- Caffeine and Green Tea Extract are the most popular ingredients in fat burners
- Fat burners are not a fat loss strategy
- Fat burners seem to be an expensive placebo effect
Golden ticket to fat loss or giant waste of money?
In this article I’m going to break down the top 10 best selling Fat Burners on Amazon (as of June 2021) to see if they could be part of an effective fat loss plan based on current research.
Main Fat Burner Ingredients
I wanted to come into this as unbiased as possible, leaving it up to my research and not my personal opinion. So as you’ll see below I went with very generous grading to overcome any potential bias I may have.
When I researched this article, I took the top 10 best selling fat burners according to Amazon, took an inventory of all their ingredients, then found the most repeated ones and looked at the fat loss benefits of those ingredients.
If I did each ingredient in all 10 this article would take me 6 months to write. Seriously some of these products had ingredient lists that look like the list my wife gives me of shit she wants done around the house.
My thoughts on only doing the most popular ingredients is that if they are used the most often they either have the legit most fat burning benefits or at very least a myth that they do. Either way is helpful for this article.
Once I got the big hitters I went to Examine.com and Pubmed to research 1) their effectiveness in fat burning and 2) the minimum effective dose according to the research if there were fat burning benefits.
For fat burning I looked at a few different topics. Those were:
Thermogenesis- Increase calorie burn
Appetite Suppression- Don’t want to eat, can’t gain weight
Metabolic Rate – Faster metabolism = more calories burned
Fat Oxidation- The percent of fat burned compared to glucose
If the ingredients fell into one of the above categories it got credit for fat burning and I pulled the effective dose given.
[Drum roll please]
And the most used ingredients in fat burners were (in no particular order):
Green Tea Extract
Green Coffee Bean Extract
Garcinia Fruit Extract
Olive Leaf Extract
Caffeine is the drug we all know and love. In the world of fat loss, caffeine’s claim to fame is that it increases your metabolic rate, fat oxidation, and thermogenesis.
All these claims are true btw….in the short term.
If your normal one cup of Joe in the morning has turned into a 2-3 cup or I can’t function habit then you know what’s coming next.
With caffeine, and stimulants in general, we become desensitized to them. Which means more is needed to get that morning kick in the ass to start your day
The same holds true for the fat loss benefits of caffeine. The longer we consume them the less effective they become.
Regardless of that, the research shows in the short term, ~3-4mg/kg of bodyweight of caffeine is the dose that has been shown to increase fat burning benefits. So for the guy weighing 180 lbs you’re looking at 245-327 mg of caffeine.
Green Tea Extract
I’m sure you’ve read the stories about how Green Tea helps you burn fat or a “super food” . The reason for that is the molecule EGCG.
EGCG has been shown to increase fat oxidation in combination with caffeine.
Now the caveat to that is, Green Tea Extract which was most popular in all the fat burner supplements I looked at, is ~45% EGCG, and oftentimes less. So the effective dose below would mean you would need to double up (plus a little) the amount of Green Tea Extract to get the results of EGCG.
^^ Important point to keep in mind.
Based on the research, 300-500mg of EGCG has been shown to increase fat oxidation. That means 666-1,111mg of Green Tea Extract is needed assuming 45% EGCG.
Now the studies on these final four ingredients are suspect at best. Either they have not been tested in humans (or there was a very small sample size), show a lack of results in humans, or the studies were backed by people that have vested interest in positive results.
Meaning, none of these results can be trusted yet.
With that said, as of today, I’m going to say these last four aren’t good or bad for fat loss based on the info we have. I’d love to update this article in the future when there is more research but I can’t in good faith tell you one way or the other that these have fat burning benefits when I’d be relying on hearsay and suspect research.
But like I mentioned earlier, I’m going to grade on a curve so if these four ingredients are on the label with the dose shown in a study with positive results, I’ll give the fat burner credit.
So I’ll just list out the doses that have been studied so far and the results.
Green Coffee Bean Extract
Seemingly Effective Dose :400-500mg
Reason Suspect: Limited studies and backed by Green Coffee Bean Extract manufacturers
Seemingly Effective Dose: .545-2.18mg/kg in rats (870-3700 mg for 150lb person)
Reason Suspect: Results have only been shown in rats, human studies haven’t shown positive results
Garcinia Fruit Extract
Seemingly Effective Dose: 500mg 3x per day (50-60% HCA)
Reason Suspect: Small sample size of human studies
Olive Leaf Extract
Seemingly Effective Dose: N/A
Reason Suspect: Only animal studies
So…Do Fat Burners Work
The million dollar question, amiright?
Before we get into if they work, I need to drop an analogy on you to describe the fat loss process.
Let’s say your car had a gas pump hooked up to it which kept your tank full at all times.
Pretty dope right?
Drive 100mph for an hour…tank was still full.
Let it idle in the driveway to warm it up in the winter…tank was still full.
Drove all over the country hitting every Grateful Dead concert…tank was still full.
No matter what you did, your gas tank was always filled by the gas pump attached to your car.
This is kinda how fat loss works.
In the analogy, gas is food and the gas pump attached to your car that constantly fills up your tank is you ingesting calories, either liquid or food calories. And the emptying of your gas tank is the calorie deficit you need for fat loss.
So if you don’t fix your gas pump problem (in this instance it’s a problem) you’ll never lose fat despite doing all these high gas consumption things (aka taking fat burners, tons of cardio etc.).
So if you want the claimed benefits of fat burners, you NEED to be in a calorie deficit or else you’re just flushing money down the toilet.
Hell the Hydroxycut ad tells you that:
SIDE NOTE: The “scientific study” they mention is based on sales data, not an actual scientific study with control groups and randomized participants. I give this as much scientific credit as I do that Ranger Rick had a 10 foot dick.
If you are in a calorie deficit and take a fat burner, will you lose more weight?
Not 100% sure on that one to be honest. The research is dicy. But even if it’s a placebo effect and it helps you lose weight because you stick to your diet better then it is worth the money in my opinion.
So in the end, sure fat burners could work…maybe…but I know one thing that THEY ARE NOT A MAGIC PILL THAT WILL OVERCOME EATING TOO MUCH.
So with that said, let’s see which fat burners, if any, are the best.
Which Fat Burner Is The Best
Before we look through the top 10 on Amazon again, I want to say I don’t endorose supplements or have any kind of vested interest in them.
I’m of the mindset of less is more and focus on the basics to get results. Personally the only supplements I take are protein powder, creatine and vitamin D in the winter. And I only keep protein powder in there for when I’m busy and need a quick protein snack. Everything else I get from my diet and I encourage my clients to do the same as well. (And I’ll show you what that can do in a bit.)
When I looked through these fat burners here’s what I’m looking for:
Caffeine: ~300mg per serving
Green Tea Extract (EGCG): 300-500mg of EGCG
And to a lesser extent
Green Coffee Bean Extract: 400-500mg
Raspberry Ketones: 870-3700 mg for 150lb person
Garcinia Fruit Extract: 500mg 3x per day (50-60% HCA)
And literally zero of the top 10 had even the right amount of caffeine and EGCG needed. Seeing that, I was like OK, let’s drop the caffeine content to ~100-200mg because let’s be honest 300mg of caffeine is a shit ton but keep everything else in their range. Again, grading on a curve here.
…still zero fat burners reach that criteria.
…OK, how about the top 25? Now we are getting into my freshman Biology class grading territory where a 50 was considered passing.
…and that’s a big ol’ goose egg
ZERO fat burners had the amount that has been shown (even in suspect studies) what is needed to make a difference in fat burning.
If someone you know has gotten results from fat burners it was likely a placebo effect which made them stick to their diet more.
My Take On Fat Burners
Having dabbled in the world of fat burners in the early 2000’s, I can honestly say taking them is like rearranging chairs on the Titanic even if they do work as a placebo.
Meaning it’s a short term fix.
To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. Fat burners DO NOT put you in a calorie deficit. From what I can see they are just an expensive caffeine pill.
They claim to make fat oxidation easier but if you aren’t eating in a calorie deficit we are back to the gas pump in your car analogy again. Energy in and out are in equilibrium and no weight is lost but hey, your pockets are lighter.
If fat burners are your only strategy to losing weight, I’d reassess your plan.
Focus on a calorie deficit with a plan like tracking calories and you’ll be a lot more successful.
Counting Calories is THE BEST fat burner on the market. It’s proven to work 100% of the time and you don’t have to spend money on it either. And below is your sexy marketing.
Start with the basics of finding a good diet you can stick to. My suggestion is calorie counting which I outlined here. Then get really good at the diet. And by really good I mean accuracy is 95% of the time on point and you know exactly what to do in every situation life throws at you.
If you can nail those, then there will be no need for fat burners because you’ll look like my man Robert below.
I’ve been part of some pretty dope transformations and not once did we use fat burners. It was all getting really good at the basics.