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Fat burners. Magic pills that are going to help you burn fat and look lean AF? Not quite…
While some studies have shown fat burners to be effective in burning fat and increasing the body’s metabolism, the evidence is limited. Not to mention there is also evidence to suggest that they might also come with some pretty nasty side effects.
Gymshark Central explores whether fat burners are actually dangerous.
'Stimulant based fat burners typically work by increasing metabolic rate through activation of the body's sympathetic nervous system. This increases the body's energy expenditure, hopefully leading to more fat loss,' Dr Layne Norton explains to Gymshark Central.
And how do they do this? It comes down to the ingredients. It will probably come as no surprise to you that the main ingredient in the majority of fat burners is caffeine.
Why? Well, because caffeine has a thermogenic component which has been shown to increase your metabolism and help you to burn more fat by encouraging your body to use its fat stores as a source of energy. According to a 2018 study conducted by King’s College University, drinking between 1 and 3 cups of black coffee could increase your metabolism enough to burn up to 150 calories a day.
All of this sounds great, however, too much caffeine and you're in trouble. Excessive caffeine intake can lead to nausea, difficulty sleeping and stomach issues, just to name a few side effects. Layne explained, 'while some fat burners have been shown to have small to modest benefits on fat loss, it is important to note that those who are sensitive to stimulants (such as caffeine) may get more side effects than they'd like for these products.'
It is therefore important to check how much your fat burners contain and ensure that you do not take over the recommended daily amount. Especially when you consider that an average cup of coffee contains 95mg of caffeine, compared to a fat burner containing around 194mg!
Caffeine isn’t the only ingredient in fat burners that might pose a risk to your health.
Back in 2015, the Food and Drug Administration found that more than 20 fat burners on the market contained dangerous ingredients. While the FDA identified that products being marketed as an aid for fat loss contain active ingredients that could potentially be harmful the truth is, they don’t really know what else is going into fat burners.
Not all products are tested by the FDA, and so a lot of over the counter fat burners and weight loss products contain untested and unstudied active ingredients. Scary stuff, right?
So, what is the take away here? Should you avoid fat burners forever more?
Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence shared her thoughts on the matter.
'Clinically speaking, fat burners are not recommended on the NHS. The big claims that these ingredients boost metabolism and have a fat burner effect are simply not backed up with a strong body of evidence. In my professional opinion, the cost of supplements and the potential side effects, which have not been safely tested, are enough for me to discourage use. If you want to lose fat, this can be achieved by controlling your calorie balance through nutrition and exercise.’
If you do decide to use fat burners to aid your weight loss, then it is vital for you to make sure you are following the recommended daily guidelines. While they have been shown to help with weight loss, as Frankie explained, research into the ingredients and side effects is very minimal.
Remember that whether using fat burners or not, your weight loss should still be done healthily and sustainably (1-3 pounds a week) to prevent losing lean muscle mass. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fat loss and supplements should never replace a healthy diet and exercise regime. In the words of Dr Layne Norton, 'even the results from the BEST fat burners still pale in comparison to a proper nutrition and training strategy'.
What are your thoughts on fat burners? Do you find they help you to achieve your goals or are you unconvinced by the hype?
Let us know in the comments below.