The fat burning supplement market is huge. Multi-Billion Dollar huge. But I am getting more and more convinced that your chances of burning an appreciable amount of fat due to the average fat burning supplement are about as good of your chances of winning the MegaMillions Jackpot. A recent review of weight loss supplements showed that you shouldn’t expect more than about 4lbs additional weight loss from any type of weight loss supplement
But other than burning your money, certain herbal and supplement combinations could be doing more harm than good. Fat burning supplements can be grouped in several different categories with the most common being stimulants/thermogenics. This is the category that ephedra would have fallen into. Caffeine is also in this category. Another very common fat burner that falls into this category is yohimbe. After the ban on ephedra, yohimbe whet from being sold as a male enhancement supplement to a fat burning (interesting how that happened without people paying much attention). From a fat burning perspective yohimbe is an alpha-2 receptor blocker. This means that it stimulates the release of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine can stimulate the release of fat from fat cells. Good for fat burning. A 2006 clinical trial showed that 20mg of yohimbe taken twice a day elicited a 2% decrease in bodyfat over the course of 3 weeks in male soccer players. Sounds good right? Maybe. The weight loss supplement review paper I mentioned above cited the side effects and safety issues from yohmbine to be:
Gastrointestinal distress, increased heart rate, hypertension, anxiety, and agitation
Not so good.
99% of the time contain products that contain yohmbine also contain caffeine (so they are double dipping in the stimulant department) and come with a fine print disclaimer that reads:
Warnings: Not intended for use by persons under 18. Do not use if pregnant or nursing. Discontinue use and consult a medical doctor if you experience unusual symptoms. Consult a medical doctor before use if you have been treated for or diagnosed with, or have a family history of any medical condition, including (but not limited to) high blood pressure or heart problems, or if you are using any prescription or over-the-counter drug(s), including blood thinners. One serving of this product contains up to as much caffeine as 1 cup of coffee. Caffeine sensitive individuals may experience the following symptoms including (but not limited to) restlessness, nervousness, tremors, headache, anxiety, palpitations, increased heart rate, or difficulty sleeping. Do not combine with other sources of caffeine or stimulants. Consult a medical doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. Do not exceed recommended serving. Improper use of this product will not improve results and is not advised. Use only as directed. Do not use if this packaging has been tampered with. Store in a cool, dry place (60 degrees to 80 degrees). Keep Out Of Reach Of Children.
Again, not the most comforting fine print but companies have to put those statements on supplements to cover themselves legally, right? Yes, however….that doesn’t mean we should disregard them. Let me share with you a relavent and personal example.
I drink a lot of coffee, it is less about the caffeine and more about the taste. I love it. No sugar. No sweeteners. No cream. Just coffee. Caffeine doesn’t really do it for me. I can take upwards of 400 mg of caffeine (anhydrous, in capsule form – the most potent kind) before I start to really feel it. Interestingly enough I’ve seen studies use 600 mg of caffeine without people reporting any adverse feelings (a secondary message here is that we are all different and respond to things differently). If I combine caffeine and yohmbine, I don’t feel good. A feel jittery and my stomach becomes unsettled. As a result I say away from product that combine the two. Until yesterday.
I can proudly tell you that my blood pressure sits at a low 107/70 mm Hg (confirmed last week at the doctors office). I recently received a supplement shipment that contained a sample fat burner (3 capsules). The dosage ranged from 1 to 3 capsules (3 being the hardcore dose). Yesterday morning, against my rule of not combining caffeine and yohmbine, I took 2 of the 3 capsules (I’m always testing new supplements for clients and this was a good opportunity). Later that day I had to go back to the doctor’s office as I have an ear infection that just won’t go away. Per standard pre-doctor protocol they took my blood pressure and it was a whopping 146/85.
This is a huge change from my normal blood pressure that I attribute entirely to the two black and yellow pills I swallowed earlier that day. This was not good. No good for me, my health, or my waistline. My message here is simple. Know what you are putting into your body and know how you respond. If you think there is an adverse effect or if you specifically are feeling even the slightest adverse effects – stop taking it because it probably isn’t working as well as you are hoping anyway and you don’t want to do anything that negatively impacts your health (especially your blood pressure!).