5 Fat Burning Supplements That DON’T Work (AVOID THESE)
One of the most common questions I get is about fat burners and whether or not they actually work.
Well, I’m glad to say that I’ve known the guys from Examine.com for a while, so when I got yet another question on fat burners, I thought I’d ask these guys.
For those that don’t know, they’ve been around for 2.5 years and are the most respected source on supplement information. So I asked them – “what are the top 5 fat burners that just don’t work?”
5 Fat Burning Supplements That DON’T Work (AVOID THESE)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a mixture of fatty acids, of which two of them, t10c12 and c9t11, are the most common. It is claimed that CLA can help burn fat and build muscle when taken as a daily supplement via working through a group of receptors known as PPARs.
If looking at research on animals, this is definitely true. CLA is a moderately potent fat burner in rats at modest levels of intake and extremely potent in mice (until they get fatty liver and die). That being said, CLA is also used as a good example on how animal studies don’t always translate to humans.
If we ignore the rodent research and only look at human research, it is incredibly variable, with about half the studies showing it to be useless, and the other half showing very very little fat loss (2-4 pounds over half a year). Even in studies that did show a bit of fat loss, the range was so that some people actually gained weight1,2,3.
Even under the best of conditions, CLA is extremely lackluster. Considering how unreliable the results are, it is not worth taking.
L-Carnitine is an ergogenic aid (performance enhancer) that is also sometimes used for cognitive enhancement. Since of the things limiting fat burning involves the carnitine transport, it is thought that by supplementing with carnitine, you can increase that rate.
Unfortunately, the only time that a deficiency in carnitine exists is usually for people above the age of 704,5 or vegetarians.
If not in those two demographics, it does not help reduce fat, even if obese and exercising6,7.
Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that contains (-)-hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is the ingredient that hydroxycut was initially named after (if you can remember that supplement). In rats, it decreases appetite and also inhibits fat synthesis from carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, rats are far far more efficient at converting carbohydrates into fats (de novo lipogenesis)8, and the decreased appetite does not work in humans9,10.
Just like CLA, it was promising in animal studies, but was ineffective in humans.
At least the above had some semblance of logic or evidence. There is literally no evidence at all that raspberry ketone work!
There was one study done, and it was in a petri-dish. Even then, all it did was enhance adrenaline signalling at a dosage 1000x the normal dosage11! Considering what we know about absorption and that most raspberry ketones doses are around 200mg, it will never get enough to your fat cells.
There was another study done on rats, and it noted slight weight loss at a dosage of 350mg/kg12. For a 75 kg person, that means 26grams!
Lastly, the one study that is cited as “proof” that raspberry ketone work had only two groups – one that used placebo, and one that ingested raspberry ketones alongside caffeine, capsaicin, synephrine, ginger, and garlic (ie. a fat burner, fat burner, fat burner, and two things that might augment fat burners)13. It is quite telling that they did not compare RK directly with the placebo.
Irvingia gabonensis, also known as African mango, is a plant whose oil is said to burn fat and suppress appetite.
The only “evidence” for it was paid for by its producer14,15,16, and even then, was at dosages that are not practical (just like raspberry ketones). The single independent study17 was highly critical of that research, citing many issues and concerns. Most importantly, there was absolutely no reason gleaned as to why it would even work.
And there you have it, 5 popular fat burners that are heavily advertised on TV that we now know …just don’t work.
I’m not a guy that is huge on supplements but I have to admit that some of them actually do a great job on your body when it comes to fat loss, building muscle and overall health. The list of good ones are just too broad for a blog post like this.
If you want to know more about supplements that actually work for your body and also discover others that are just marketing BS hype, I highly recommend checking out their Supplement-Goals Reference Guide,
This is the most comprehensive guide I have ever seen on supplements and it has been thoroughly researched to ensure you are getting the absolute truth when it comes to choosing the right supplements for your physique goals.
1. Pfeuffer M, et al. CLA does not impair endothelial function and decreases body weight as compared with safflower oil in overweight and obese male subjects. J Am Coll Nutr. (2011)
2. Gaullier JM, et al. Supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid for 24 months is well tolerated by and reduces body fat mass in healthy, overweight humans. J Nutr. (2005)
Wanders AJ, et al. Effect of a high intake of conjugated linoleic acid on lipoprotein levels in healthy human subjects. PLoS One. (2010)
3. Pistone G, et al. Levocarnitine administration in elderly subjects with rapid muscle fatigue: effect on body composition, lipid profile and fatigue. Drugs Aging. (2003)
4. Malaguarnera M, et al. L-Carnitine treatment reduces severity of physical and mental fatigue and increases cognitive functions in centenarians: a randomized and controlled clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. (2007)
5. Villani RG, et al. L-Carnitine supplementation combined with aerobic training does not promote weight loss in moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2000)
6. Broad EM, Maughan RJ, Galloway S DR. Effects of exercise intensity and altered substrate availability on cardiovascular and metabolic responses to exercise after oral carnitine supplementation in athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2011)
Hellerstein MK. De novo lipogenesis in humans: metabolic and regulatory aspects. Eur J Clin Nutr. (1999)
Heymsfield SB, et al. Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. (1998)
7. Kim JE, et al. Does Glycine max leaves or Garcinia Cambogia promote weight-loss or lower plasma cholesterol in overweight individuals: a randomized control trial. Nutr J. (2011)
8. Morimoto C, et al. Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone. Life Sci. (2005)
9. Gaunt IF, et al. Acute and short-term toxicity of p-hydroxybenzyl acetone in rats. Food Cosmet Toxicol. (1970)
10. Lopez HL, et al. Eight weeks of supplementation with a multi-ingredient weight loss product enhances body composition, reduces hip and waist girth, and increases energy levels in overweight men and women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2013)
11. Oben JE, et al. The use of a Cissus quadrangularis/Irvingia gabonensis combination in the management of weight loss: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Lipids Health Dis. (2008)
12. Ngondi JL, et al. IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis, significantly reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight humans in a randomized double-blind placebo controlled investigation. Lipids Health Dis. (2009)
13. Ngondi JL, Oben JE, Minka SR. The effect of Irvingia gabonensis seeds on body weight and blood lipids of obese subjects in Cameroon. Lipids Health Dis. (2005)
14. Onakpoya I, et al. The efficacy of Irvingia gabonensis supplementation in the management of overweight and obesity: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Diet Suppl. (2013)