Fat burners are undeniably one of the most controversial supplements on the market today.
While they’re marketed as metabolism boosters, many are often ineffective. In fact, they can often be harmful . We see this in cases of over consuming “safe” products like green tea extract, and in less studied nutraceuticals like usnic acid .
Often, professional bodybuilders will try to take multiple fat burners at the same time. This can lead to liver disease and hepatotoxicity in more severe cases.
What if you’re looking to lose weight safely – are there any natural options that work?
Manufacturers of supplements will often promote them as miracle solutions that can solve all problems, including those weight related. While there is no definitive “miracle pill” for losing weight, there are natural supplements that can help.
Naturally, the best recommendation for weight loss is also the safest to implement. Fiber.
There are two types of fiber. These are soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. The “solubility” of fiber simply refers to the ability of it to be dissolved in water .
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system intact. This type of fiber functions within the gut as a motility agent – helping process food and waste through the digestive system. A good food example of something with high insoluble fiber content is corn, which we’re sure you’ve – ahem! – noticed.
Comparatively, soluble fiber dissolves with water in the digestive tract, and forms a “gel” substance.This helps aid in weight loss by reducing appetite and reducing the number of calories absorbed from food.
It increases the levels of hormones like GLP-1, responsible for signaling that you’re full . It also slows down the digestion process, leaving you feeling fuller for longer.
Soluble fiber is common in legumes, vegetables, and whole grains. Supplements containing soluble fiber likely contain some form of psyllium husk, pectin, beta-glucan, or acacia gum. Most fermentable fiber is in the form of soluble fiber, which also makes it important for feeding healthy bacteria in the gut.
Eating a healthy, plant-based diet is the best way to get a good amount of soluble and insoluble fiber, but supplements that contain extracts or isolates of soluble fiber (psyllium) also have a good track record when it comes to weight loss. Studies report “significant weight loss” enhancement in overweight individuals .
L-carnitine is an amino acid, which naturally occurs in food. L-carnitine plays an important role in energy production by transporting essential fatty acids into cell mitochondria . How is L-carnitine applicable as a potential weight loss supplement?
L-carnitine appears to aid weight loss in some people, when used in conjunction with a proper diet and exercise plan . This makes sense, considering L-carnitine moves these essential fatty acids into cells to be burned for energy production.
Green Coffee Bean Extract
Research on green coffee bean extract isn’t as definitive as other natural weight loss supplements, but does show a lot of promise. In overweight participants, consumption of green coffee bean extract had zero adverse effects or side effects, reduced body fat and total weight, and improved cholesterol levels .
Green coffee bean extract comes from coffee beans that have yet to be roasted.
These beans contain beneficial compounds known as “chlorogenic acids.” Research seems to indicate that these compounds can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and burn fat. A cup of coffee does naturally contain chlorogenic acid, but the process of roasting reduces the content dramatically. This is why drinking coffee isn’t sufficient when compared to taking a supplement.
Caffeine is also popularly utilized as a weight loss aid, but those with adrenal issues or hormonal imbalance are much better off avoiding the use of coffee or caffeine. Green coffee bean extract does not seem to have the same impact on the adrenals or cortisol.
5-HTP is a popular amino acid supplement and precursor to serotonin. It is also known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan.
Your body can utilize this to produce the important hormone serotonin.
5-HTP is well known to promote weight loss, due to its ability to suppress appetite. In a study dating all the way back to 1989, women taking 8 mg/kg of body weight in 5-HTP were able to have a 3X greater weight reduction than their counterparts .
5-HTP appears to work by regulating the hunger-causing hormones, helping to suppress appetite and encouraging weight loss . However, beyond that mechanism, 5-HTP also appears to reduce the number of calories utilized (absorbed) from carbohydrates .
Surprisingly, 5-HTP is often used by naturopathic doctors for treatment of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In this therapeutic application, it helps to reduce pain and induce a more restful sleep.
Green Tea Extract
Perhaps the most hotly debated supplement for weight loss, green tea extract is essentially a concentrated form of green tea.
Sometimes, it is sold as “EGCG,” which stands for epigallocatechin gallate.
EGCG is a compound found in green tea, known as a “catechin.” You’ve probably heard the term polyphenol before – which also applies to the different catechins found in tea.They’re just a type of polyphenol.
Weight loss attributed to EGCG is similar to that of green tea extract, but not as conclusive. We would always recommend opting for a supplement that is labeled more broadly as green tea extract, as it will contain a wider array of catechin compounds (including EGCG). These work in conjunction to help stimulate weight loss .
In a study involving mice fed a high-fat diet, EGCG decreased fat accumulation, lowered blood glucose, and prevented metabolic syndrome. It reduced the risk of metabolic disease (diabetes) and prevented obesity .
There are some concerns about liver toxicity and green tea extract at high doses.
These are valid concerns.
However, it is important to note that this is rarely reported in case studies. Documentation of this is generally only found in people using multiple supplements containing green tea extract and other botanicals at high doses. Negative responses to green tea extracts seem to be rare and immune-related .
Things to Keep in Mind About the Safety of Fat-Burning Supplements
There will never be a “magic pill” when it comes to weight loss. This is a reality most people understand, but it especially is important to keep this in mind when it comes to fat burners proposing life-changing results overnight.
Rather, a natural fat burner can support your weight loss journey, but does need to be taken at an appropriate dosage and consistently for an extended period of time. This is always to be done in conjunction with a healthy diet or meal plan, and workout regimen.