Walk into any supplement shop and you will see rows of pills claiming to help melt fat away. The alluring adverts make it look so easy. But how effective are fat burners? And are they safe?
Fat burners are pills containing a blend of herbs which are meant to speed up the rate you burn calories. They do this in three ways: increasing your metabolic rate; suppressing your appetite; and lastly, producing heat in your body to increase your energy– called thermogenesis.
The most common ingredients in fat-burning pills are caffeine, green tea and the South American herb yerba mate. Some foods are also considered ‘natural’ fat burners, including blackcurrants, almonds, grapefruit and even (dark) chocolate!
Due to the high caffeine content, fat-burning pills are not suitable for anyone suffering from anxiety-related conditions. They also raise cortisol – a stress hormone – which can make you feel more jittery, so taking them in the morning can help.
Taking too much green tea can also inhibit the absorption of iron, so avoid if you are anaemic. Of course, check with your GP before taking fat burners if you’re taking any other medications.
Because the pills are packed with stimulants they will get you pumped and raring to go. So if you want the extra energy and have the extra cash – go for it.
The most effective fat burner appears to be caffeine. Many studies show that it can boost your body’s ability to convert fat into energy. However, to be effective a fat-burning pill should contain 8mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight. You would have to drink around 10 cups of coffee to get the same hit!
Studies have also shown green tea ticks the fat-burning box by giving your metabolism a hefty jolt. Antioxidants in green tea called catechins can boost this process. But again, you would have to drink a few pints of it to get any benefits. Taking it concentrated in powder form is your best bet.
Finally, research shows yerba mate is effective, again because of its high caffeine content. It has the additional benefits of containing antioxidants, improving your mood and boosting your energy.
First the bad news: there is no short cut to losing weight. Pill popping by itself is not enough. The ingredients by themselves are simply not powerful enough to ‘burn’ enough fat while you lounge on the sofa.
Now the good news: if you combine the pills with sensible dieting and exercise, then yes certain fat-burners can help the process along. They may even be especially helpful for reducing stubborn fat such as belly fat, or hip and thigh fat. Add in some other ways to boost metabolism and you’ll be fighting from all four corners!
everything I read is to the effect that any 'metabolism boost' from these pills is tiny. Otherwise no-one would be overweight! I remain very sceptical, I'm afraid!