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Quick Fat Burner Summary Points

  • There are a variety of different fat and weight loss support supplements
  • Thermogenic fat burners are supplements that increase metabolism by using fat as heat; aka thermogenesis
  • Some fat burners will add ingredients which may be able to stimulate thryoid activity, which helps to increase metabolism
  • Fat metabolisers are supplements that will boost fat metabolism or decrease fat absorption. These supplements tend to use a range of different ingredients to thermogenic fat burners
  • Carb blockers are weight loss supplements that decrease carbohydrate absorption and storage
  • Many fat loss supplements will also use appetite suppressants and stimulants, which can assist fat burning.
  • The best way to choose a weight loss supplement is to figure out what your needs are and factor in your diet, training and other lifestyle factors. In in doubt, ask your supplement supplier.

What is the Best Fat Burner?

So like every second person – you want to lose weight! To do so, you’ve decided that you want to take a fat burner supplement to assist with the effort you are putting in at the gym or otherwise. Only problem is you’re baffled by the massive range of fat burner supplements to choose from. Every supplement promises results, but at the same time everyone is different. You’ve even got different categories of fat burners, such as fat metabolisers, thermogenic fat burners, appetite suppressants and ‘carb blockers’. Some products try to combine all these into one, whereas others seek to differentiate themselves as strictly belonging to a single category. It’s no wonder with such a diverse range of products and categories that one can be a bit overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the fat burner best suited to their needs.

In attempting to answer the question: “what is the best fat burner?” this article will give a brief overview of the different categories of fat burner supplements and a review of some of the ingredients with good research to back their effectiveness. Lastly, the article will give some pointers on personal factors to consider that may make one particular fat burner more suited to an individual than another.

Thermogenic Fat Burners

Thermogenic fat burners contain ingredients that are designed to increase the body’s use of fat as a means of generating heat, rather than energy. In addition to being the body’s main energy source, a small amount of fat is also burned to generate heat as a means of regulating body temperature in response to changes in temperature and infection. This fat, which is stored mainly in supraclavicular and paraspinal regions, is called brown fat. It serves the specific purpose of being used as a reservoir for heat generation and accompanying body temperature regulation. The amount of brown fat and the extent to which it can be activated by cold temperatures is negatively correlated with total body fat1.

So naturally, there has been a great deal of interest in devising supplements that will target brown fat and up-regulate thermogenesis. According to this theory; if you’re taking a thermogenic fat burner supplement and its working well, you should feel hotter! There are plenty of online reviews and forums where individuals have reported increased sensation of heat after taking a thermogenic fat burner.

In terms specific nutrients that stimulate thermogenesis, there’s not a great deal of research to go by. In any case, there are a few reports of certain phytonutrients having a thermogenic effect. One good example is a substance called capsiate, which is an analog of capsaicin, the major pungent principle in red chillies. Recent scientific reviews have showed that this substance can significantly enhance fat oxidation via activation of brown fat (i.e. thermogenesis)2. Trying to determine if a given product contains capsiate can be a little tricky because on the ingredient list, it is sometimes listed according to its proper scientific name (i.e.  4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzyl (E)-8-methyl-6-nonenoate).

Other supplements simply list the botanical name of the plants from which capsiate comes, namely, Capsicum Fructescens or Capsicum Annuum. The ever popular MuscleTech Hydroxycut Hardcore Pro Series is one fat burner that contains capsicum as one of its key ingredients.

Another popular thermogenic agent; also from plants, is Citrus aurantium. Commonly referred to as ‘bitter orange’, Citrus aurantium is a natural source of synephrine, which is classified as a ‘beta agonist’. Beta agonists are known to stimulate thermogenesis3. So when searching for fat burners with citrus aurantium, be sure to check if it is a standardised to synephrine content, as this will guarantee its potency. For example, the popular Nutrex Lipo-6 Black contains 225mg of citrus aurantium fruit extract for every 3 capsules, which provides 4.5mg of synephrine.

Raspberry ketones are another popular plant-based thermogenic, thanks to promotion of its fat burning powers by the likes of celebrity doctors such as Dr Oz. Raspberry ketones are said to regulate the levels of a substance called adinopectin; a hormone involved in regulating metabolism4. While there is some research to back the effectiveness of raspberry ketones as a thermogenic4, scientist are still eagerly awaiting further research to see if raspberry ketones will live up to their hype.

Thyroid and Thermogenesis

The thyroid is one of the body’s main organs involved in governing metabolic rate and therefore thermogenesis. As such, many fat burners include ingredients that are designed to increase thyroid activity. One example is iodine; an important co-factor in the synthesis of thyroid hormones. BSc’s Hydroxyburn Hardcore Clinical is an example of a fat burner that contains a therapeutic dose of iodine from a natural plant source.

Phenylalanine, tyrosine and tyrosine derivatives are the other major type of thyroid boosting nutrients that appear in fat burners. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a fat burner contains tyrosine or not as they often appear as long tricky names with numbers, capital letters and the word tyrosine somewhere in there.

Fat Metabolisers

Fat metabolisers are defined as supplements or ingredients that are designed to increase the body’s ability to burn fat. As opposed to thermogenic fat burners which involve more of a switching on of a given mechanism; fat metabolisers work more along the lines of increasing the rate of a process and/or providing nutrients to facilitate a process to work at a greater rate. One of the prime examples is the nutrient carnitine. Carnitine is the ‘rate-limiting’ amino acid for beta-oxidation (the body’s main pathway for fat burning). This simply means the amount of available carnitine is a key factor in controlling the rate of fat burning.  While it may be stating the obvious, fat metabolisers work best when consumed as part of a regular exercise routine. All things being equal, fat metaboliser nutrients will help to increase the proportion of fat that is burned during exercise.

Other common ingredients to feature in fat metabolisers include glycine and taurine. These amino acids help in the formation of bile acids, which are involved in the processing of fats. The liver is another important organ involved in the metabolism of fat. For this reason, a number of fat metabolisers contain ingredients such as St Mary’s Thistle, choline and methionine, which are designed to support the healthy functioning of the liver. Yet another angle for fat metabolisers is improving the function of insulin. Insulin is the body’ key storage hormone and as most know, when your insulin function dips, your risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure go up. Some of the ingredients commonly used to boost insulin function include inositol, chromium and alpha-lipoic acid.

While fat metaboliser nutrients make good theoretical sense and are very popular, unfortunately there is a relative lack of scientific evidence when compared to other types of fat loss nutrients such as the thermogenics mentioned above. Nonetheless, there is a multitude of positive anecdotal reports and fat metabolisers continue to rank among the top selling fat burners.

Carb Blockers

Carb blockers is another category of fat burners that is growing in popularity. While it can sometimes be poorly defined, a nutrient acting as a carb blocker generally either prevents the absorption of carbohydrate and/or inhibits the synthesis of carbohydrate within the body. Once such plant extract that has been reported to share both these properties is green coffee. Chlorogenic acid, the major active within green coffee has been shown to both inhibit glucose absorption from the small intestine as well as inhibit a key enzyme that controls the release of glucose into the general circulation5.

The other popular carb blocker is white kidney bean extract (Phaseolus vulgaris). This particular extract has been shown to inhibit the activity of the digestive enzyme alpha amylase. This extract promotes weight loss by interfering with the breakdown of complex carbohydrates. There is some good evidence behind the effectiveness of this extract in reducing weight, making it a good inclusion in your fat burner6.

Appetite Suppressants

An appetite suppressant is another type of ingredient commonly used in fat burner supplements. Because they help to reduce appetite, they are commonly used in conjunction with low-calorie diets for weight loss. Hydroxycitric acid from the fruit Garcinia cambogia has been found to have appetite suppressant properties, thus explaining its popularity in weight loss supplements7. Other ingredients with appetite suppressant properties include Caralluma Fimbriata, caffeine, green tea and soluble fibre8. If you find that you’re a sucker for always being hungry, keep an eye out for these ingredients when choosing your fat burner.

Fat Burner Stimulants

Stimulants are a popular inclusion in fat loss formulas with the most common example being caffeine and natural sources of caffeine such as guarana. The other popular stimulant is green tea.There’s pretty solid evidence that stimulant-based fatburning supplements can be effective9, but some individuals don’t like taking stimulants and thus tend to opt for stimulant-free fat burners, of which there are many to choose from.

Conversely, if you’re one that loves your coffee and really benefits from the buzz it gives you, you’re likely to respond well to fat burner supplements containing good doses of stimulants. Muscletech’s hydroxycut max is a good example of a great fat burner supplement that has healthy dose of caffeine.

Multi-Action Fat Burning Nutrients

While most fat loss nutrients fall into one of the categories above, there are others, such as green tea, which have recently been reported to work via multiple complimentary mechanisms. For example, green tea has been suggested to10:

  • Inhibit fat uptake and absorption in intestines
  • Increase the breakdown of fat within fat cells (i.e. adipocytes) leading to release into the blood stream
  • Increase the bodies fat oxidation (burning) capacity
  • Inhibit fatty acid synthesis

The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of green tea for fat loss is very strong, particularly with regard to it major active, epigallocatechin-3-0-gallate (EGCG). So if you’re after a fat burner that’s high in green tea, make sure it is one that’s standardised to EGCG.

Coleus forskohlii is another plant extract popular in fat burners that works via multiple actions. It raised the level of an important substance called cAMP, which has a flow-on effect of releasing fat from fat cells, increasing fat oxidation and thermogenesis11.

Personal Factors in Choosing The Best Fat Burner

There are some important personal considerations that come into the mix when trying to choose the best fat burner. For example, an individual’s diet, training history, exercise routine and supplement use all come into play. There are even more subtle things, such as an individual’s habitual caffeine intake that can affect how well some fat burners work. For example, the weight loss effects of green tea are said to be the result of the synergism between its caffeine content and it catechin content (i.e. EGCG). Some researchers have suggested that diminished responses by some subjects in studies using green tea may be related to a higher habitual caffeine intake, which effectively blunts much of the proposed synergism between the caffeine in green tea and its catechin content.

Stimulant-based fat burners tend to be designed more so for individuals looking to lose weight via a low calorie diet. As such, these types of supplements may not be best suited to endurance athletes or active individuals engaged in competitive or team sport. Successful performance in these types of activities requires sufficient regular carbohydrate intake to keep energy levels high. Thermogenic fat burners and metabolisers may be more suited to such individuals because they don’t rely so much on low calorie dieting but rather tend to work by maximising the amount of fat burned during each session of exercise as well as at rest.

On the other end of the scale, if you are a very obese individual looking to lose weight, you may not be in a position whereby you can easily exercise, thus making a fat metaboliser of little use to you. Instead you would be better served by a fat burner that is going to increase your metabolic rate, decrease your carbohydrate absorption while also decreasing your appetite.

Your typical exercise routine can also determine the best type of fat burner for you. If you exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, then fat metaboliser nutrients are generally best suited as they tend to work better in the body’s natural hormone environment at this time of day. At the other extreme, if you exercise late at night, you might opt for a fat burner that is high in appetite suppressant ingredients that will help limit your food intake late at night so as to prevent excess calories being stored as fat.

Lastly, if you’re a bodybuilder, muscle means everything to you so you’re not going to use any low calorie diets notorious for chewing up muscle. Rather than an appetite suppressant, you’re better off opting for a thermogenic that’s going to help you burn up more fat throughout the whole day.

Ingredient Dose in Fat Burners

A very important point to consider when deciding on the best fat burner supplement is the ingredient dosing. There’s no shortage of fat burners that come with a very impressive long list of ingredients, but just as important as the ingredient itself is how much of it there actually is. Many of the studies carried out on various fat loss ingredients have shown dose-dependent effects, while some just won’t work if you don’t take enough. For this reason, exercise caution when choosing a fat burner that simply has a long list of ingredients all at very low levels. As a general rule, you want a fat burner with most ingredients present at three figures, i.e. XXXmg. If the supplement you’ve been using only has ingredients present in XXmg amounts, it’s unlikely to be potent enough to produce the results your after.

Best Fat Burner

Considering all the above information about the different types of fat burners and how personal factors can influence fat burner choice; is it possible to recommend a single fat burner as the best? In short, the answer is no. When choosing your fat burner, it’s important to consider that the body has a very tightly and sophisticated mechanisms governing the regulation of body fat. There’s not just one or two mechanisms that regulate body fat but a multitude! Accordingly, a fat burner needs to address these multiple control points.  As such, it best to go for a fat burner that contains multiple ingredients that have been selected to target fat loss on multiple levels. But it’s not enough just to have a long list of ingredients; the ingredients have to be present at levels where they will pack some punch. Lastly, it’s important to remember that everyone will respond to a given fat burner differently – because everyone is biochemically unique. So a fat burner that works for one person won’t necessarily work for you, meaning it might take one or two tries before you find the best one.

References
1. van Marken Lichtenbelt WD, et al. Cold-activated brown adipose tissue in healthy men. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:1500–1508.
2. Ludy MJ, et al. The effects of capsaicin and capsiate on energy balance: critical review and meta-analysis of studies in humans. Chem Senses. 2012;37:103-121.
3. Haaz S, et al. Citrus aurantium and synephrine alkaloids in the treatment of overweight and obesity: an update. Obes Rev. 2006;7(1):79-88.
4. Morimoto C, et al. Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone. Life Sci. 2005;77(2):194-204.
5. Henry-Vitrac C, et al. Contribution of chlorogenic acids to the inhibition of human hepatic glucose-6-phosphatase activity in vitro by Svetol, a standardized decaffeinated green coffee extract. J Agric Food Chem. 2010;58(7):4141-4144.
7. Celleno L, et al. A dietary supplement containing standardized Phaseolus vulgaris extract influences body composition of overweight men and women. International Journal of Medical Sciences. 2007; 4(1):45-52.
8. Marquez F, et al. Evaluation of the safety and efficacy of hydroxycitric acid or Garcinia cambogia extracts in humans. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(7):585-594.
9. Carter BE, Drewnowski A. Beverages containing soluble fiber, caffeine, and green tea catechins suppress hunger and lead to less energy consumption at the next meal. Appetite. 2012;59(3):755-761.
10. Hackman RM, et al. Multinutrient supplement containing ephedra and caffeine causes weight loss and improves metabolic risk factors in obese women: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006;30(10):1545-1556.
11. Thavanesan N, et al. The putative effects of green tea on body fat: an evaluation of the evidence and a review of the potential mechanisms. British Journal of Nutrition. 2011;106:1297–1309.
12. Henderson S, et al. Effects of Coleus Forskohlii supplementation on body composition and hematological profiles in mildly overweight women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005;2(2):54–62.

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