If you’re looking to drop a few pounds you may have been tempted by weight management supplements and, before you hit ‘buy’, you’ve stopped to ask yourself – are fat burners safe?
It’s a good question and we’ve got the science here to help answer it.
These ingredients and supplement stacks are widely available and often claim to help you lose weight.
While some products are backed by science, the fat burner industry as a whole is unregulated – and that means it can be unsafe to buy from some companies.
However, that doesn’t mean you should forgo a fat burner completely, as they can offer support to dieting efforts.
Instead, with a little know-how, you can identify the good from the bad and find a suitable product for you.
Read this article to find out how to identify safe fat burners, what ingredients to avoid and the best ways to side-step any potential adverse effects.
What is a fat burner?
A fat burner is an ingredient, or stack of ingredients used to help enhance your ability to lose weight.
There are a variety of foods and drinks that are capable of doing this, and many of them provide different methods to support this end goal.
Fat burner supplements often utilize a variety of these ingredients to make a up formula or product.
When exploring fat burner ingredients, these are the main ingredient types you’ll find:
These foods and drinks work by triggering a thermogenic state. This means they force your body to heat up slightly. Creating this extra heat uses energy, therefore your overall metabolism raises to accommodate the additional calories you’ll be burning.
Thermogenic ingredients can often have the coupled benefit of heightening fat oxidization. This means your body can target fat for fuel over carbohydrates more readily.
- Green tea
- Cayenne pepper
[Related Article: 3 Thermogenic Ingredients that Really Work]
These can help you burn fat by controlling your food portions and stemming cravings. One of the best ways to ensure you lose weight is to cut back on calories.
By suppressing appetite and subduing cravings, you’ll feel fuller for longer and will therefore be less likely to break your diet or cheat.
The most widely used, glucomannan has been proven to slow the stomach emptying process which improves satiety, and can lead to weight loss .
Appetite suppressant examples:
Potential fat burner side effects and how to avoid them
Here, we’ll offer more information about the side effects or potential dangers of the most widely used fat burners in the industry.
Some options we mentioned above are generally free from any adverse effects, therefore if they’re not mentioned below, you should assume they are safe.
Side effects of this fat burners include:
- In extremely high doses: death
How to avoid symptoms:
The US Department of Agriculture say 400mg of caffeine spread throughout the day is a safe amount of the stimulant . This equates to around 2-4 cups of coffee a day, depending on how strong you take it.
To avoid the above symptoms, we recommend you ensure your caffeine-based fat burner contains less than 200mg in one serving.
Fatal doses of caffeine have been noted at around 500mg in a single dose .
If you do decide to opt for a fat burner, we’d suggest you adjust your caffeine intake to accommodate the extra stimulant in your system.
We’d also recommend avoiding drinking coffee within 5 hours of heading to bed to sleep.
If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, then consider opting for a stimulant free fat burner. This significantly reduces the chances of you experiencing any adverse symptoms.
Overall, caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world and, on the whole, is considered safe to use. Many fat burners that include caffeine can be safely used, simply check the servings sizes and accommodate the additional stimulant into your daily intake.
Side effects of green tea include:
How to avoid symptoms:
Green tea contains a small amount of caffeine, however it’s not as much as coffee and it shouldn’t give you any real side effects as long as you remain hydrated and account for the extra stimulants in your system.
If you do decide to use a green tea fat burner, we’d recommend you cut out a cup of coffee each day to ensure you’re not exceeding a safe amount.
Side effects of cayenne pepper include:
How to avoid symptoms:
Cayenne pepper is widely consumed and is generally considered safe to consume.
However, some reports have indicated it can cause stomachaches, which is linked to the spice associated with the pepper . However, this usually only occurs at very high levels, and the majority of supplements don’t include enough to cause irritation.
You can also avoid this by opting for a product that contains extracted capsaicin. This singles out the bioactive alkaloids that help boost your metabolism, to deliver them without the spice and irritation that comes with it.
Side effects of glucomannan include:
- Choking (in very rare cases)
How to avoid symptoms:
This appetite suppressant is widely used and generally considered very safe on the whole.
If it’s taken in its raw powdered form and washed down with a glass of water, it can begin to swell in the throat.
However, in a capsule form, and when taken with water, this can be avoided and is considered to be very safe.
What are proprietary blends?
One of the most dangerous things manufacturers can add to their formula is a proprietary blend.
In the supplements industry, unscrupulous companies can hide behind a blend. When you see this on a label, it means the manufacturer have used a number of undisclosed ingredients, at concealed servings.
Essentially you have no idea what is going into this type of blend. It could be fine, or it could add potentially dangerous synthetic ingredients to your fat burner.
A proprietary blend is not worth the risk and could make a product dangerous.
On a label they may be described in a slightly different way. For example, look out for ‘signature fat burning blend’ or something similar.
What about unnatural fat burners?
In a bid to increase fat burning potential and sell more products, many companies decide to use synthetic, lab-made ingredients.
Avoid these at all costs.
Your body is not designed to process unnatural ingredients, and rather than promoting a healthier lifestyle, they can often lead to unknown reactions and adverse symptoms.
A natural fat burner is far safer. Every ingredient is taken from mother nature, is a vitamin or mineral or is even produced naturally by the body.
These are designed to support your natural functions and work harmoniously with your body. This is your best bet to making a healthy difference.
[Related Article: Best Natural Fat Burners for Women ]
Are fat burners safe?
One study reviewed the safety of taking a natural mixed thermogenic fat burner over the course of 28-days and found it completely safe to use during this time .
However, as this is an unregulated industry, issues can occur.
With a fat burner the main issues to be aware of are over-serving caffeine, synthetic ingredients and proprietary blends.
However, if you follow these simple guidelines you can have a much safer, more trustworthy experience with a fat burner:
- Only ever use a natural fat burner – your body isn’t designed to absorb synthetic ingredients
- Always check the supplement facts to ensure the stimulant content is within the safety guidelines above
- Follow the manufacturers consumption guidelines
- Adjust your caffeine intake to accommodate any additional stimulants
- Avoid proprietary blends completely
The final word
While fat burners can cause some side effects, they can be well tolerated and often can be used without causing any unwanted symptoms.
So are fat burners safe? A lot of them are.
By sticking to higher quality natural products and using only reliable manufacturers, you can benefit from a fat burner without worrying about risk.
- B, K. (2005). Glucomannan and obesity: a critical review. – PubMed – NCBI. [online]
- Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. USDA. Feb 2015
- Hodgson AB1, Randell RK, Jeukendrup AE. The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise. PLoS One. 2013;8(4), 2013
- Authors, n. (2007). Final report on the safety assessment of capsicum annuum extract, capsicum annuum fruit extract, capsicum annuum resin, capsicum annuum fruit powde… – PubMed – NCBI. [online]
- Vogel RM, Joy JM, Falcone PH, Mosman MM, Kim MP, Moon JR. Consuming a multi-ingredient thermogenic supplement for 28 days is apparently safe in healthy adults. Food Nutr Res. 2015;59:27999. Published 2015 Jul 22.