DO FAT BURNERS WORK? 3 KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER
Sometimes a reader will send me a question that I feel is worth writing an entire blog post on.
Today is one of those days.
Dave recently asked me…
“Hey Sean, what are your thoughts on fat loss supplements? I’m trying to lean down and am wondering if they’re worth taking or not. Do fat burners work, or do you think they’re a waste of money?”
Ah, good old fat burners.
No, the Instagram fitness model flexing in front of that waterfall didn’t achieve their body by popping back those “miracle fat burner pills” they were paid to pose with, and here are 3 reasons why I don’t recommend that you bother with them either…
Do Fat Burners Work? 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Recommend Them
Reason #1: Safety
The fitness supplement industry is only very loosely regulated, and it’s important to understand that anyone with some money and a business plan is free to formulate and sell their own fat burner if they wish to.
No, the products in this industry are not being created by qualified “supplement scientists” with white lab coats and clipboards, conducting careful research to decide which precise ingredients and dosages should be included for maximum safety and effectiveness…
The supplement industry is run by marketers, and the “latest breakthrough fat burner” could have easily been slapped together by any random Joe Schmo off the street barely possessing the first clue when it comes to proper supplement formulation.
All they have to do is send their ingredient list and dosages to one of the many supplement contract manufacturers out there… dream up a cool-sounding name and sales pitch… throw on a flashy label… and boom, they’re in the fat burner business.
It’s really that simple, and that’s how the majority of supplements in the fitness industry are made.
And this is one of the central reasons why I don’t recommend fat burners to my readers…
It’s because all you’re usually dealing with is a laundry list of stimulant ingredients mashed together in pill form, the combinations and dosages of which may or may not even be safe for consistent use.
Only so much supplement research is available, and although there are stimulant ingredients that are generally safe when used alone and at the proper dose, no one really knows the true effects of combining multiple stimulants (along with the additional extra ingredients that are usually sprinkled in as well) like so many fat burners do.
This is especially important if you have pre-existing health issues, suffer from anxiety or are using certain medications, as there is the very real potential for dangerous interactions if you aren’t careful.
Most fat burners will elevate heart rate, increase body temperature and affect levels of powerful hormones such as adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, as well as neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and it’s not something you want to haphazardly mess around with.
On top of that, let’s not forget about the multiple cases that have arisen over the years of popular fat burners being spiked with banned substances.
The most recent case popped up no more than a week ago, with 14 fat burners on the market being found to contain oxilofrine, a stimulant banned by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) as well as Major League Baseball, the National Football League and several other sports organizations.
This isn’t the first case of this happening and it surely won’t be the last, and it’s just another reason to approach these supplements with caution.
I’m of course not saying that ALL fat burners are guaranteed to be dangerous, but it’s just not worth the risk in my opinion.
Reason #2: Effectiveness
It’d be one thing if the possible risk associated with the use of fat burners was accompanied by a large potential upside (in which case it might be worth investigating the benefits vs. drawbacks for yourself), but the simple truth is that most fat burners will barely deliver anything in the way of noticeable results in the first place.
Most of them are loaded with hugely over-hyped ingredients that are not backed by reliable research as being useful fat loss aids (things like green coffee bean extract, raspberry ketones, hoodia, synephrine, green tea extract, CLA etc.), and also hide the fact that the product is intentionally under-dosed by using a “proprietary blend” to mask the specific amounts of each ingredient.
As I already mentioned, the billion-dollar weight loss supplement industry is run by marketers, and maximizing profit is the name of the game.
Even if a particular fat burning supplement does happen to be half-decently formulated, the effects are still going to be very minor in the overall picture.
The vast, vast majority of your fat loss results will always come down to the simple act of maintaining a calorie deficit over time through proper nutrition and exercise, and adding a “glorified caffeine pill” into the mix will only be good for a few extra percent of fat loss in the best case scenario.
This is why virtually every fat loss pill on the market will always state that “this product must be used in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet and proper exercise” when you check the fine-print on the label.
In fact, the use of fat burners can even be counter-productive for beginners who are just getting started, as it provides an easy justification for dietary over-indulgence.
Many people will think that it’s perfectly fine to slack off on their workouts and eat higher calories since they have that “miracle fat burner pill” on their side, and this can easily back-fire and result in weight gain as opposed to weight loss.
I actually used to work in a supplement store in my late teens, and I can tell you firsthand that there is no sadder sight than an obese individual chowing down on a cheeseburger and milkshake and then walking in to ask which fat burner they should use.
Reason #3: Cost
The final issue with fat burners is simply the cost.
You’ll be paying 20, 30, 40 dollars or more per month for a product that probably won’t deliver much in the way of results, and that is potentially dangerous as well.
Not only that, but the mark-up on these products is usually massive as well, and it probably only cost the manufacturer a few dollars to produce that bottle of pills that they’re now turning around and selling you for $40.
Add the cost up over the course of a few months or a year and you’ll quickly see just how big it can get.
Rather than flushing your hard-earned money down the drain on useless fat burners, I’d highly suggest spending it on the things that really matter in your fitness plan, such as your gym membership or food costs.
“But I Like The Strength And Energy Boost They Provide!”
I understand that aside from the basic issue of fat loss itself, a lot of people enjoy using fat burners for the pre-workout boost they can provide.
The added energy and motivation can improve overall training performance and calorie output, and this in turn could produce additional fat loss.
I don’t discount this as a potential benefit, but you most definitely don’t need an over-priced commercial fat burner in order to get that same pre-workout effect.
The stimulant effect of virtually all popular fat burners on the market is simply a result of the caffeine content, and caffeine can easily be purchased on its own in pill form for literal pennies per serving. (Or you could also, you know, drink a cup of coffee instead)
If caffeine on its own doesn’t feel like quite enough, you can optionally add in a couple other basic ingredients as well to boost the effects a bit further.
Check out my recommended homemade pre-workout stack for more info, as this stack is safe, inexpensive, and will give you just as good or better results than the fat burner you’re probably using right now.
Do Fat Burners Work? The Bottom Line
It’s not that all supplements are useless for your fat loss program, but traditional “fat burners” are definitely something I’d suggest leaving on the shelf.
They’re over-priced, over-hyped, poorly formulated in most cases, and potentially dangerous to your health in the long term.
You’ll be far better off sticking with the basics, and placing your focus on what is truly important when it comes to achieving ongoing fat loss, which is of course proper nutrition and training.
There are no shortcuts to a lean and impressive body, and if fat burners truly did work, everyone would be in shape.
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