Do Fat Burners Really Work?

by DeanMcKillop 8010 views Supplements

Do Fat Burners Really Work?

Ok… so I suppose you're expecting this article to be a YES YES YES approach as you're reading it article on a supplement companies page about supplements, but hang in there with me for 5-10minutes and see this one through because this isn't a biased review… Let's delve into all things fat burners.

What ingredients matter, how do they work, do they even work, why you may or may not need them and whether or not they are a necessity?

These are the primary factors I will discuss, so let's get into the nitty gritty...

What are the primary ingredients used in a fat burner?

Traditionally speaking, a fat burner and the ingredients it includes can be broken down into 4 major categories:

1. Stimulant
3. Mood regulation
2. Metabolic
4. Appetite control

Within these 4 categories, depending on the product and the brand's intentions, each will traditionally focus on maximising at least 2 of the 4 major categories, while some may attempt to hit all 4, although usually in this instance it results in a lot of under dosing.

Either way, the primary benefit we can expect from fat burners is weight loss management ASSISTANCE!

Assistance… this is the keyword to focus on.

Secondary to that, the other word we need to focus on when looking at fat burners and how effective they are on enhancing fat loss, is CONTEXT.

Context… how, when and in what context was the fat burner successful?

With all that being said, let's take a look at the 4 dominant categories of a fat burner and delve into their potential mechanisms for assisting fat loss and whether or not they should be the next product you choose to purchase.

Stimulant Capacity

The stimulant component of a fat burner is designed to work in 2 primary ways, yet the method of action for both of these aspects is the same. Traditionally relying on caffeine, which is highly efficacious in its application, a fat burner using this stimulant will increase the release of 2 key energy producing products known as catecholamines. The two catecholamines being referred to here are Adrenaline and Noradrenaline, which work three-fold, by stimulating more mental energy so that you can perform better, by liberating fat from the cell and enhancing lipolysis and finally by causing an acute increase in thermogenesis, which is the process of which the bodies core temperature rises ever so slightly and will burn additional calories above its standardised resting burn rate.


The metabolic component of a fat burner is generally marketed as an ingredient or a group of ingredients that are implied to have the ability to increase your metabolism. While I may not agree with this factor directly, as ingredients can not increase your metabolic rate per say (it is dependent on your height, weight, sex and age), these ingredients may have supporting benefits in ensuring or at a bare minimum, reducing the negative adaptations associated with restricting calories.

Ingredients such as caffeine, iodine, green tea and tyrosine have all shown promising correlation towards having either an acute effect on metabolism by increasing the rate of caloric breakdown for a short period of time post consumption or by reducing the severity of hormonal downshifts that occur within a restricted calorie diet.

So while the individual ingredients themselves may not enhance a true increase in metabolic rate, if they can minimise the reduction in metabolic performance during a fat loss phase, indirectly they are still providing benefit.

Mood Regulation

Although not directly linked to increasing fat breakdown or fat burn specifically, this component of a fat burner could arguably be one of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a product to assist fat loss. During calorie restricted diets, there is an unquestionable down-regulation of food/flavour satisfaction signals, a reduction in energy and a negative shift in the hormones that make us feel good.

By utilising key dopaminergic stimulants or nootropic amino acids in a fat burner, the user can experience a sense of heightened euphoria, which anecdotally has fantastic evidence for reducing the likelihood of an individual binge eating, breaking their diet or not exercising sufficiently.

The premise of this component in a fat burner is to help assist how you feel in order to allow you to work at the capacity required to make positive habitual changes, as opposed to directly causing fat loss itself.

Appetite Control

Often as a secondary mechanism to the ingredients already listed for the above benefits, fat burners may rely heavily on core ingredients to help control appetite and sugar cravings more effectively.

During a dieting phase, the body simultaneously reduces the levels of hormones that signal food satisfaction, while increasing our senses of smell and taste, alongside stimulating the release of hormones responsible for hunger.

By utilising ingredients to circumnavigate this issue we all experience during a dieting phase, dietary adherence and long-term results tend to be better when appetite assistance is offered.

Not having to deal with extreme hunger may lead to a reduced chance of breaking a diet and long-term can support improved dieting phases.

Final Thoughts

So the question still stands… do fat burners burn fat? As you can see, that particular question is not one that we can answer so directly.

Yes, the stimulation and release of catecholamines like adrenaline, increases lipolysis (the breakdown of fat), so there is a direct effect there, however, the primary determinant for actual fat being burned is indeed reliant upon the calories and macronutrients you consume.

The reality is that the unquestionable understanding of the law of thermodynamics will always reign supreme to supplemental support.

So can a fat burner beat a bad diet? Absolutely not…

But can a fat burner assist you in ensuring that lipolysis is optimised while also supporting the weight loss phase through a reduction in the negative aspects of dieting? Absolutely they can…

Which is the perfect time to remind you once again about the key aspects to remember in this article...

When choosing a fat burner to assist you in your fat loss journey, consider the CONTEXT in which you want to use it and understand it is there to ASSIST and enhance your journey, not stimulate the change on its own.

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Exercise Scientist

I completed my Exercise Science Degree at the University of QLD and have worked in the fitness industry for over 8 years, including a short stint at the Brisbane Broncos in 2010 as a student. I also hold my Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Coach accreditation (ASCA) and have competed in 1 bodybuilding season, placing 2nd at the IFBB u85kg Nationals.

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