When extra weight is stored as fat, the only way to get rid of it is by burning it. Diet and exercise help, but a fat burning supplement might be able to increase your fat metabolism beyond what you’d otherwise be able to achieve.
This can kick-start your weight loss and help you lose weight faster and improve your health.
Concerned about finding the right fat burner for you? Check out our rankings of the best fat burners on the market right now.
1. Evlution Leanmode
Evlution Leanmode is great for caffeine sensitive people who still want a strong fat-burning supplement.
It focuses on extracts that up-regulate your body’s fat burning capabilities without keeping you awake like caffeine does, and all of its active ingredients are popular weight loss supplements in their own right. Green coffee bean extract, garcinia cambogia, and green tea extract are the three standard-bearers for this fat burner.
2. Old School Labs Vintage Burn
Despite the name, Old School Labs’ Vintage Burn has got all the latest supplements in it. Most anything that’s grabbed headlines recently is in its ingredients list: raspberry ketone, green coffee bean extract, green tea extract, forskolin, and garcinia cambogia, just to name a few.
There are also a few supplements inside that haven’t hit it big yet, like olive leaf extract. Vintage Burn is tremendously popular, so maybe their nutritionists are onto something with these sleeper ingredients. The caffeine content is modest, at 150 mg–a cup and a half of coffee, roughly speaking.
3. Lean XT
If you want to keep things simple, Lean XT is a great choice. It focuses its efforts on only three key ingredients: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, green tea extract, and forskolin.
The proprietary black pepper extract BioPerine is present too, but that’s just to enhance absorption and bioavailability of the other ingredients.
4. Genius Burn
If mainstream fat burners aren’t doing the trick for you, think about giving Genius Burn a try. The Genius company, which has a reputation for creative and innovative supplements, keeps that habit strong with Genius Burn.
It uses several less-common naturally-sourced supplements, and it doesn’t rely on caffeine as a crutch to burn more energy. While the proven supplements are probably the best place to start, it’s good to have a fall-back option in Genius Burn.
5. BeLive Moon Burn
Moon Burn offers an interesting take on the classic fat burning pill–instead of being a stimulant that energizes you during the day, it claims to burn more energy while you sleep.
While it does include caffeine, the content is very low, so it shouldn’t keep you up. Instead, it doubles down on other thermogenic compounds like white kidney bean extract, chromium, raspberry ketone, and CLA.
6. Base Burn
Base Burn doesn’t have a lengthy list of ingredients. It focuses on a few proven fat burners: chromium, 5-HTP, capsaicin extract, forskolin, and green tea extract.
These are delivered at a pretty high dose, which indicates that it would really crank up your metabolism and increase fat burning. Notably, except for the small amount of caffeine in green tea extract, Base Burn is caffeine free.
As the label warns, BURNZ is an incredibly heavy-hitting fat burning supplement. Pretty much everything it has, it delivers at a high dose. The formula is lean on direct supplements and heavy on biological precursors like choline, L-carnitine, and higenamine.
The supplements it does include–cayenne pepper extract and huperzine A–are reputed to be strong fat burners. The caffeine content might be a bit much for some people at 250 mg per capsule.
8. Cellucor Super HD
Cellucor Super HD combines a strong dose of B vitamins with a proprietary blend of over a dozen different extracts and supplements.
It’s very popular but has mixed reviews; part of the problem might come from the fact that, with so many ingredients, each fat burning ingredient is present at fairly low concentrations. It might be worth a shot if simpler fat burning supplements aren’t working for you, but if you want high doses of the most effective ingredients, there are better options.
9. Hydroxycut Hardcore Elite
Hydroxycut has been one of the leading fat burning supplements for years, but its formulation has not stayed the same. Because of a series of safety concerns, Hydroxycut is now centered around robusta coffee, forskolin, and a strong dose of caffeine (270 mg to be exact).
These stimulants together might give even the most resilient of weight loss enthusiasts the stimulant jitters. By now, Hydroxycut is showing its age, and there are better options out there.
Skald claims to assist with respiratory health as well as increasing fat burning. The company claims there is a synergy between increased oxygen delivery to your cells and an increased ability to burn fat.
The supplement has all its ingredients wrapped up in a “proprietary blend” on the label, so it’s hard to evaluate the legitimacy of these claims. Some of the ingredients should cause concern, too–bitter orange has been associated with health problems, and it’s never good when you don’t know how much caffeine is in a supplement.
Part Two: Fat Burner benefits and side effects
Weight loss is a great goal, but fat loss in particular is even better. If you can selectively lose fat mass while retaining your muscle mass, your health will improve even more and you’ll look even better.
Figuring out how to tune your body to burn more fat while on a weight loss program is in large part a matter of picking the right supplements.
When it comes to fat burning supplements, there are a tremendous number of options, and these have widely varying levels of evidence for their efficacy.
One of the most-proven and reliable fat burning supplements is green tea extract. Researchers initially noticed that obesity was less of a problem in nations that tend to consume a lot of green tea, like Japan and China.
However, many other confounding factors could cause that type of association, so a specific kind of study was needed to determine whether there was a real effect.
Such a study came along in 2005, when scientists in the Netherlands examined a large group of obese and overweight individuals over a four-month period (1).
When they analyzed the data, they found that a green tea supplement improved weight management during the follow-up period, independent of caffeine consumption.
This is an important observation, because caffeine itself is a powerful fat burner. That’s why a number of fat burning supplements, even ones without green tea derived ingredients, still include caffeine.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that administration of even a small dose of caffeine has significant fat burning effects (2). This study looked at a single 100 mg dose of caffeine, which is about as much as one cup of coffee.
Many fat burning supplements have twice this amount or more. The caffeine dose had a significant fat-burning effect in both obese and “post-obese” (meaning people who had lost weight and were no longer obese) subjects. The good news is that the energy expenditure increase appears to be greater in the obese subjects, even though the relative dose that they get is smaller.
Due to their larger body mass, an obese person usually has to take a higher dose of a supplement to get the same effect. In this case, though, perhaps due to the increased number of fat cells in the body, an obese person actually gets more benefit from a given dose of caffeine.
Back on the topic of green tea extract, though, the mechanism of action for green tea extract seems to be related to its active ingredient, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
Research in the International Journal of Obesity has found that EGCG independently increases the metabolic activity in fat cells (3). Furthermore, this effect appears to be magnified by caffeine, meaning that the two work synergistically to increase fat cell activity.
The exact mechanism involves some complex cellular biology, but the net effect is a magnification of fat burning activity beyond what would be achieved with either supplement on its own.
The upside of this is that, unless you want to avoid caffeine in your fat burning supplements for its side effects, you should look for at least a moderate amount of caffeine alongside green tea extract for maximum efficacy.
Another strong fat burning supplement you should look for in a fat burning supplement is conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. While robust studies in humans are lacking, there is good evidence from animal studies to suggest that it both reduces your appetite and more importantly increases the metabolic activity of fat cells.
A study in the journal Obesity Reviews cites a number of studies on CLA and recommends that it be considered as a legitimate long-term weight loss supplement (4).
Among some of the more modern and newly discovered fat burning supplements, the most attractive is almost certainly capsaicin, also known as cayenne pepper extract.
According to research published by scientists at the Manchester Food Research Center at Manchester Metropolitan University, a significant body of experimental literature indicates that capsaicin is a beneficial fat burning supplement (5).
In their study, they pooled the results from several different experiments, with a grand total of over 500 subjects. The data showed that capsaicin, when taken for one to two years, can significantly reduce fat mass.
One benefit of capsaicin over other proven fat burners like green tea is that it does not require caffeine to work optimally, and does not seem to have the same stimulant-inducing effects.
There are many other supplements with varied levels of scientific support: chromium, forskolin, green coffee bean extract, and garcinia cambogia are all found in many popular weight loss supplements, but the experimental evidence for them does not rise to the same level as caffeine, green tea extract, capsaicin, or CLA.
This doesn’t mean they don’t work; indeed, there is good evidence from cell culture experiments or studies on mice, but the human studies aren’t there yet.
Fat burning supplements have been an area of supplementation that’s been rife with side effect controversies. Market leaders like Hydroxycut have had to reformulate their ingredients several times because of safety concerns related to ingredients like ephedra, synephrine, and hydroxycitric acid.
Fortunately, the best fat burning supplements have side effect profiles that are pretty mild. One notable exception to this is also one of the most surprising: caffeine, of all things, has a pretty lengthy side effect list.
In high doses, like those found in some of the more extreme fat burning supplements on the market, caffeine can cause jitters, irritability, nausea, and (as you might guess) an inability to sleep.
Knowing your own caffeine sensitivity is very helpful when figuring out what level of caffeine you can tolerate.
The best-proven fat burning supplements also tend to be the safest. Green tea extract has no significant side effects; indeed, it’s often taken for its ability to boost general health and well-being and fend off chronic disease.
CLA, as a natural food ingredient, has a similarly unremarkable adverse effect profile.
Capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-relief properties; the only side effect noted in those studies was localized burning sensation when capsaicin is applied to the skin.
By analogy, this could cause an upset stomach, so pay attention to the capsaicin content of your supplements if you have a sensitive stomach.
The ideal dose of a fat burning supplement is going to vary greatly depending on what the ingredients are. For the most part, reputable manufacturers deliver the ingredients at the appropriate dosages.
With caffeine, the thing to be careful about is not taking too much. Even small amounts of caffeine have fat-burning effects, so you don’t need to overdo it with a high dose that’s likely to cause adverse effects.
Just 100 or 150 mg is plenty to induce a thermogenic effect. Green tea extract is typically supplemented at 400-800 mg doses, which seem to be ideal for fat burning.
CLA needs to be delivered at a higher dose; some studies recommend doses as high as a few grams per day. Capsaicin, given how new it is as a fat burning supplement, does not have a well-established effective dose.
For what it’s worth, published studies so far use doses in the range of 3 to 10 mg per day, though a few studies have used more.
Though your options for a fat burning supplement seem endless, keeping a few basic guidelines in mind can help select one that’s right for you.
Look for a supplement that has at least a few of the well-established and reasonably effective fat burning ingredients, like green tea extract, moderate doses of caffeine, CLA, and capsaicin.
Other ingredients can be helpful too, but your best shot is going to come from these ingredients. If you are getting a supplement with green tea in it, its efficacy can be magnified by a moderate amount of caffeine.
Finally, be patient. These supplements aren’t going to work overnight, but the evidence is pretty good that they do gradually increase your fat mass loss over time.