Do fat burners, weight-loss supplements actually work?

emmerson campbell logoYou may see them advertised in magazines, on television and online: “ultimate fat burner,” “super fat burner,” green tea fat burner,” and products that claim to be able to “melt away fat,” “burn calories” and “instantly reduce body fat.” Do they really work? I did some research and this week I will try to discuss them in detail.

In an article earlier this year, ‘Not a race for the swift’ I pointed out the importance of a calorie deficit to weight loss. Simply put, if more calories go in than leave, then you gain weight. If fewer calories go in than leave, then you lose weight. But you don’t want to lose muscle along with the fat, so exercise and a healthy diet are important too.

People consider weight-loss supplements when the basic tenets of weight loss are not working, or not as quickly as they would like. Whilst several of these pills and powders are prescription drugs and should be used under a doctor’s supervision, many others are sold over the counter. When deciding if you should use any of them, you need to consider that weight loss supplements work by:

1) Suppressing appetite

2) Lowering digestion efficiency

3) Increasing activity level

4) Increasing heat output

Most weight-loss supplements contain stimulants like caffeine, ephedrine or DMAA (Methylhexanamine), which is not legal in some countries. Stimulants help you to lose weight because they make you more active and they make your temperature higher so you produce more heat.

Suppressing your appetite: Suppressing your appetite can be accomplished in many ways. Making food taste bad or making your stomach feel fuller than it really is, are two common ways. You can do this yourself by eating bland, unsalted foods and drinking lots of water. For people who are obese, doctors may prescribe Qsymia, which has phentermine as an active ingredient. Phentermine is an appetite suppressant. Qsymia has a number of side effects and therefore a doctor needs to decide if it should be used, based on a person’s age, weight and medical history.

Lowering digestion efficiency: Lowering digestion efficiency isn’t very common in supplements but many weight loss supplements advertise this. The healthiest way to lower digestion efficiency is to consume fibre  (ie vegetables) because fibre lowers digestion efficiency. Lots of water taken with a meal also lowers the digestion efficiency. Some prescription drugs work       in this way as well, like Orlistat which interferes with the way fat is digested and absorbed into the body. Orlistat is used to treat obesity under a doctor’s supervision.

Increasing activity level: You should not need a pill or a powder to increase your activity level. Everyone knows that exercise is not only good for the body, but necessary. And as I said in that January column, the race is not for the swift so do not burn yourself out. Try to exercise every day so that it becomes a way of life.

Increasing heat output: The body’s internal temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body heats up when you exercise or do any other strenuous activity or if you develop a fever (the body’s way of fighting an infection). Your body continuously generates heat and in order to cool down it needs to release some of that heat into the air around you. When you get too hot, your body’s thermal regulator should kick in and cause you to sweat. Sometimes this does not happen when fever is present and other methods of cooling the body must be used. There are weight loss supplements that can trick your body into performing this action, but again the question is why you would need them when you can heat up and cool down through exercise!

Swimming, for instance, is said to be one of the best ways to lose weight. A swimmer uses her/his entire body to swim every muscle is involved and calories are burned. But at the same time, because you are in water, you are also burning calories to keep your body warm; generating heat.

Think about it, do you really need pharmaceuticals for weight loss? If losing weight was as easy as taking a pill, everyone would be doing it. In summary: There are no shortcuts, you have to exercise more and eat less.

Stay tuned, friends.

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