Weight Loss

What are Fat Burners? – Safety, Effectiveness and More

If you’re looking to drop a couple of pounds, whether it’s that last little bit or you’re going for a complete transformation, chances are you’ve decided to turn to fat burners. With so many out there, and such a controversial reputation, you’re probably asking yourself some very important questions about these supplements.

To help you find out what fat burners are, what they’re realistically capable of and whether you should take them, we’ve created a complete guide to these supplements.

What are fat burners?

A fat burner is a dietary supplement, which usually contain natural food and plant extracts and vitamins and minerals designed to help you support weight loss. They are not magic pills and should only be taken when paired with a restricted calorie diet and exercise.

Fat burners are often used when someone feels they need some kind of helping hand with their weight loss. Many people turn to these supplements because they’re designed with the intention of helping to support the different stages of the dieting process.

For many, they offer thermogenic supplements like caffeine, cayenne pepper and green tea which have been linked to stimulating metabolism. Many products also claim that the caffeine can help you to stay energized in order to improve activity, and further support weight loss.

Some supplements also use appetite suppressants like glucomannan which have been linked to reducing hunger pangs and cravings, along with portion sizes.

The most important thing to remember about fat burners, is that they are not the solution to your weight loss needs. Simply by taking these supplements alone, you will not lose weight – that is the result of a calorie restricted diet and an active lifestyle.

It’s also important to remember that this is an unregulated industry, therefore there’s no set amount of caffeine or cayenne pepper you have to use in order to offer results – the quality and quantity of each ingredient comes down to the discretion of the manufacturer.

While ingredients within these supplements may be backed by science, there’s no guaranteeing that the doses and ingredients used in individual fat burners will offer results. And that leads nicely into our next section…

Do fat burners work?

Due to the irresponsible way these products are marketed, it’s no surprise that many women believe taking three capsules a day, swilled down with a glass of water could lead to weight loss. We’ll reiterate again, a fat burner alone will not cause weight loss, this comes from creating a calorie deficit through a controlled nutrition plan and exercise.

However, if the research is right and a product offers an ingredient profile that genuinely reflects those findings, then it might work – it’s just never really been proven. 

As we said before, this is an unregulated industry, so there is absolutely no guarantee that every fat burner could work. Each formula is different, therefore you need to find the one that offers both quality and quantity.

All the evidence we have about thermogenic fat burners comes from research papers online, and it’s here you can start to get a good picture of what a supplement could do for you.

Now, a lot of manufacturers find which ones are backed by research, and simply add the ingredient at low servings simply so people will see it on the label, and think it will offer some results. Of course, the reality of the situation is, you need the right amount of any ingredient to influence any kind of change in your body.

A miniscule amount of paracetamol will not help to dull pain compared to an effective serving – an ingredient serving would work in the same way.

On top of that, you need to ensure you’re doing everything you can to help the fat burner ‘work’. That means figuring out your calorie intake, perfecting your nutrition, lifting weights, doing cardio and sticking at all of this consistently for weeks at a time.

Only then, when all of these needs have been met does a quality fat burner have a chance to work.

[Related Article: Hourglass Fit Fat Burner Review]

Are fat burners safe?

are fat burners safe

Again, there isn’t a definitive answer to this because every single fat burner supplement is different. However, if you know what to look out for, then taking a fat burner can be a very safe experience.

The biggest concern with a fat burner is always the caffeine content. As this is one of the most widely researched and proven thermogenic supplements, many manufacturers provide very high and dangerous serving sizes.

Avoid any supplement that gives you more than 300mg of caffeine in a day. If you’re sensitive to caffeine or like to enjoy a few cups of coffee a day, you could opt for a stimulant free option.

Many women prefer a stim-free fat burner, as it provides a gentler approach that offers lower risks of side effects and is a lot safer in general.

You should also aim to avoid ingredients like synephrine and bitter orange, as they have been linked to heart problems.

As well as the fat burner itself, you should also ensure you’re being as safe as possible when you’re dieting by eating the right amount of calories.

When dieting, it can be tempting to drop your calories to very low levels. This can be unsafe and, if you combine a fat burner with this, you may be increasing the damage.

A bigger calorie deficit is not always the answer, instead you should aim to look for healthy weight loss at a sustainable rate. This is also key if you want to keep the weight off. Let’s face it, very few of us want to lose fat so we can put it all back on again, and that’s what happens with extreme and dangerous dieting.

Instead, to keep your body healthy and get the most out of your fat burner safely, you should aim for just a 10-20% calorie deficit.

Are fat burners the best way to lose weight?

The answer with this section is a far more definitive no.

Weight loss always comes down to achieving a calorie deficit, and that is the result of watching the calories you eat, enjoying a healthy diet and exercising regularly. There’s no secret formula, it’s really quite simple when you look at the science.

However, it’s one thing saying it’s simple, but another thing putting all that into action in your day to day life and sticking to it. If weight loss was easy, we’d all be succeeding every single time we do it.

But, the first step to getting there is understanding that eating right, exercising and staying healthy is the only way to drop fat – not fat burners or any other fad.

Instead of seeing fat burners as ‘the’ way to lose weight, if we look at a fat burner as a support system for your efforts, then they can become a lot more useful to you.

Think of them as a crutch that could help to maximize your work on your diet and in the gym, and you should have a much healthier relationship with this supplement, and are more likely to be happy with the results.

The best way to lose weight:

The best way to lose fat is a result of the following things:

  • Calculate your BMR, then drop your calories by a healthy 10-20%. This is a healthy and sustainable way of losing weight that should help you keep it off in the long run.
  • Lift weights regularly and combine this with high intensity interval training. Combining both of these methods is the most time efficient and effective ways to drop the pounds [1] [2]
  • Enjoy a high protein diet. This macro requires more energy for you body to digest, so a high protein diet increases you calorie burn, and helps build muscle to further support your metabolism [3] [4].
  • Eat a varied diet. Ensuring you eat a colorful diet that’s packed full of vegetables and fruit is key to keeping your metabolism working at it’s best.

By ticking off all these things, you can lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way that will benefit your body and will keep you at your goal weight in the long term. It really is the best way to lose fat.

[Related Article: 5 Best Fat Burners for Women

What are the best fat burner ingredients?

best fat burner ingredients

Navigating the world of fat burner supplements is no easy task, but if you know what to search for, then you can find a safe, high quality product that could offer the support you’re looking for.

To help you find these rare products, we’ve made a list of the ingredients that make a good fat burner. We’ve picked these out based on the research they have behind them.

This gives us a good idea of the safety, effectiveness and quality of an ingredient. Here are the safest, natural and most scientifically backed options out there.

Caffeine anhydrous

You may see this form of caffeine in a lot of fat burners. It’s a dehydrated version of the stimulant, which is easier to add to capsules and powders, and has even been shown to offer a better energizing effect than other forms [5].

Caffeine has also been shown to create a thermogenic reaction. This means it stimulates your nervous system, causing your body to heat up and therefore burn through more calories [6]. One study even found that supplementing with caffeine increased metabolic rate by 11% [7].

It’s also been shown to improve direct fat burning, as it helps the body draw on excess fat cells for fuel [8].

What’s more, it may help to suppress appetite, as one study found that those who regularly drank coffee consumed less calories throughout the day than those who didn’t [9]. This is promising but more research is needed.

Note: It’s worth noting that, while this is one of the most commonly used and widely researched fat burner ingredients, the serving sizes are often abused by many supplement manufacturers. Try to avoid anything with more than 300mg of caffeine in it, as this could lead to side effects and safety issues.

Green tea

Green tea is another very popular choice for a fat burner, which comes with a range of research studies backing it up.

Green tea contains two thermogenic compounds, caffeine and antioxidants called catechins.

When used in combination these two have been proven to trigger thermogenesis [10]. In fact, one study found that supplementing with green tea extract helped to boost fat burning by an average of 179 calories a day [11].

In terms of weight loss, there’s research out there to suggest it works. In a 12-week trial, overweight women who regularly supplemented with the green tea extract lost a significant amount of weight in comparison to women who took the placebo [12].

On top of all this, green tea is widely used in the health and fitness community due to it’s antioxidizing properties.


While other elements on this list are thermogenic fat burners, glucomannan is an appetite suppressant. One specialist even speculated that it could be the answer to America’s obesity epidemic [13].

Found in the konjac root, this soluble fiber expands slightly when digested, which helps to fill you up and keep you fuller for longer by slowing the stomach emptying process [14].

It’s been shown to lead to weight loss on a number of occasions and is effective in reducing cravings and helping cut down portion sizes [15].

We think this is a particularly important ingredient in a fat burner for women, as the temptation of sweet treats at key points of the menstrual cycle can be ruin dieting efforts.

Good servings of glucomannan sit between 2-4g spread throughout the day [16].

Cayenne pepper

Hot, spicy foods can help to induce a thermogenesis and cayenne pepper provides high levels of capsaicin, which is responsible for triggering this reaction.

It’s also been shown to heat up the body, which has lead to a boosted thermogenic rate and increase overall energy expenditure [17].

Cayenne pepper has also been linked to increased fat oxidation, which means it helps your body to utilize fat for energy [18].

What are fat burners? – conclusion

After reading this guide, we hope you know everything there is to know about fat burner supplements.

We’ve covered everything from what there are through to the ingredients you should be looking out for.

The main takeaway from this article, should be that fat burners are not a solution to weight loss, they’re simply a support to accompany your healthy calorie restricted diet and exercise.

If you’re looking for a high quality product that ticks off safety, uses well researched ingredients and should help to support you, check out our review of the 5 best fat burners for women right here.


gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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