Fat burners: should you take them?
Fat burners, otherwise known as thermogenics, can help you lose weight. Here’s how
Fat burners are a popular option for anyone looking to shed some weight fast. From the promises most adverts make you would be forgiven for thinking fat burners are magic pills that juts melt your excess fat away as you sit at your desk. In fact they’re designed to speed up the rate you can lose lose weight when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
One of the major issues people struggle with when trying to lose weight is sticking to a healthy diet, especially as frequent exercise leads to an increase in appetite, which can potentially lead to poor food decisions. Fat burners contain ingredients that help to suppress your appetite and keep you energised while on a calorie-restricted diet. With no hunger pangs to deal with, it becomes much easier to make good decisions regarding the food you eat.
Even with your metabolism running on all cylinders and your appetite under control, you will still need plenty of willpower. No matter how much help you get from fat burners your success will still be determined by your will to succeed. After all, you’re the only one making the decisions as to whether or not to have that delicious looking cookie, muffin, doughnut or whatever your own particular vice may be.
What are they?
Also known as thermogenics, fat burners are blends of herbs and stimulants that slightly increase your body temperature, which can help you burn more calories during exercise. Ephedrine, a synthetic version of the Chinese herb ephedra, used to be a key ingredient in these, but it’s now only available on prescription in the UK because of its harmful side effects and addictive qualities.
What do they do?
Some simply burn calories as heat. Others also claim to stimulate the release of adrenaline, increase your metabolic rate or act as appetite suppressants. The evidence for them working is limited, however. ‘A careful calorie intake and exercise are likely to produce better weight-loss results in the long term,’ says nutrition expert Anita Bean.
Who should take them?
‘Fat burners raise cortisol – a stress hormone – so if you suffer from anxiety it could make things worse,’ says strength coach Gregg Marsh. ‘If you think you need them consult your doctor first.’
How much should I take?
Follow the instructions on the bottle, but be careful with long-term use. ‘Take them on a rotation cycle of 14 days on 14 days off for only two cycles every eight weeks,’ advises Marsh.
When should I take them?
Most contain caffeine and will make you jittery, so the morning’s probably best. ‘Never take fat burners after 2pm because they affect sleep patterns,’ says Marsh. Other than that, go with the recommendation on the bottle.
Do they have any side effects?
‘Taking very high doses of ephedrine can have serious effects, including palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, vomiting and dizziness,’ says Bean. ‘While herbal alternatives are generally safer, you may get side effects with high doses – some can raise blood pressure or cause heart disturbances.’
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Here are the experts who gave us an insight into fat burners:
Anita Bean is the author of The Complete Guide To Sports Nutrition (£15.99, A&C Black Publishers). For more visit anitabean.co.uk.
Dr. Lonnie Lowery is an exercise physiologist, nutrition expert and former competitive bodybuilder. He is also a licensed dietician specialising in sports nutrition.
Nikhil Rao is a trainee doctor, avid weightlifter and regular contributor to the US bodybuilding site t-nation.com. He has been using creatine for six years.
Gregg Marsh is a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer and nutrition consultant. He has more than eight years of experience in nutrition. For more visit fitleanandhealthy.com.