“Fat burning pills” are one of the most controversial supplements on the market, and for good reason: most are junk and some are downright dangerous, but not all are completely worthless…
If you’re looking for pills and powders to help you lose weight, I have good and bad news for you.
Let’s start with the bad:
No amount of weight loss pills and powders are going to make you lean.
If you’re trying to lose fat, pill popping, even to excess, is not going to be enough. There just aren’t any safe, natural “fat burning” compounds powerful enough to, all on their own, cause meaningful weight reduction.
Now the good news:
If you know how to drive fat loss with proper dieting and exercise, certain supplements can accelerate the process.
Based on my experience with my own body and having worked with thousands of people, I feel comfortable saying that a proper fat loss supplementation routine can increase fat loss by about 30 to 50% with little-to-no side effects.
That is, if you can lose 1 pound of fat per week through proper diet and exercise (and you can), you can lose 1.3 to 1.5 pounds of fat per week by adding the right supplements into the mix.
So, as you can see, even the best “stack” of fat loss supplements isn’t game changing, but I think it’s worthwhile for both the lean looking to get really lean and overweight looking to get lean.
It makes the process of fat loss faster and more enjoyable and has no downsides or negative tradeoffs.
Now, before I get your hopes up on “fat burner pills” TOO much, I have more bad news…
The problem is the majority of weight loss supplements on the market today are complete junk.
I know that may sound a bit cynical and sensationalistic, but I’m not exaggerating. As you’ll soon see, I’m probably understating the matter.
The unfortunate truth is you could choke down handfuls of bestselling, top rated, “clinically dosed” fat loss pills every day aaaaaand…chances are just about nothing special will happen.
The reason for this is simple: many of the “go-to” molecules found in these products, like garcinia cambogia, raspberry ketones, and green coffee extract, are cheap, which is great for profit margins…but not very effective (if effective at all), which is not so great for your waistline.
So, in this article I want to review the science behind both the good and the bad fat loss supplements and show you what is and isn’t worth your money, and why.
Let’s get started.
- Caffeine and Fat Loss
- Garcinia Cambogia and Fat Loss
- Green Coffee Extract and Fat Loss
- Green Tea Extract and Fat Loss
- 7-Keto DHEA and Fat Loss
- Yohimbine and Fat Loss
- Raspberry Ketones and Fat Loss
- Synephrine and Fat Loss
- The Bottom Line on Fat Burner Pills
Table of Contents
After all that doom and gloom I thought we’d start on a high note, which is how many people would describe caffeine.
What many people don’t know, however, is that caffeine does a lot more than give you an energy high.
Research shows that caffeine…
- Improves strength
- Improves muscle endurance and anaerobic performance
- And last but not least, accelerates fat loss
Caffeine accomplishes this last feat by increasing the amount of catecholamines in your blood, which are chemicals that mobilize fat stores to be burned. This, in turn, raises your body’s basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy it burns at rest.
The more energy your body burns every day, the more fat you can lose, and that’s why caffeine is an effective fat burner.
How to Use Caffeine to Lose Fat
The general dosage of caffeine seen in weight loss studies ranges between 2 and 6 mg per kg of body weight per day.
Personally, I take about 4 mg per kg of body weight per day when dieting for fat loss.
The only downside to caffeine as a weight loss aid is it loses its effectiveness over time as you become desensitized to it.
You can mitigate this by cycling your intake, however. Personally I go without caffeine 1 to 2 days per week when using it for fat loss purposes to maximize its weight loss effects.
Another way to make caffeine more effective is to co-ingest it with other natural substances that amplify its effects.
For example, research shows that a molecule called naringin found in grapefruit juice can help caffeine remain longer in your bloodstream.
This is one of the reasons why we included a clinically effective dosage of naringin in our caffeine-free fat burner PHOENIX.
Why include naringin in a caffeine-free fat loss product, you might be wondering?
Another interesting molecule that safely magnifies caffeine’s mood-enhancing and cognitive benefits is the amino acid theanine, which is found primarily in tea.
We’ve included a clinically effective dosage of theanine in our pre-workout supplement Pulse, and the effects are quite pronounced.
The caffeine “high” is smoother and crash-less and many people experience an almost euphoric rush of energy and buoyancy.
Thanks to trolls like Dr. Oz, people are sucking down garcinia cambogia pills like it’s the next ephedra.
What is garcinia cambogia, though, and does it actually help you lose fat?
Garcinia cambogia is a small, sour fruit also called tamarind and often used in cooking. It contains the chemical hydroxycitric acid, which has been shown to reduce weight gain during periods of overfeeding…in rats.
Animal research is valuable for exploring possibilities and uncovering potentially fruitful areas to explore further in human research, but a rat’s metabolism is quite different than a human’s. Our bodies respond very differently to various types of molecules.
Unfortunately, garcinia cambogia is one of those molecules. Good for helping rats shed pounds, not so good for humans.
Case in point: a recent meta-analysis of a dozen clinical trials of garcinia cambogia supplementation for weight loss concluded the following:
Only three studies demonstrated statistically significant (and small) reductions of fat mass compared to a placebo. These studies had small sample sizes (which increases the risk of spurious or false-positive results) and the best result was about 3 pounds more weight lost over a 12-week period.
Two studies, including the largest and most rigorous study analyzed, demonstrated no difference in weight loss with garcinia cambogia supplementation.
The results of the remaining studies were to be disregarded due to egregious flaws in design and execution.
Given the research currently available, it’s safe to say that garcinia cambogia just doesn’t live up to the hype. Save your money.
Like garcinia cambogia, green coffee extract is the talk of the weight loss town these days.
This supplement is made from green coffee beans, which contain high amounts of the chemical chlorogenic acid, which is supposed to aid in weight loss.
The problem, however, is twofold:
- There isn’t much research available on the substance.
- The research that is available isn’t reliable. According to a meta-analysis of the five green coffee extract human weight loss trials published, only three were worthy of review and all three had a high risk of bias due to funding sources (companies that sold green coffee extract pills, heh).
It’s possible that green coffee extract, if taken in high enough dosages, could help you lose weight faster, but the scientific jury is still out and the case isn’t looking good.
Skip green coffee extract for now and wait for more reliable research to either validate it or put the final nails in its coffin.
Green tea leaves are rich in chemicals known as “catechins,” which are responsible for many of the beverage’s health benefits.
Catechins accomplish this by blocking an enzyme that breaks down adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are chemicals that mobilize fat stores and increase basal metabolic rate.
The inhibition of this enzyme allows these fat-burning chemicals to remain in your blood for longer periods of time, which increases the amount of fat you lose.
Unlike green coffee extract, green tea extract isn’t hype. It can help you lose fat faster and is worth adding to your weight loss regimen.
How to Use Green Tea Extract to Lose Fat
A daily dosage of 400 to 600 milligrams of catechins is enough to reap its weight loss benefits.
7-oxodehydroepiandrosterone, or 7-keto DHEA (which is a brand, not a technical name, actually), is a byproduct of a chemical your body produces called dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA.
7-keto is sold as a weight loss aid and isn’t without evidence to back it up. Research shows that it can counteract the metabolic slowdown associated with calorie restriction and increase fat loss over time.
That said, there’s a problem: there’s only a small amount of human research available on 7-keto and the studies that demonstrate its weight loss effects are dubious due to funding sources (companies that sell the products for weight loss).
7-keto DHEA is promising but unproven.
If you don’t mind spending money on something that may or may not help you lose weight faster, you can add 7-keto to your weight loss regimen.
If you’d prefer to spend your money on sure bets, pass on it.
Yohimbine is a chemical extracted from a species of African plant, Yohimbe.
Studies show that yohimbine can accelerate fat loss, but how it does it is a little complicated.
You see, fat cells have two types of receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline (also known as catecholamines). These receptors are called “alpha-2” and “beta-2” receptors.
The physiology is quite complex, but what you need to know is when catecholamines bind to beta-2 receptors, fat cells mobilize for burning. When the chemicals bind to alpha-2 receptors, however, the cells don’t mobilize.
This is the physiological explanation for the “stubborn fat” phenomenon. The reason why it’s so hard to lose those last few pounds in your lower abs (most guys) or hips and thighs (most girls) is because the fat cells in these areas of your body are high in alpha-2 and low in beta-2 receptors.
Research shows that yohimbine blocks the activity of alpha-2 receptors, which block fat loss. Thus, yohimbine enables your body to reduce fat stores faster, and it’s particularly useful as you get leaner and are battling primarily with stubborn fat holdouts.
How to Use Yohimbine to Lose Fat
Research shows that that 0.2 mg/kg of body weight is adequate.
You should be aware, however, that yohimbine can raise blood pressure. Thus, if you’re hypertensive, I don’t recommend you use it.
Raspberry ketones aren’t the weight loss darlings they once were, but they’re still found in many fat burner supplements and thus are worth covering.
The molecule itself is aromatic (it has a distinctive smell) and found in fruit like red raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries.
How did such an esoteric substance find its way into fat loss products? Well, it started with a couple of mice studies that found that raspberry ketones have anti-obesity effects and can prevent weight gain.
Sounds cool, but there’s a problem: animal research can’t be directly extrapolated to humans. Just because a compound helps mice lose fat doesn’t mean it will help us.
Furthermore, one of the studies was in vitro, which isn’t nearly as reliable as in vivo. The other study was in vivo, but it involved giving the mice a staggering 20 grams of raspberry ketones per kilogram of bodyweight. To put that in perspective, that would be 1,800 grams for a 200 lb man (and your average scoop of protein is about 30 grams).
The single human weight loss trial of raspberry ketones often cited by supplement companies is confounded by the inclusion of several other ingredients including caffeine, synephrine, and capsaicin. There’s no way for us to know if the raspberry ketones actually did anything.
Considering the weight of the evidence, I recommend you skip raspberry ketones for now.
Like green coffee extract, further research may prove it useful for losing fat but we’ll have to wait and see.
Synephrine is a substance found in high amounts in the bitter orange plant, which has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat various types of health disorders.
Chemically speaking, synephrine is similar to but less potent than the powerful weight loss compound ephedrine.
Synephrine helps you lose fat faster in several ways:
- It increases lipolysis (the breakdown of fats for burning) and basal metabolic rate.
- Like yohimbine, it blocks the activity of alpha receptors in fat cells.
- In increases the thermic effect of food, which is the “energy cost” of processing the food you eat.
Synephrine’s weight loss benefits don’t stop there, either.
Research shows that pairing it with caffeine enhances both of the chemicals’ fat loss properties. Furthermore, synephrine is also a mild appetite suppressant because anything that increases the activity of adrenaline and noradrenaline can also reduce hunger.
The abundance of evidence is clear: synephrine is an effective fat loss aid. It’s a mild stimulant but is generally well tolerated and without side effects.
Synephrine is another one of the ingredients we chose for our fat burner PHOENIX.
We’ve taken in a step further though and paired the synephrine with clinically effective dosages of two other molecules found citrus fruits–naringin and hesperidin–that stimulate the production of a hormone that breaks down fat cells and that work synergistically with synephrine to increase its weight loss effects.
How to Use Synephrine to Lose Fat
Clinically effective dosages of synephrine range from 25 to 50 milligrams and can be taken anywhere from one to three times daily, depending on individual tolerance.
As you can see, fat burners are like most other supplements: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; and if you don’t also know what you’re doing with your diet and training, they’re not going to help you.
That said, if you spend your money wisely and choose molecules that are proven to speed up fat loss, you can lose pounds faster with the right supplements.
Here’s exactly what I do:
Before Weightlifting (Fasted)
2 pills of PHOENIX
1 scoop of PULSE
8 pills of FORGE
2 pills of PHOENIX
2 pills of PHOENIX
1 scoop of PULSE
8 pills of FORGE (if fasted)
I’ve dieted to lose fat both with and without supplementation and, looking at the data and results, the inclusion of the above supplements speeds up fat loss by about 20 to 25%, which is well worth it in my opinion (especially as you get leaner and have to deal more and more with “stubborn” fat).
What’s your take on fat burning pills? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
- Stohs SJ, Preuss HG, Keith SC, Keith PL, Miller H, Kaats GR. Effects of p-synephrine alone and in combination with selected bioflavo-noids on resting metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate and self-reported mood changes. Int J Med Sci. 2011;8(4):295-301. doi:10.7150/ijms.8.295
- Liu L, Shan S, Zhang K, Ning ZQ, Lu XP, Cheng YY. Naringenin and hesperetin, two flavonoids derived from Citrus aurantium up-regulate transcription of adiponectin. Phyther Res. 2008;22(10):1400-1403. doi:10.1002/ptr.2504
- Bent S, Padula A, Neuhaus J. Safety and efficacy of citrus aurantium for weight loss. Am J Cardiol. 2004;94(10):1359-1361. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2004.07.137
- Seifert JG, Nelson A, Devonish J, Burke ER, Stohs SJ. Effect of acute administration of an herbal preparation on blood pressure and heart rate in humans. Int J Med Sci. 2011;8(3):192-197. doi:10.7150/ijms.8.192
- Preuss HG, DiFerdinando D, Bagchi M, Bagchi D. Citrus aurantium as a thermogenic, weight-reduction replacement for eprhedra: An overview. J Med. 2002;33(1-4):247-264. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12939122. Accessed February 6, 2020.
- Brown CM, McGrath JC, Midgley JM, et al. Activities of octopamine and synephrine stereoisomers on α‐adrenoceptors. Br J Pharmacol. 1988;93(2):417-429. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1988.tb11449.x
- Haaz S, Fontaine KR, Cutter G, Limdi N, Perumean-Chaney S, Allison DB. Citrus aurantium and synephrine alkaloids in the treatment of overweight and obesity: An update. Obes Rev. 2006;7(1):79-88. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00195.x
- Arch JRS. beta(3)-Adrenoceptor agonists: potential, pitfalls and progress. Eur J Pharmacol. 2002;440(2-3):99-107. doi:10.1016/s0014-2999(02)01421-8
- Lopez HL, Ziegenfuss TN, Hofheins JE, et al. Eight weeks of supplementation with a multi-ingredient weight loss product enhances body composition, reduces hip and waist girth, and increases energy levels in overweight men and women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-22
- Morimoto C, Satoh Y, Hara M, Inoue S, Tsujita T, Okuda H. Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone. Life Sci. 2005;77(2):194-204. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2004.12.029
- Park KS. Raspberry ketone increases both lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Planta Med. 2010;76(15):1654-1658. doi:10.1055/s-0030-1249860
- Goldberg MR, Hollister AS, Robertson D. Influence of yohimbine on blood pressure, autonomic reflexes, and plasma catecholamines in humans. Hypertens (Dallas, Tex 1979). 5(5):772-778. doi:10.1161/01.hyp.5.5.772
- GALITZKY J, TAOUIS M, BERLAN M, RIVIÈRE D, GARRIGUES M, LAFONTAN M. α2‐Antagonist compounds and lipid mobilization: evidence for a lipid mobilizing effect of oral yohimbine in healthy male volunteers. Eur J Clin Invest. 1988;18(6):587-594. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2362.1988.tb01272.x
- Millan MJ, Newman-Tancredi A, Audinot V, et al. Agonist and antagonist actions of yohimbine as compared to fluparoxan at α2-adrenergic receptors (AR)s, serotonin (5-HT)(1A), 5-HT(1B), 5-HT(1D) and dopamine D2 and D3 receptors. Significance for the modulation of frontocortical monoaminergic transmission and depressive states. Synapse. 2000;35(2):79-95. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-2396(200002)35:2<79::AID-SYN1>3.0.CO;2-X
- Strosberg AD. Structure, function, and regulation of adrenergic receptors. Protein Sci. 1993;2(8):1198-1209. doi:10.1002/pro.5560020802
- Sullivan J, Aultman-Hall L, Troy A, Azaria Stephen DL. Integrated Land - Use , Transportation and Environmental Modeling : Validation Case Studies. 2010;(August). http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/38000/38700/38720/UVM-TRC-10-008.pdf. Accessed February 6, 2020.
- Ostojic SM. Yohimbine: The effects on body composition and exercise performance in soccer players. Res Sport Med. 2006;14(4):289-299. doi:10.1080/15438620600987106
- Kalman DS, Colker CM, Swain MA, Torina GC, Shi Q. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone in healthy overweight adults. Curr Ther Res - Clin Exp. 2000;61(7):435-442. doi:10.1016/S0011-393X(00)80026-0
- Hampl R, Šulcová J, Bílek R, Hill M. How short-term transdermal treatment of men with 7-oxo- dehydroepiandrosterone influences thyroid function. Physiol Res. 2006;55(1):49-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15857167. Accessed February 6, 2020.
- Phung OJ, Baker WL, Matthews LJ, Lanosa M, Thorne A, Coleman CI. Effect of green tea catechins with or without caffeine on anthropometric measures: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(1):73-81. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28157
- Lu H, Meng X, Yang CS. Enzymology of methylation of tea catechins and inhibition of catechol-O-methyltransferase by (-)-epigallocatechin gallate. In: Drug Metabolism and Disposition. Vol 31. ; 2003:572-579. doi:10.1124/dmd.31.5.572
- Zhu BT, Shim JY, Nagai M, Bai HW. Molecular modelling study of the mechanism of high-potency inhibition of human catechol-O-methyltransferase by (-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate. Xenobiotica. 2008;38(2):130-146. doi:10.1080/00498250701744641
- Hursel R, Viechtbauer W, Dulloo AG, et al. The effects of catechin rich teas and caffeine on energy expenditure and fat oxidation: A meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2011;12(7). doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00862.x
- Maki KC, Reeves MS, Farmer M, et al. Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-Induced Abdominal Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults. J Nutr. 2009;139(2):264-270. doi:10.3945/jn.108.098293
- Hursel R, Viechtbauer W, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: A meta-analysis. Int J Obes. 2009;33(9):956-961. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.135
- Yang CS, Lambert JD, Sang S. Antioxidative and anti-carcinogenic activities of tea polyphenols. Arch Toxicol. 2009;83(1):11-21. doi:10.1007/s00204-008-0372-0
- Onakpoya I, Terry R, Ernst E. The use of green coffee extract as a weight loss supplement: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/382852
- Onakpoya I, Hung SK, Perry R, Wider B, Ernst E. The use of garcinia extract (hydroxycitric acid) as a weight loss supplement: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. J Obes. 2011;2011. doi:10.1155/2011/509038
- Rao RN, Sakariah KK. Lipid-lowering and antiobesity effect of (-)hydroxycitric acid. Nutr Res. 1988;8(2):209-212. doi:10.1016/S0271-5317(88)80024-1
- Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Milne AL, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. The effects of l-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008;77(2):113-122. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.09.008
- Powell KR, Iuvone PM, Holtzman SG. The role of dopamine in the locomotor stimulant effects and tolerance to these effects of caffeine. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 69(1-2):59-70. doi:10.1016/s0091-3057(01)00497-x
- Acheson KJ, Zahorska-Markiewicz B, Pittet P, Anantharaman K, Jéquier E. Caffeine and coffee: Their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980;33(5):989-997. doi:10.1093/ajcn/33.5.989
- LeBlanc J, Jobin M, Cote J, Samson P, Labrie A. Enhanced metabolic response to caffeine in exercise-trained human subjects. J Appl Physiol. 1985;59(3):832-837. doi:10.1152/jappl.19220.127.116.112
- Astrup A, Toubro S, Cannon S, Hein P, Breum L, Madsen J. Caffeine: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990;51(5):759-767. doi:10.1093/ajcn/51.5.759
- Beck TW, Housh TJ, Schmidt RJ, et al. The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capabilities. J Strength Cond Res. 2006;20(3):506-510. doi:10.1519/18285.1
- Astorino TA, Rohmann RL, Firth K. Effect of caffeine ingestion on one-repetition maximum muscular strength. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;102(2):127-132. doi:10.1007/s00421-007-0557-x