In this day and age everybody wants the quickest and easiest way to get in shape. Moderation, adherence and consistency to a healthy lifestyle is often overlooked as it isn’t seen as ‘sexy’ or won’t sell products and programs. Too often people are looking for a quick fix to a problem which has occurred over a long time period.

Fat loss pills are one of the most controversial supplements available on the market. Some are useless and can be dangerous, but are all as bad as they seem to be?

Let’s begin by reinforcing one fact; no number of magic pills or powders is going to turn you into a lean machine. If you look at some of the best physiques to date they have been built over a long period of time through consistency, hard work and accountability. Hours of grafting away at the gym and consistently maintaining a healthy diet. Even individuals who take performance enhancing drugs (steroids) still have to put in the hard work at the gym. The PEDs just speed up the process.

So, we know that fat loss pills on their own aren’t going to be enough to get you lean, BUT are there any legal products on the market that can SUPPLEMENT a healthy diet and exercise program and assist in speeding up the rate at which you burn body fat?

Let’s look into a few of the most popular weight loss pills currently available on the market and see whether they are worth investing in.

Green Tea Extract:
This may be the best known ‘fat burning’ supplement available on the market to date. Green tea leaves are rich in catechins and it is this molecule which is responsible for many of the health benefit claims green tea extract has. In a meta-analysis conducted in the International Journal of Obesity by Hursel et al (2009), it stated one of the main benefits of using green tea extract as a supplement is in weight loss and in particular reductions in abdominal fat.

The way this reduction in body fat is accomplished is down to the catechins blocking an enzyme that breaks down adrenaline and noradrenaline. These chemicals mobilise fat stores and increase your basal metabolic rate (amount of energy burned at rest). The inhibition of this enzyme keeps these fat burning chemicals in your blood for longer periods of time and can increase the amount of fat that you lose.
Now before you get excited and start buying all of the green tea at your local supermarket there is something to bear in mind. Research has shown that a daily dose of 400-600mgs of catechins is best to aid in weight loss (Phung et al, 2010, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). A cup of green tea contains around 50mg of catechins so unless you are going to drink a minimum of 8 cups of green tea a day then you are better off buying a green tea extract in pill form. Just make sure that it contains between 400-600mg of catechins to enhance your chances of the effectiveness of the product.

Everyone knows that caffeine is a ‘pick me up’ and a large component of providing an energy boost with your morning coffee or getting you ‘wired’ before a workout.

But did you know that it has also been proven to increase your strength, stamina, athletic ability and can ACCELERATE FAT LOSS.

Caffeine does this by increasing the amount of catecholamine’s in your blood and these are the molecules which mobilise fat stores to be burned. In turn this will raise your basal metabolic rate and increase the amount of energy that you burn at rest. The more energy you burn each day the greater your chances of reducing body fat are.

The general guideline in many weight loss studies utilising caffeine is between 2mg to 6mg per kg of bodyweight per day. So a 90kg male will take between 180mg and 540mg of caffeine each day. As a typical brewed cup of coffee contains between 65mg and 95mg of caffeine it is advised to take caffeine as a pill unless you love drinking Starbucks Americanos all day every day.

As with most things your body can become accustomed to caffeine and can actually become desensitised to it. Basically this means that you should cycle your caffeine use to ensure you are getting the most from using it. Try using caffeine as a fat burning tool for 2 weeks before taking a week off using it and then repeat the cycling. Also start at the lower dose and only increase as and when your results start to stall.

Synephrine has been used for a long time in traditional Chinese medicine and it is a substance found in the bitter orange plant. Synephrine is similar to caffeine in how it aids in weight loss by increasing lipolysis (which is the breakdown of fats to be used as fuel) and basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy burnt at rest). Preuss et al. (2002) conducted a study on the effects of weight reduction formulas on thermogenesis (the energy cost of heat production by the body). Preuss et al. (2002) found that when taken alongside food it can actually speed up the thermic effect, which means you burn more energy processing the foods you eat.

Research by Seifert et al. (2011) in the International Journal of Medicine Science also demonstrates the effectiveness of synephrine as a weight loss supplement. Seifert et al. (2011) showed that pairing synephrine with caffeine enhanced the chemicals fat burning properties and acted as a mild appetite suppressant. This is because of an increase in adrenaline and noradrenaline which can reduce feelings of hunger.

The research has demonstrated that taking daily dosages of 25mg to 50mg of synephrine to be most beneficial. As with most supplements, cycling your use of synephrine will stop your body becoming desensitised to it and give you the best chance to keep your fat burning constant.

Garcinia Cambogia:
What on earth is that I hear you cry. Garcinia Cambogia is actually a small sour fruit also known as tamarind and is often used in cooking. It is sold as an effective weight loss pill as it contains the chemical hydroxcitric acid, which has been shown to reduce weight gain in periods of overfeeding IN RATS (Nageswara and Sakariah, 1988, Nutrition Research)!

Now although animal studies are valuable for researching potential benefits in humans, a rat’s metabolism is very different to a human’s. Human bodies respond very differently to a variety of molecules and unfortunately this is the case with Garcinia Cambogia. It is a molecule which can help rats lose weight but it’s not so good for humans.

A meta-analysis by Onakpoya and Obes (2011) in the Journal of Obesity concluded that in the current research available on Garcinia Cambogia demonstrates its ineffectiveness as a weight loss tool in humans. Only 3 studies in the meta-analysis demonstrated any significant reductions in fat mass when comparing using Garcinia Cambogia to a placebo. The best result was 3 pounds more weight lost over a 12-week period. So to conclude all of this information for you; save your money!

Raspberry Ketones:
These were once considered to be the missing component of your supplement stack when it came to burning body fat. However, through research, they are turning out to be more of a money reducing supplement than a fat reducing supplement.

How can a molecule found in a fruit make its way into the supplement industry?

Park (2010) and Morimoto et al. (2005) found that raspberry ketones had anti-obesity effects that prevented weight gain in overfed mice.

Awesome news right?

Not so fast. As these studies were conducted on mice it is extremely difficult to extrapolate the results directly to humans. Just because raspberry ketones helped mice lose fat doesn’t mean it will work on humans. Another drawback from the results found in these studies was the number of raspberry ketones given to the mice during the study. The mice were fed 20 grams of raspberry ketones per kilogram of bodyweight. So for it to be effective in a 90kg male you would need to consume 1800 grams of raspberry ketones a day!

There has been one study conducted on humans by Lopez et al. (2013) in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, that is often cited by supplement companies. This is because the study demonstrated a reduction in weight of the participants who used a weight loss supplement when compared to a placebo group. However, the results of the study are confounded by the inclusion of several other ingredients used in the weight loss supplement such as capsaicin, caffeine and synephrine. Therefore, we don’t know for sure exactly which of these compounds had the biggest effect on the participants losing the most weight.

Considering all of the evidence currently available I can’t see a strong enough reason to use raspberry ketones as a way to increase your chances of losing body fat.

In Conclusion:
Effective fat loss supplements do three things: increase fat oxidation during exercise and when at rest, boost your body’s ability to metabolise fat (convert fat into a usable energy source) and increase thermogenesis (increase heat production of the body which in turn increases energy expenditure).

Like most other supplements available; if it sounds too good to be true then it often is. And if you are not being consistent with your diet and training then taking copious amounts of supplements is not going to help you anyway.

Choose to spend your cash wisely when looking to the supplement shelf as a lot of it really won’t help you lose weight any faster. The fat loss pills that seem to have some scientific backing (all be it very small) are caffeine, green tea extract and synephrine. As these compounds are stimulant based they can elicit negative side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, upset stomach, muscle tremors and can stunt the absorption of iron from food which will reduce energy production. Therefore, it is best to be mindful of the dosage required of these compounds to actually be an effective fat burning tool and the negative side effects associated with the required dose.

Is it worth the risk?

Probably not.

The majority of individuals who will actually benefit from using these fat loss pills are those wanting to get down to single digit body fat percentages in a short period of time – like bodybuilders getting ready for a show.

For the general public, you are much wiser to spend your hard earned cash on healthy food, a gym membership, a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Once you take the time to understand the fundamentals of losing body fat you will realise that you won’t need to take any supplement that promises the world and delivers nothing but an empty wallet.

Written by: Adam Wakefield

I have been working as a personal trainer for over 9 years. I began my career in the fitness industry after completing a degree in Sport Science where I graduated with Upper Class Honours. I have always had a thirst for all things related to health, fitness and nutrition and it wasn’t before long that I owned my own gym.

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