Fat burners are becoming increasingly popular among people who are seeking to lose weight fast. I’ll admit that these weight loss supplements may enhance the loss of body fat, particularly when combined with a sensible eating plan and a proper exercise routine. However, unbeknownst to many, fat burners aren’t “magical” pills and they are not at all necessary for successful weight loss.
In fact, their potential effectiveness is solely due to the combinations of stimulants and other ingredients they house which work together to trigger the body’s thermogenic process (thermogenesis).
What is Thermogenesis?
Simply stated, thermogenesis involves the production of heat within the body, a process that ultimately raises the metabolic rate (metabolism). Metabolism is the amount of calories you need to sustain vital bodily functions. The higher your metabolism, the more calories you’ll burn at rest and during everyday physical activities. So, any process that activates thermogenesis will inherently promote weight loss by boosting your body’s ability to burn fat.
The general relevance of the thermogenic process lies in the fact that reduced thermogenesis can impair weight loss. This holds especially true when you’re restricting calories through dieting as your body quickly adapts to reductions in food intake by lowering your metabolism in order to preserve energy. This process of “adaptive thermogenesis” prevents the loss of body fat, which is the ultimate goal of weight loss. As such, thermogenic aids are primarily used to counter adaptive thermogenesis.
The general relevance of the thermogenic process lies in the fact that reduced thermogenesis can impair weight loss.
What are Some Known Thermogenic Aids?
Caffeine, ephedrine, and hydroxycitric acid are among the most well known thermogenic aids. Widely marketed fat burners and similar weight loss supplements (Hydroxycut, Xenadrine, Dexatrim, Ripped Fuel, and Garcina Cambogia) typically include some combination of these compounds. While caffeine and ephedrine are both natural stimulants, hydroxycitric acid is not.
Caffeine has been shown to increase the metabolic rate while also enhancing the body’s ability to burn fat, which can ultimately speed up weight loss. The fat-burning effects of caffeine are greatly maximized when ephedrine is thrown into the mix. Interestingly, aspirin is often used in fat burners to increase the speed and overall effectiveness of ephedrine and caffeine, a combination known as ECA (ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin).
Hydroxycitric acid is the active ingredient in recently popularized Garcinia Cambogia supplements. This particular compound has been proven effective in enhancing fat metabolism, digestion, and the hormonal regulation of appetite. However, I should note that evidence pertaining to these effects is largely based on small scale, short-term studies most of which were conducted in animals.
How Can You Naturally Trigger Thermogenesis?
Those of you who either know or follow me are fully aware that I never endorse supplements of any kind. Despite the potential thermogenic effects of fat burners and similar weight loss supplements, there’s truly a lack of reliable evidence to support their long-term benefits. If you’re really trying to lose weight there are many natural ways to trigger thermogenesis that don’t require excessive pill popping. Here are six of them.
1. Engaging in Weight Training
Due to its effects on muscle, regular weight (resistance) training can significantly elevate metabolism. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate. Moreover, this type of training can sporadically boost metabolism through thermogenesis. In fact, an intense weight training session can elevate the metabolic rate for up to 12 hours.
2. Eating High-Protein Foods
The simple act of digesting protein can temporarily raise your metabolism by as much as 35%. You can get an adequate supply of protein from healthy food sources like fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy, and whole soy products. Make it a practice to consume about 0.50-0.80 grams of protein per pound of your body weight.
3. Increasing Your Fiber Intake
Consuming fiber-rich foods can trigger thermogenesis and increase your overall metabolism. Eating fiber also makes you feel fuller sooner and for a longer period of time, which reduces the urge to overeat. For maximum benefit, make an effort to consume about 25-35 grams of fiber each day from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
4. Adding Spices to Your Diet
Spicy foods like hot peppers contain a natural chemical called capsaicin, which can cause dramatic spikes in metabolism. In fact, eating red hot peppers has been shown to increase the metabolic rate by over 20% immediately after ingestion. Adding hot pepper varieties to meals can also help curb your appetite causing you to eat less.
5. Enjoying A Little Coffee or Green Tea
Due to the presence of caffeine, drinking coffee and green tea has been proven to increase the metabolic rate for up to 3 hours after consumption. Regularly drinking these beverages also enhances your body’s natural ability to burn fat. You can reap the full benefits of coffee or tea by drinking as little as two 6-8-ounce cups per day.
6. Drinking Plenty of Cold Water
In order to maintain a healthy metabolism, regular consumption of water is an absolute must. Cold water is best as it can raise the metabolic rate by 25-30% during the first hour after drinking it. This increase primarily results from the energy required to heat the water once it is ingested. Yet another reason to drink at least 8-12 cups a day!
Exercising and eating sensibly while incorporating these six strategies into your daily routine is a sure way to kick your metabolism into high gear through thermogenesis. While fat burners and similar weight loss supplements may also be beneficial, they certainly aren’t necessary. Given the poor regulation of dietary supplements in the United States I’d certainly recommend consulting with your physician before even attempting to incorporate such supplements into your diet.