nervous system which puts you in a state of “fight or flight”. This makes you sharper, quicker, lighter, more focused, more energetic and stronger.
Anyone who used a pre-workout or simply drank coffee/tea knows what I am talking about. These positive effects occur due to physiological and hormonal changes that elicit in response to stimulating your nervous system.
For instance, when you consume a stimulant, your body secretes epinephrine, or simply adrenaline. We all know what an adrenaline rush is. Adrenaline makes you faster, stronger, pain tolerant -at least for the time being- and sharper. Your body also secretes norepinephrine, which is related to its brother, epinephrine yet it’s also a neurotransmitter. However, those hormonal secretions and changes can also help you burn fat faster. For example, adrenaline and noradrenaline both play a crucial role in lipolysis; the process of breaking down fat tissue.
Stimulants also cause an increase in your heart rate -like you haven’t noticed this already-. Stimulants can also accelerate your metabolism so that you are burning more calories even at rest. Simply, you will be burning some more calories without doing any extra work. Another reason I like stimulant based fat burners is that they can strongly suppress your appetite. This is especially beneficial when you are already lean but trying to get leaner.
When you are already in a lean state, your body fights back and tries to hold on to the last bit of fat it has (stored energy), thus you experience a myriad of symptoms, one of them being hungrier than usual. Your body tries to force you to eat by making you hungrier, thus using a stimulant based fat burner will help you curb your appetite and give you a good amount of energy to function like a normal human being.
One downside of stimulants is that people tend to abuse them easily. Stimulants are fantastic when used properly, but it’s very common for a person to get caught on using stimulants every single day as soon as they start using them. This causes a vicious loop because after a few days, the body adapts and the effects start to wear out. In response, the person in question increases his dosage of stimulant X to get the same benefits he used to get with a lower dosage. And the cycle continues. Eventually, this creates a dependency, much like addiction and to restore normal function and balance, one must go through withdrawal symptoms. You simply have to refrain from using any stimulants for 10-14 days straight. Also, stimulant abuse can cause a problem with cortisol secretion. When we are in “fight or flight” mode, our adrenal glands secrete cortisol: “the stress hormone”.
So, after a while of over-stimulating ourselves and thus our adrenal glands, we may cause a chronic increase in cortisol levels or at least an imbalance accompanied by adrenal fatigue. Fortunately, both “conditions” can be fixed normally, but you don’t want to use stimulants up to this point. Life won’t be fun!
How to use stimulant based fat burners?
In my opinion, if you are over 12-14% body fat, I don’t think you should use any type of stimulant based fat burner, simply because you DON’T need it! You still have plenty of room for progress and using stimulants will not be as beneficial as using them when you are trying to get to sub-10% body fat.
Not that they won’t work, but they’re just better utilized that way. If you still insist on taking stim-based fat burners, at least use them right and don’t abuse them. Simply, take one product at a time and cycle on and off to prevent receptors down regulation and building a tolerance. And please don’t take crazy amounts of stimulants, it’s not worth it. Sometimes, less is more!
P.S. If you have or prone to anxiety, DO NOT TAKE any supplement that contains Yohimbe/Yohimbine. Yohimbine is a nasty stimulant that has psychoactive side effects. In fact, Yohimbine will invoke your anxiety if you are prone to it, make you nauseous and make you wonder why you are even alive. However, if you are not prone to anxiety, Yohimbine is a powerful stimulant that can help you burn more fat faster.
Non-stimulant based fat burners
On the other side of the spectrum, we have non-stim. based fat burners. These products often work by making your body better at utilizing fat for energy or increasing your metabolism. I have come across products that use different pathways, but those 2 are the most common ones.
When it comes to this category of fat burners, I often have two thoughts: most of them don’t work and those that work are golden nuggets!
The reason why I think effective non-stimulant based fat burners are golden nuggets is because they carry no risk of abuse -like stimulants- and do not have the same side effects as stim-based fat incinerators. No jitters, no increase in heart rate, no increase blood pressure…etc. they are just clean and effective. One downside of n.s.b.f.b. is that they do no suppress the appetite like stimulants do.
Appetite suppressing is a natural side effect of stimulants in general and not just fat burners by the way.
One interesting ingredient to consider is beta-aminoisobutryc acid. I have personally used it in the past as part of a product I experimented with and it seemed to work. No side effects whatsoever, which was great.
Some other ingredients you may want to research are:
L-Carnitine – supposedly helps mobilize fat more efficiently. I have used it in the past and I believe it did something, although the research is inconclusive. There are many forms of l-carnitine out there, essentially, they all do the same job. The three most popular forms are: Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR), L-carnitine L-tartrate (LCLT) and L-carnitine.
Tetradecylthioacetic acid (TTA) – a highly debated ingredient, but it’s definitely effective. At least in my experience and many of my friends. If you decide to use a product that contains this ingredient, beware, you will retain some water while using it, but the water will be flushed out as soon as you discontinue usage. Also, you will most likely experience cramps because TTA causes an imbalance of electrolytes in the body.
Combine for better results
There is absolutely no reason to not combine a stimulant based fat burner with a non-stimulant based fat burner. In fact, the synergy between the two will work better and thus give you better results. Do not get caught up on investing in too many supplements, though. But, a nice stack of two products (3 maximum) from each category will yield some pleasant results.
Now that we covered fat burners, types, how they work, effective ingredients and when you should use them, we will proceed to discuss all other types of supplements. The next article will address supplements such as testosterone boosters, hormone regulators, nitric oxide supplements and many more. Do they work? Are they worth investing in?
Miscellaneous supplements: test boosters, nitric oxide and more