We all want a magic pill that can help us burn fat. Unfortunately, those don't exist. However, natural fat burners — foods and nutritional supplements that have fat-burning properties — can aid a healthy diet and exercise plan.
However, they cannot solve your weight concerns on their own; that requires you to also change your habits and aim for a healthy lifestyle.
You can find natural fat burners in foods, including herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Alternatively, you can purchase fat-burning supplements that come in capsules, powders, and liquids that you typically take alongside meals. All of these offer natural ways to boost your fat-burning and weight loss efforts.
How Do Fat Burners Work?
Fat burners work in several different ways. Some block fat from being absorbed from the food you eat. Others influence insulin in your body, which affects blood sugar and how much fat gets stored in cells. Finally, some speed up your metabolism.
When your metabolism increases, it accelerates the speed that fat and other body tissues break down. The process, called diet-induced thermogenesis, increases your body's calorie burn, helping you drop pounds.
Natural Fat Burners
Scientific evidence suggests that several ingredients may help burn fat. Natural options are better than synthetic, chemical fat burners which come with a host of side effects. Always go natural and seek the highest-quality ingredients. Below are a handful of fat burners that may help on your weight loss journey.
Caffeine helps you workout longer and even enhances your exercise performance, which helps your body burn more fat!
Caffeine, the main ingredient in coffee, tea, and chocolate, is a natural fat burner. It stimulates the nervous system and helps the body burn fat by boosting metabolism.
Consuming five milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body mass one hour before a workout can even enhance exercise performance and result in weight loss, according to one study.
Another study found that combining caffeine with low-intensity exercise helps the body burn more fat than exercise alone. Plus, caffeine may also help you work out longer.
However, caffeine makes some people jittery, anxious, and unable to fall asleep, so limit your consumption to moderate amounts.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract, the most concentrated form of green tea, contains a powerful antioxidant called EGCG ( epigallocatechin-3-gallate). EGCG stimulates metabolism and, as a bonus, improves heart health.
Scientists aren't exactly sure how green tea works as a natural fat burner, but studies show it can reduce food intake as well as fat absorption; when fat isn't absorbed, it passes through the digestive system, into the stool, and out of the body.
Green tea extract also increases the body's energy use due to thermogenesis — the process of burning calories through digestion.[4, 5] Green tea extract may cause mild stomach upset and, in rare cases, kidney or liver concerns.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found naturally in nuts, seeds, pomegranate seed oil, and white button mushrooms, is a common fat-burning supplement that helps break down fat cells.
In a study where men and women consumed CLA daily with meals, participants increased their lean body mass and muscle strength and decreased their overall body fat and "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels.
In another study, obese postmenopausal women who supplemented daily with CLA reduced both their body mass index (BMI) and total body mass.
Side effects could include an upset stomach and an increased risk of bleeding. Always check the purity and quality of any supplement you select and choose plant-based supplements.
Ginseng tea has long been thought to aid weight loss. Animal studies suggest that ginseng, and the ginsenosides they contain, reduce fat cell size and fat production, but in human studies, such effects have been harder to show.
In one study, middle-aged obese women who consumed Panax ginseng for eight weeks decreased their weight and BMI — but not their waist circumference or body fat percentage.
Another human study found that ginseng not only led to weight loss in some people, it also affected gut microbiota composition — the microbes that make up one's gut ecosystem. Interestingly, the anti-obesity effects of the ginseng supplement depended on the individual's initial gut microbiota composition.
Side effects of ginseng may include insomnia, headache, rapid heart rate, or a decrease or increase in blood pressure.
The Best Fat-Burning Foods
If you'd like to try foods that work as natural fat burners, check out the choices listed below. You can easily incorporate fat-burning foods like cayenne or apple cider vinegar into meals, or add them to drink recipes, including smoothies and teas.
Scientists have discovered that cayenne pepper is a potent natural fat burner. Research suggests consuming this spicy red chili pepper with a meal increases fullness (satiety). It suppresses appetite and also reduces cravings for salty or sweet foods. In one small study, women who added cayenne pepper to their meal saw increased diet-induced thermogenesis and fat burning (lipid oxidation).
This spicy red chili pepper reduces cravings, increases fullness, and is known as a potent natural fat burner.
Capsaicin, the ingredient in peppers responsible for the spiciness, raises your body temperature when you eat it. The cool-down afterward burns calories. However, you may develop a tolerance to cayenne pepper that decreases its weight loss effects over time.
You can add cayenne to recipes, including smoothies and juices. For higher potency of cayenne's active ingredient capsaicin, try supplements. Some people find cayenne too spicy, or that it upsets their stomach. Be sure to always take cayenne capsules with food.
Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Experts have looked at organic raw apple cider vinegar, or ACV, as a fat-burning supplement for many years. Some studies found that it can normalize insulin levels, boost metabolism, and burn fat. It may also suppress appetite, possibly by increasing your body's feeling of fullness.
Taking one to two tablespoons mixed with water is the recommended serving. You can also make your own salad dressing and add it to various recipes. Some people dislike the taste, however, or find that it leads to an upset stomach.
You may have heard that it takes more calories to digest grapefruit than what it contains, and in a sense, it's true! This citrus fruit has a powerful impact on weight. Not only does fresh grapefruit help you lose weight, it even helps normalize insulin and blood glucose levels according to one study.
Other studies have found that eating grapefruit may reduce the lipids, or fats, circulating in your blood and may also balance blood pressure. You can even try grapefruit seed extract for a more concentrated form.
Vegan Protein Powder
Increasing the amount of protein you eat, especially when you lower your consumption of empty carbs, can boost the muscle your body builds. With more muscle, you will burn more calories every day, without doing anything! That is not to say you shouldn't exercise, including both aerobic and strength training, but only that more muscle mass helps burn more calories. Protein also curbs appetite by reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin.
More muscles equal more calories burned per day. Increasing your protein intake can be a great way to burn additional fat!
Adding protein powder to smoothies or meals is a powerful and easy way to boost your protein intake, which helps your body burn more fat. Choose vegan protein powders, like a pea, brown rice, or hemp protein.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Using fat to burn fat? Sure enough! A study found that using extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in meals increased the amount of fat burned for up to five hours after eating. In the study, this is called postprandial fat oxidation. EVOO also increased diet-induced thermogenesis.
This was a relatively small study of post-menopausal women, but the study is important because metabolism and fat burning slow down with age.
Are All Fat Burners Safe?
Natural fat burners are generally safe, but it's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before starting to take a supplement. Some — even natural ones — may interact with prescription drugs or even other supplements.
In general, fat burners with a large number of ingredients pose a higher risk of drug interactions and side effects. Also, fewer studies have been conducted on fat-burning supplements containing multiple ingredients and how they work together.
Be sure to discontinue fat burners if you experience any serious side effects.
Do Fat Burners Actually Work?
Think of diet as the most important component of an overall weight loss plan. Exercise is crucial as the second portion, while a fat-burning supplement can be the cherry on top.
Be sure to take fat burners according to directions. Taking more than the recommended daily serving can harm your health. Rapid weight loss is not optimal if you want to keep it off long term, and fat burners should not replace the work it takes to create new, healthy lifestyle habits.
Tips for Choosing a Fat Burner
Once your diet and exercise plans are in order, it can seem tricky to choose the right fat-burning supplement. Don't be fooled by muscled models and catchy packaging. Clarify your goals by asking yourself these important questions:
- Why do you want to take a fat burner?
- Are you sensitive to caffeine?
- Do you take medications or have any serious health concerns?
- How long do you want to take the fat burner?
- Is the fat burner natural without any chemical additives?
- Is the fat burner vegan, organic, and gluten-free?
Once you've established some basics, select the right fat burner for you. Each person's physiology is unique, and yours may respond to one fat burner but not another. You may also have to give a fat burner some time to work, up to several weeks.
Be careful about pairing two stimulant products together; this can backfire by making you feel drained. And as always, buy the highest quality supplements with organic, plant-based ingredients for best results.
Points to Remember
Fat burners, while not a miracle solution, can aid in your weight loss efforts. They may work by increasing your metabolism, blocking fat absorption, or decreasing appetite.
Natural fat burners include herbs like ginseng, foods like cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, and grapefruit, or compounds found naturally in food, like caffeine. You can simply eat the fat-burning foods, spices, or herbs, or you may choose to concentrate their fat-burning power in capsules or extracts.
To choose a fat burner, ask yourself clarifying questions such as what you want to accomplish and which part of the weight loss journey you would like the most help with, such as cravings, metabolism, or energy.
Talk to your healthcare provider before starting to take a fat burner and discontinue if you experience negative side effects. Always avoid synthetic fat burners which usually contain harmful chemicals, and instead look for organic, gluten-free options.
Have you tried any natural fat burners? Which ones? Share your story in the comments below!
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.