What's the Big Scoop on Fat Burners?

Interested in learning more about fat burners? Keep reading!
What's the Big Scoop on Fat Burners?

Last update: 23 December, 2019

Many people confuse fat burners with pre-workout supplements but they’re not the same thing. Do fat burners actually work?

Definition of fat burners

Fat burners are supplements that are advertised to increase fat metabolism. In addition, they help the body spend more energy, reduce fat absorption and increase fat-burn during workouts.

They can contain a single ingredient or a list of ingredients. Depending on what they include, they claim to help dieters reach their desired objectives. They’ve shown positive results in the two following cases:

  • Animal testing.
  • Large doses.

Main ingredients found in fat burners


L-carnitine is one of the most controversial ingredients in fat burners. While researchers have noticed a link between L-carnitine and weight/fat loss in overweight or obese subjects, there’s no solid evidence to make recommendations to the public.

While the scientific community considers L-carnitine to be a safe ingredient, some believe that its success for overweight people is actually due to their lack of carnitine.

Synephrine: fat burners

Synephrine is a natural alkaloid compound found in bitter oranges and other similar fruits. There are two forms of synephrine: the natural form, or p-synephrine, which is legal; and a synthetic form, m-synephrine, or methyl synephrine, which is illegal.

The omega-6 acid CLA

These compounds are naturally present in the meat and milk products of certain animals. While advertisers claim that they can oxidize fatty acids, they don’t produce any significant increase in the body’s lipolysis process. Furthermore, researchers have found that CLAs can alter transaminases, which could pose a health risk.

fat burners CLA

Alpha-Linolenic acid or ALA: fat burners

This essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid is present in many vegetable oils. Fat burners include it in their ingredients thanks to its anorectic effects, which blocks appetite, as well as its antioxidant benefits.

However, the main problem with ALA is that it lacks sufficient long-term studies on human subjects. However, more and more standard tests are screening the effects of ALA to further investigate its safety.

Garcinia cambogia

Garcinia cambogia is a plant that hails from India. While people use it as a weight-loss treatment, it’s hardly recommendable as its weight loss effects have only been successful in rats.

Ephedrine: ingredient in fat burners

Ephedrine is a popular, illegal supplement. People use it as an amphetamine and ECA stacks (ephedrine with caffeine and aspirin). Pseudoephedrine, a derivative of ephedrine, has fewer side-effects but is still a dangerous substance.


The World Anti-Doping Agency added higenamine and its heart-rate-increasing effects to its prohibited list in 2016. However, it’s legal to use it in herbal medicine in the United States and Spain. Thus, patients who use herbal medicine should double-check their preparations for higenamine.

1, 3 dimethylamylamine or DMAA

Some people use DMAA as a pre-workout supplement not only to lose weight but also for its stimulating benefits. DMAA is a very dangerous compound and was declared illegal in 2012. Some DMAA derivatives, that are prohibited as well, include DMHA, 1, 4-DMAA and geranium extract.


Yohimbine comes from a certain tree back and is used as an aphrodisiac. While it’s not an illegal ingredient for fat burners, it has harmful side-effects.

Other compounds

  • Capsaicin: safe.
  • Caffeine: popular stimulant.
  • Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCg: green tea compound.
  • Green tea extract: No concluding studies can back the safety or proper dosage of this extract.
  • Dinitrophenol or DNP: very dangerous.
  • Forskolin: insufficient studies back its use.
fat burners other compounds

Concluding thoughts on fat burners

There’s no supplement that boasts positive results for every subject in every circumstance. In fact, all lack a good reason to use in the first place and need more evidence that backs their purported health or workout benefits.

In addition, these popular far burner ingredients lack any serious investigation or research on their effectiveness.

What’s worse is that international norms often allow companies to sell supplements that have yet to undergo testing. Consequently, using fat burners could imply serious health risks.

To wrap up, supplements that don’t aim to prevent, treat nor cure diseases don’t require any official evaluation. Thus, the manufacturers themselves hold all the responsibility for creating a safe product.

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  • Burke, L. 2010. Nutricion En El Deporte: Un Enfoque Practico. Ed. Médica Panamericana

The contents of this publication are written for informational purposes. At no time do they facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.