Over one half of the United States adult population is overweight. One third qualify as obese. Given these statistics and the mounting evidence linking excess weight to a host of health problems, it’s not surprising that many of us have declared war on our fat and are engaged in a fierce battle with our extra pounds. And thanks to America’s irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit, several companies have jumped into the fray with new products designed to melt our unwanted fat into oblivion. The good news is a lot of these fat-burning supplements actually work. But before you start using one of them, there are a few things you need to know.
First, don’t expect miracles. No matter what the advertisements say, no supplement will burn fat while you sleep. In fact, taking most of them at bedtime will just keep you up all night. And put out of your head any thought that a pill will single-handedly return you to your once sleek self. Fat burners can help you lose weight, but you still have to do the work. Be reasonable. Even if it were possible to slenderize without making any changes in your lifestyle or eating habits, how long do you think the weight will stay off once you stop taking the pills? And that brings us to your second reality check – you can’t take most of these supplements indefinitely. The ingredients in some of them can be unhealthy if used for too long a time.
Weight gain can occur for a variety of reasons. So, before taking a fat-burning supplement there are a number of things you’ll want to do. Have your thyroid function tested. An under-active thyroid gland can make it impossible for you to lose weight. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Recent evidence suggests that inadequate sleep can put your body into insulin resistance. In plain English that means you’ll have a tendency to gain weight and a hard time taking it off. Eat regular meals. Skipping breakfast or lunch is a sure-fire way to put the brakes on your metabolism and slow your body’s fat burning potential to a crawl. Limit your intake of starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars. If you continue to consume these easily accessed sources of energy, your body will never get around to burning its stores of energy – the fat you want to lose. Lastly, get enough exercise. According to the experts, the absolute minimum amount required for weight loss is 3 – 50 minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise a week. Don’t bother doing 30 minutes. It’s the last 20 that produce the results. If, after making these adjustments, you are still unable to lose weight, a fat-burner may be just what you need
Many over-weight folks have a sluggish metabolism. Their bodies have a tendency to store food as fat before it can be burned for fuel. Thermogenic (heat generating) agents rev up the body’s metabolic rate and boost its energy expenditure. The result is a greater need for stored energy, which can translate into significant weight loss. But be advised, they’re not for everybody. For a variety of reasons too numerous to mention here, people with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, prostate hypertrophy, thyroid disease, glaucoma and those taking anti-depressant medications should not use them.
This is the heart and soul of most, but not all thermogenic products. Ephedrine is a beta-receptor stimulator on the brown adipose tissue (BAT), which is a fancy way of saying it burns fat. The combination of caffeine and ephedrine produces twice the thermogenic effect as ephedrine alone. In one study, overweight women taking ephedrine and caffeine had 100% more fat loss and 72% less muscle loss than those taking a placebo. In another study in which patients were not put on a diet, the combination of ephedrine and caffeine plus aspirin caused three times more weight loss than the placebo. Caffeine and aspirin both appear to modulate activities in the body that would otherwise inhibit ephedrine’s thermogenic activity. This combination produces one more benefit – appetite suppression. For the first week or two there is a significant reduction in appetite. By the time this effect wears off, the thermogenic activity has kicked in and one should be able to eat a reasonable amount of food and continue to lose weight.
I tell my clients to start with small doses and increase them gradually over a few weeks. In addition, I suggest limiting their use to 5 days a week, with weekends off, and discontinuing them for 3 weeks every 3 months. This gives the central nervous and endocrine systems an opportunity to re-establish homeostasis on a regular basis, reducing the chance of becoming dependant on the stimulating agents. If you notice any nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness or nausea reduce or stop using them.
In my opinion, ephedrine should be limited to a maximum of 25 mg per dose, caffeine to 100 mg and aspirin to 82 mg, taken with breakfast and lunch. Read labels carefully. Ephedrine may be listed as ephedra or ma huang. Caffeine can appear as kola nut, mate or guarana. Aspirin may occur in its natural form, white willow bark.
The combination of ephedrine and caffeine can make some people jittery. Fortunately, a few manufacturers of fat-burners have come up with effective formulas that avoid the use of stimulants. The best will contain one or more of the following ingredients: