Thermogenic Fat Burning Products: Are They Safe?

Fat burning products have become a billion dollar industry over the last decade. Hundreds of supplements have surfaced, promising to burn fat. One subset of these products is thermogenics, a category of weightloss supplements that allege that they can burn fat naturally by generating heat, which, in turn, increases energy consumption in the body. Higher energy consumption, then, leads to burning more calories, which leads to weight loss. However, are these products safe for use? What should you know before trying them out?

How They Work

Many studies have been conducted on thermogenic substances, which include caffeine, capsicum, ephedra and ginger. All work similarly in that they stimulate the body, causing it to burn more calories with less overall effort. The assumption is that those already on a diet and consuming fewer calories will burn a higher percentage of fat because lower amounts of recently consumed carbohydrates will be readily available to be metabolized. So, the body will be burning its stored energy (fat) as opposed to that which is readily available (carbs). Thermogenic supplements  also work as diuretics, which means that they excrete water from the body by elevating the rate of urination. This is another source of short-term weightloss.

Not the Only Answer

Studies agree that thermogenics are not the only answer. You can’t pop these pills once a day and expect to lose weight just like that. However, scientists have found that when combined with diet and exercise, these supplements can have a positive, short-term effect. As noted above, these pills won’t have any effect on your fat levels unless they are consumed in combination with a lower calorie diet. Therefore, you won’t get a miracle, but you may get better short-term results.

Adapted Tolerance

Notice the caveat of “short-term” results above. This is very important to consider when using thermogenics. Studies have shown that these supplements can have a beneficial effect for the first 4-6 weeks of use, but that their overall affect wanes after that period. This is basically due to natural adaptation by the body. Your body will get used to having the chemicals present and alter its energy consumption accordingly. This is a process known as adapted tolerance. In extreme cases, your body can become so adapted to the chemicals that you become dependent on them. In those cases, you could even be subject to mild withdrawal symptoms once you come off of the drug. In any case, taking these supplements beyond the 4-6 week threshold is not recommended.

More Research Necessary

Another thing to note is that dietary supplements are rarely subject to FDA regulations. In fact, most of the ingredients that are found in these pills are little researched and could have unknown side effects. Caffeine is a relatively harmless diuretic, but ephedrine has been known to cause severe cases of dizziness, changes in blood pressure, increased heart rate and headaches in some people.

You should always ask your physician before taking any kind of over-the-counter medication, especially those that are not regulated by the government.


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