Can a pill really help you burn fat? Probably. Will you keep the weight off? Maybe. Is it safe? We really don’t know. The search for the magic fat burning pill is almost synonymous with the search for the fountain of youth. The supplement market has dozens of these thermogenic aides as they are called. The advertisements even go as far as showing before and after pictures of people who achieved amazing results. What they don’t tell you is that each person was on a strict diet and an exercise program. You have to look at the tiny fine print at the bottom of the page to read what the catch is. But there is a possibility that someone tried the stuff and it worked; it even worked without any type of exercise. Whether or not you will be this person no one can say for sure. So how do thermogenic aides work? A look into metabolism will clear things up.
The word thermogenic means producing heat. So thermogenic aides produce heat. So does a blow dryer, right? What does producing heat have anything to do with burning fat? Thermogenic aides act on the body in such a way that the body produces more heat. The body does this by burning more fuel and what fuel is always in abundance, fat. Thermogenic aides help increase the oxidation of fat. That is a good thing. But revving up your metabolism chemically is not the most accepted method of fat loss. This is basically how your body oxidizes more fat when on some type of thermogenic supplement; the supplement raises your metabolic rate. Now we look into how this is done.
There are three major ingredients in 95% of all thermogenic supplements: 1) acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) taken from willow bark or some other similar type of bark or root, 2) caffeine, commonly extracted from guarana, and 3) ephedra (extracted from ma huang, a plant that grows in China) which is a bronchodilator and is also the precursor to speed. Speed is an illegal narcotic that elevates the metabolism, and it is addicting. But since ephedra is a naturally occurring substance that is not actually the drug itself, it is legal to pack it up in a pill and sell it.
These three chemicals, yes caffeine is a chemical, work synergistically to help your metabolism heat up. Both caffeine and ephedra stimulate the heart to beat faster. This is one way to elevate your metabolism. Ephedra also speeds up other physiological processes, and may also stimulate the release of epinephrine, which stimulates the release of free fatty acids into the bloodstream to be used for energy. Acetylsalicylic acid is used to inhibit clotting of platelets. That’s what aspirin is, a “blood thinner”. People with heart conditions take aspirin to help prevent heart attacks. Well, this is the same reason why these companies put it in their supplements. They want reduce the chance of heart complications just in case someone with an unknown heart condition takes the supplement. This doesn’t always work since there are cases of people dying because of the ingestion of ephedra and its affect on the heart. Another drawback is that the body does build tolerance to the drugs and to achieve the same affect a person would have to increase the dosage. Plus, there are no real physiological adaptations to help maintain an elevated metabolism. So if you still eat junk after you cycle the supplement, you will probably put the weight back on.
Instead of revving up your metabolism with potentially harmful chemicals, you can increase your metabolism by exercise. Forty minutes of cardio every other day will elevate your metabolism and keep it up there. You also get other benefits such as a stronger heart, better circulation, and you decrease the chances of diabetes and heart disease. Resistance training will also increase your metabolism with the increase of muscle mass you can gain. Remember that its fat free mass that is the major contributor to the number of calories you burn on average everyday. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, period.
So before you start popping some magic pills to burn the fat, weigh out the pros and cons, you’ll probably end up changing your mind.