The Truth Behind Fat Burners - Do They Work?

You sit there scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and all of a sudden, your eyes are dramatically drawn to the latest fat burner on the marketing promising you’ll lose 5lbs instantly within the first week of taking it. You think to yourself; it can’t hurt to click the link just to see what this is all about. You get to the sales page and there’s an awesome marketing video explaining exactly what it is and why it’s so great.

At this point your heads starts to turn. You want to believe that this tiny little pill is going to be the answer to all your problems. You’re slightly invested in the idea, so without hesitation you scroll down the page for further clarity. Without having to scroll too far, low and behold there’s all these great transformation photos from people who’ve sworn by the product and how it helped them to shed fat like never before. These people obviously weren’t paid by the company to say these things, that would be unthinkable… (hint, hint). Finally, you get to the bottom and can you believe it, today and today only they’ve got a mega 70% discount! Can you believe your luck!? There’s even a timer at the top and bottom of the page counting down, which must mean it’s a real discount and will be gone by tomorrow if you don’t act now. Panic buy!

Okay all joking aside do fat burners really work? I mean, surely you can’t just put an untested product without any results on the market to millions of people claiming insane results without virtually any effort? That would be ludicrous. That would be false advertising. What would anything mean if you could just put any old thing out there, make ridiculous claims about how fabulous it is and sell it to people knowing full they’re wasting their money. We have marketing regulations for a reason, right? Well in actual fact, the FDA (Food And Drug Administration) only play a very minor role in having a say as to what can and can’t go into fat burning supplements, and its often down to the manufacture to test and reveal what ingredients have been put in them. This leaves a big window for a lack of transparency.

The truth is some fat burners can help contribute towards fat loss whilst others don’t have any effect at all. At worst they can actually include dangerous ingredients which haven’t been tested and could be harmful for consumption. Yes, believe it or not, some companies will knowingly do this and market their product thinking only of the fat burning effects rather than whether it’s safe or not. In some way, fat burners have had a heavy influence on giving the weight loss industry a bit of a bad reputation for sleezy marketing and just trying to make a quick buck out of people.

So why do some fat burners work and others don’t? It’s all about what’s in the ingredients and the quantity of said ingredients, but what’s even more important is what you’re doing with your time. What actions are you taking throughout the say which will contribute to their overall effectiveness? And by this, I mean your nutrition and workout plan. Getting the foundations right and only using the product for how it’s intentionally meant to be used. But before we get into that I’m going to explain to you the theory behind fat burners.

The Concept Behind Fat Burners

Now unless you’ve bought a fat burner pill from an unethical and poorly managed business, most of the time the company should declare that a fat burner is not to be used instead of good nutrition and exercise, but only as a supplement to facilitate it. After all, if they don’t tell the truth and manage people’s expectations from the start, ultimately the backlash will come back round on them from poor product reviews when people have used them wrongly and got no results. Don’t be fooled here though, they probably won’t be fully transparent because at the end of the day they have a product to sell.

Okay, so what is the theory behind fat burners? Basically, fat burners aim to do 3 main things:

Supress Appetite

Fat burners try to include ingredients which will naturally help supress your appetite to prevent you form feeling hungry and constantly over eating. They do this by increasing your leptin levels (the feeling of feeling full) whilst simultaneously reducing your ghrelin levels (the feeling of feeling hungry).

This essentially makes us feel like we’re not hungry and therefore don’t need to eat. This will help reduce the number of calories you eat throughout the day.

Increase Metabolism Through Thermogenesis

One of the big claims from fat burners is that it helps speed up your metabolism by increasing your internal body’s temperature by burning calories to produce heat. In return, it’s effectively making your body burn more calories throughout the day and increase its metabolism.


Lipolysis is the breakdown of lipids which involves hydrolysis of triglycerides into glycerol and free fatty acids.

Once the fatty acids are broken down, they enter the bloodstream and can be burned up by our bodies to create energy.

Lipolysis can be defined as the process in the body of breaking down stored triglycerides (or triglycerides in the blood for food we’ve just eaten), into two main components, glycerol and fatty acids.

There’s still not much scientific evidence to support all these claims but some studies have shown fat burners to help facilitate fat loss among individuals along with… you guessed it, proper nutrition (eating in a calorie deficit) and exercise.

In reality you should perceive a fat burner similar to a protein shake. The idea behind a protein shake is to help you get more protein into your diet in a quick and efficient whey (did you see what I did there). In essence, drinking a protein shake will not make your muscles grow in itself, but if you had two a day, along with a sufficient high protein diet hitting your daily macros, went to the gym or did a workout which involved resistance training and progressive overload, over time your muscles would start to grow. The same principle applies with a fat burner. It won’t do the work for you. It can however be used alongside a proper diet and a calorie deficit to help supplement your fat loss.

Think of it like this. If you want to use a fat burner you then your success would constitute of three main components. Diet, exercise and fat burner supplement. Look at the pie chart below to see the significance of each component in regards to losing fat.

It will only give you a helping hand, just like with the protein shakes, but will not do the work for you. This is one of the biggest misinterpretations people have with fat burners. They think that they can just take it as a substitute to doing any of the work which will get them incredible results. It simply does not work like this. I’m going to explain this in more detail now.

How To Make Sure A Fat Burner Never Works

I’m telling you now, there is no legal fat burner on the market that will get you results without you doing any of the work. If you have a sedentary lifestyle where you’re not very active, you have a bad diet, you don’t exercise, your job involves you sitting at a desk all day behind a computer and when you get home it’s pizza and TV, then taking a fat burner is going to do absolutely nothing. You are going to waste your money. Do not bother buying it. Don’t even bother considering buying it. It’s not for you. Even the best fat burner on the market is not going to help you in the slightest. To tell you the truth, even if you were on steroids and had the same lifestyle you would not see any changes in your body apart from very negative ones like acne, damaged liver and balding to name a few.

Quite frankly fat burners aren’t even designed to be used this way. They are a supplement to facilitate your fat loss and only that. The only way for a fat burner pill to work is if you do the following:

These are the core principles of how to lose weight. You must get these nailed before you even consider buying a fat burner, that is of course if you don’t like wasting your hard-earned cash. A fat burner is not to be substituted instead of the aforementioned points, they are to be used alongside it.

How To Get The Best Out Of A Fat Burner

Okay, let’s say you have all nailed these things, your nutrition is on point and you’re hitting the gym and working out frequently. Should you start taking a fat burner from the get go? No. You shouldn’t. Why? Because you’re not going to get the most use out of them. If you’re eating in a calorie deficit and applying resistance/weight training into your routine, you will lose weight. Absolutely guaranteed. Within the first few weeks, you’ll lose it pretty effortlessly. There’s no need to take a fat burner. Your body’s doing just fine without it, let it continue to do its thing.

Another month has gone, you’re still losing weight but progress has started to slow down. Don’t worry, this is normal, keep that finger far away from the panic button. Your body’s just getting a little more used to its new environment. It has to adapt - which it will, and this will inevitably slow your progress down a little. Is it fat burner time yet? Nooo. Sorry. Put your credit card back in your purse or wallet.

You will have to make a slight adjustment though. Either decrease your calories a little bit (don’t go mad here and drastically decrease them), or increase the intensity in your workout. You can even introduce some cardio at this point. This will force your body to kickstart up again, not allowing it to get comfortable with its newly adapted state. Your body doesn’t like to part ways with fat, so imagine you’re backing it up into a corner and saying ‘Hey buddy, if you don’t say goodbye to some of this fat, I’m gonna keep making it harder for you to keep it. You’ll have no choice but to give it up buster’.

Let’s say it’s been 10 weeks, you’ve been eating in a calorie deficit, working out with good intensity and even added a bit of cardio. You’ve been consistent and seen some impressive results. Now however, it’s getting a little but more difficult to cut the fat down. The less body fat % you have, the harder it is to lose those last bits, but I’m talking somewhere around the 12% body fat range. If you’re still nowhere close to that just keep going and applying the same principles you were before and trust the process. You will get there. If, however you’re somewhere around the 12% body fat range, this is the time, providing you still feel it’s necessary to finally hit that fat burner. If you need that last little push to get you over the finishing line then this is the time. Is it absolutely necessary? No, you can still do it without it, but if you feel it’ll give you a little bit extra motivation or that last little push then go for it.

A quick recap here is:

  1. Get your nutrition on point – eat in a calorie deficit

  2. Incorporate resistance training into your routine at least 3-4 times per week

  3. Don’t start using fat burners straight out the gate

  4. First introduce some cardio into your routine before taking a fat burner

  5. Only use a fat burner to edge over the finishing line. Use it for the very last little push at the end. The final 10%.

Ingredients to Look for In Fat Burners

As I said before, some fat burners work (providing your nutrition is point and you’re active) and some fat burners will have absolutely no effect whatsoever. So, what are the key ingredients to look for?

Here’s a list of some of the ingredients to look for in fat burners:

  • p-Synephrine – Particularly look for p-synephrine as it is naturally occurring.

  • Caffeine – This is the main ingredient in most fat burners.

  • Yohimbine – One study showed that fat loss increased in soccer players who used this. However, this ingredient is said to be quite potent and one to be careful with if you already suffer from anxiety. It’s said to make you jittery.

  • Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – A naturally occurring fatty acid which contributes towards body fat loss and retention of muscle. The effectiveness of this is controversial.

  • L-Carnitine – Used in a lot of fat burners but there is a lack of evidence to support its claims of effectiveness.

  • Green Tea Extract – Said to have good effectiveness towards burning fat and other health benefits.

Each fat burner will have their own ingredients which will supposedly make them ‘the best one on the market’ so it’s hard to know exactly which ingredients are the best. There’s also no clear scientifically backed information as to which ingredients are directly linked with fat loss, primarily down to the fact that as mentioned before, there’s no ingredient or ingredients that will single-handily lose fat for you without you doing the main bulk of the work yourself.

As it’s each manufactures responsibility to test and declare what ingredients are put into the product, it’s likely that each review you read or description may be biased in some way or another.

Something here to be aware of is to look for fat burners that say a ‘proprietary blend’ on their ingredients label. Stay clear of these products because there’s often a reason they haven’t been completely transparent as to what exactly is in their product - this could be because the ingredients are potentially harmful or very weak in terms of fat loss.

Choosing Your Fat Burner

If you’re dead set on buying a fat burner because you think that’s what’s needed to give you an extra boost and get you over the finishing line to reach your weight loss goals then the best thing you can do is do your own research. I’ve given you a list of some of the things to look for in fat burners but you need to go out there and decide for yourself. You’re the one that’s going to be buying it so it’s fair to say it’s your responsibility to find out more information and make the final decision in which one to get.

Watch videos on YouTube (be careful some will be biased or paid promotions), read non-biased reviews, do research on the ingredients and ask friends or people you know who’ve taken them before, for their advice and feedback.

Look for companies that aren’t making any ludicrous claims about their fat burner and mention some of the things that I’ve already mentioned in this article, such as making sure you’re doing the foundational stuff right before you commit to using their supplement. They’re obviously not going to put you off buying their product but the more honest and open they are could be a good indicator that they’re an ethical company and their product will represent that as being good quality.

At the end of the day, providing you don’t consume one with any potentially harmful substances, the worst that can happen is you waste your money and don’t get the results you wanted. Life goes on and it could be a valuable lesson learned. Some people react better than others to the stimulant and of course there’s also the placebo effect which makes it impossible to definitely say whether a fat burner is 100% effective or not.

Final Thoughts

So, if I haven’t made it clear by now a fat burner will not do the work for you and should only be used as a supplement to help you over the finishing line, towards the very end of your weight loss journey.

A fat burner is not necessary to get you the results you want. Even if progress does slow down towards the end, you can break the plateau without the use of the supplement from slightly decreasing calories or increasing exercise. Effectively you can save your money.

However, that doesn’t mean to say that all fat burners are useless. Providing they have ingredients in them which have been supported to contribute to fat loss, and the quantity of those ingredients are sufficient without becoming harmful, they can play a role in increasing fat loss.

Stay away from products that have a proprietary blend on the label because more often than not there’s a reason why they aren’t being clear about what’s inside their product.

If you think a fat burner is what you need to assist you with the final 10% of your efforts then go for it, just make sure you do some research beforehand and make sure the sources in which you do your research from aren’t biased towards the product. Most of the time companies pay people to leave positive reviews about their product to influence more people to buy it.

The most important thing you need to ensure you lose weight is to eat in a calorie deficit, include exercise primarily in the form of weight/resistance training and be consistent with it. This is where the effectiveness of your results lye.

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