Should I Take Fat Burners for Better Results?

What You Need to Know

Should I Take Fat Burners
Stimulant Fat Burners Do Not Burn Fat. Astronaut Images Caiaimage/Getty Images

Cutting fat and getting tone is big business in the supplement world. So many are struggling and desperate to find that magic something to melt the pounds away. There are so many fat burning supplements stocking shelves and just as many consumers lining up with cash-in-hand.

It is very important to understand the purpose of fat burning supplements, ingredients, and possible side effects before jumping into the pot of stimulant users. There are non-stimulant fat burners available but really a glorified bottle of nutrients easily obtained from healthy food intake.

This article will not address specific fat burner brands as they all share pretty much the same ingredients. Pick up any one bottle and compare to the other and you will find shared ingredients sprinkled in with some herbal blend to support a healthy body. Also common with stimulant fat burners are outlandish names on the label to describe cutting fat. You would think a person was a wild animal or something to bring home a bottle and proudly display with machismo on the kitchen counter.

All lightness aside, stimulant fat burners do not burn fat. Ouch! What does burn fat is you burning calories during a workout and eating a consistently healthy diet. If a salesperson claims taking a fat burner and sitting on the couch is going to shed fat off your body, run the other direction. 

The role of a stimulant fat burner is to ‘supplement’ the exercise experience through a temporary heightened mental and physical state. Imagine the feeling of downing several espresso shots and the immediate need to burn off the jittery energy produced. This pretty much describes how you would feel after taking a stimulant fat burner.

Not to place a downer on any excitement regarding stimulant fat burners as some of your friends, family and gym buddies may swear by them. Put in the research, read the labels and know all supplements are not regulated. Supplement companies can pretty up their package with any lingo to sell you the product. Let’s take a look at typical stimulant based fat burning ingredients and how they are supposed to enhance fat burning.


Coffee Contains Caffeine and Probably a Better Option than Fat Burners. FHR imageBROKER/Getty Images

Caffeine is probably the leading ingredient in stimulant fat burners. It is considered a methylxanthine and stimulates the central nervous system, heart, and skeletal muscle.  Caffeine produces thermogenesis and simply means the body is heated up and metabolizing at a faster rate.

According to 2005 Obesity Research “caffeine intake was associated with weight loss through thermogenesis and fat oxidation.” The unfortunate drawback is many fat burners are not forthcoming with exact dosages or even quality of their product. Remember the ‘no regulation’ deal with all supplements applies.

Enjoying a cup of black coffee would be cheaper and provide the same benefit without all the unknowns. Other popular forms/names for caffeine within stimulant fat burners: guarana, kola nut, and yerba mate. Adverse side effects of caffeine consumption can include feelings of nervousness or jitteriness, upset stomach, sleep disturbance, and tachycardia.

Do your research on this one. Caffeine should be avoided if advised by your doctor.

Yohimbine HCL

yohimbe hcl
Yohimbine HCL Supplements Primary Function is Libido Enhancement. Thomas J Peterson Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Yohimbine HCL is another popular ingredient in fat burning supplements and known for libido enhancement, body building, and weight loss. The shortened version Yohimbe is a West African evergreen tree where the alkaloid yohimbine is extracted from the bark. In fact, yohimbine hydrochloride (HCL) can be prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction, the primary reason for the herbal extract.

Yohimbe functions by communicating to nerve cells and stimulating adrenaline release and can be very dangerous in high doses. It's a fat burner ingredient under constant scrutiny and the subject of heated debates. The National Institutes of Health reported, “the author of a 2010 review of Yohimbe reached similar conclusions, noting that results from small human trials of yohimbine for weight loss are contradictory and the evidence base is insufficient to support a weight loss claim for this compound.” 

Adverse side effects of yohimbine HCL at doses of 200mg or higher can include hypertension, anxiety, tachycardia, cardiac issues, and death. It sounds like the risks far outweigh any fat burning benefits. Due to potential, serious adverse effects, yohimbe should only be taken under medical supervision. Steer clear of this one!


Theobromine in Cocoa Beans
Theobromine is Highly Concentrated in the Cocoa Bean. Creativ Studio Heinemann Westend61/Getty Images

Theobromine will be found among the ingredients of many stimulant fat burners. It's a natural extract of cocoa and highly concentrated in the cocoa bean. Theobromine has been used for years as a stimulant, diuretic, vasodilator and mild aphrodisiac.

It is the major chocolate ingredient providing that ‘feel good’ effect after consuming. If you are running to the store for cases of chocolate bars, put on the brakes. Eating tons of chocolate will do nothing for weight loss and eating too much will most likely not make anyone feel good.

Theobromine is commonly compared to caffeine in how it stimulates the body, but with milder side effects. The thing with theobromine it just doesn't have the science backed research to confirm claims to improved fat burning or weight loss. In fact, the limited studies on rats are contradictory. Narrow scientific evidence using theobromine is unable to be accurately assessed in terms of effectiveness or safety.

Other common names for theobromine: riddospas, riddovydrin, santheose, seominal, theobrominum, theoguardenal, and theominal. Adverse side effects can include restlessness, jitteriness, anxiety, and upset stomach. Not too impressed with this one.

Green Tea Extract

Green Tea Extract
Green Tea Extract is a Main Fat Burner Ingredient and Stimulant. NightAndDayImages E+/Getty Images

Green tea extract appears front and center as a top ingredient in stimulant fat burners. It's rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine all linked to increased metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported “Green tea has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by its caffeine content per se. The green tea extract may play a role in the control of body composition via sympathetic activation of thermogenesis, fat oxidation, or both.”

Green tea also has strong antioxidant qualities and linked to improved health. What makes the most sense is enjoying a cup of green tea daily to achieve the stimulant effect and forget the expense and unknowns of an unregulated bottle of wonder. No adverse side effects have been reported consuming green tea as a beverage. Adverse side effects of green tea extract can include stomach upset, increased blood pressure, and rare reports of liver damage. Do your research on this one!

Green Coffee Extract

Green Coffee Beans
Green Coffee Extract Comes from Unroasted Coffee Beans. Suzanne Porter Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Green coffee extract comes from unroasted coffee beans and has higher levels of chlorogenic acid compared to roasted beans. It also contains caffeine which is already linked to increased metabolism and fat oxidation.

Limited studies have shown higher levels of chlorogenic acid within green coffee extract may inhibit fat accumulation and control glucose metabolism in mice and humans. A 2011 study appearing in The United States National Library of Medicine concluded “that the results from these trials are promising, but the studies are all of poor methodological quality. More rigorous trials are needed to assess the usefulness of GCE as a weight loss tool.”  

Adverse side effects can include headaches and urinary tract infections. It appears the jury is still out on this one!


International Sports Sciences Association, Facts About Fat Burners, Dustin Parsons, 5/11

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals, Acheson KJ et al., 5/80

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans, Dulloo AG, 12/1999

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss, Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Abstract, Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation, Westerterp-Plantenga MS et al., 7/05

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, The use of green coffee extract as a weight loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials, Onakpoya I et al., 8/31/10

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