THE 4 Best Fat Burning Ingredients and Why

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

If you are about to choose a fat burning product then STOP.

Read this article first. You must choose one that has at least one of the following ingredients otherwise you will WASTE YOUR TIME AND MONEY. 

Caffeine is one of the BEST fat burning ingredients the universe has ever created and yet it is much maligned – WHY? I’ll tell you why further down

Diet pills, fat burners and the weight management products category as a whole is the most variable aspect of the supplement industry.

$66 billion dollars were spent on fat burners in 2017 in the US Alone – most of the products sold were virtually USELESS!

It’s variable in terms of the ingredients used, the efficacy of the products, the claims made, the bio-chemical pathways involved and the secondary effects that can occur.

fat burning ingredients

The main issue is that it’s a fairly unregulated business. Once a few basic rules are followed, pretty much anybody can design and manufacture a product they are allowed to call a dietary supplement.

As with any industry that has a long leash and short lead time on product release, the competition is fierce and the marketing is creative.

Exaggerated claims, pseudo-science and poetic license are all tools of the diet supplement company’s tradecraft.

Finding the solid ingredients and products amongst all of the advertising noise is therefore the responsibility of the buyer.

To that end, I want to highlight a few of the ingredients included in these products that can exert fat burning, or other weight management, effects on the user.

A Word on Dosage

Almost all diet pills these days are under-dosed, with the exception of certain cheap ingredients, which ironically are often present at stronger than necessary quantities.

Aside from the ingredient’s effect, dosage is the most important factor. A compound that has been proven to work at a certain dosage might be completely useless at much lower, and in some cases higher, quantities.

The point is: finding a proven ingredient’s name written on a product’s label is only half of the information you need.

caffeine - coffee beans

Caffeine Anhydrous

Caffeine has a mixed reputation. It’s probably the most commonly used ingredient in diet pills and fat burners. As such it is thought by many to be over-used, and even used to create the feeling of an effect for the user.

In fact, caffeine is effective, provided it is used correctly. My main complaint with respect to caffeine is that it is sometimes the only ingredient of any real effect in a product, but is relatively cheap for the company to include. This makes it a go-to for them, in terms of profitability.

To use caffeine properly, it is important to understand one very important characteristic of the stimulant: it causes an insurmountable tolerance response.

Insurmountable tolerance means that once your body has become used to the ingredient, it loses its effect to the point that no increase in dosage will reinstate those effects.

This is the main reason caffeine is seen as a short term supplement, an over-hyped stimulants, or even an ineffective ingredient.

The tolerance thing is easily avoided, if you have the will power to use caffeine in the right way.

  1. Other sources of caffeine, coffee being the main one, should not be consumed while taking it in supplemental form (i.e. for the whole 8 to 12 weeks cycle – see below)
  2. Caffeine should be cycled. This means using it daily for 8 to 12 weeks before reducing the dose over the course of a few days, and then taking 2 weeks off caffeine completely.
  3. Once the two weeks has passed, the user’s tolerance will be “reset” and the cycle can be repeated.

A common mistake made with caffeine is that it is used habitually, especially coffee drinking, by most people. Drinking coffee daily ultimately leads to it losing any beneficial effect as described above.

Caffeine Anhydrous is the purified “extract” of caffeine. It allows the dosage of caffeine to be controlled precisely, and contains none of the other additional elements of a coffee bean.

Drinking coffee on the other hand makes for highly variable doses of caffeine.

Dosage is something which can be altered up or down over time, depending on a person’s ability to tolerate the mild side effects of caffeine.

It is commonly accepted that the maximum quantity one should consume within a day is 500mg, and that ought to be spread over 2 or 3 separate servings at different times.

Dosages as little as 75mg per day can work for some people, both for fat burning and the benefits to cognitive function.

Earlier, I talked about caffeine anhydrous and how it is one of the most common ingredients in fat burners. There’s good reason for it’s ubiquitousness, though. It works.

Caffeine is a stimulant, and other types of stimulants are also often found in fat burners and diet pills. Again, this is simply because they increase the rate at which fat is used as fuel.

Stimulants can also improve cognitive function, energy levels and in some cases testosterone production.

Forskolin Fat Burner Testosterone

Forskolin – from Coleus Forskohlii

One of those ingredients, which can improve cognitive function, energy levels and testosterone production is Forskolin, a bioactive compound found in the herb Coleus Forskohlii.

Ingredients like caffeine and forskolin can increase levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate – cAMP – which is derived from ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the major energy providing molecule in the human body.

When cAMP, itself a messenger, is present in elevated concentrations in different soft tissues and organs, it can increase certain processes within those areas.

Examples include the elevation of testosterone levels when cAMP concentrations are increased in the testes, fat burning is increased when it’s in fat cells, and cognitive function is improved when it occurs in the brain.

Synephrine fat burner

Synephrine – from Citrus Aurantium (Bitter Orange)

One of the original fat burning stacks was known as the ECA stack. That is Ephedrine, Caffeine and Aspirin in combination.

The modern equivalent of that, updated mostly because the newer version is much safer, is Synephrine, Caffeine and White Willow Bark (a source of salicylic acid).

Synephrine is often included in fat burning supplements within its parent extract called Citrus Aurantium, aka Bitter Orange.

Bitter Orange contains several active compounds but the one with most fat burning power is p-synephrine.

When p-synephrine is isolated and included in fat burners it has similar fat burning effects to ephedrine – another central nervous system stimulant.

However, synephrine does not raise the heart rate significantly (at recommended doses) the same way that ephedrine can, and is therefore considered a better option for losing body fat.


Nootropics – Mood Boosters – Cognitive Function Enhancers

These aren’t direct fat burners, generally speaking. Of course, the odd stimulant can improve mood and cognitive function, but nootropic ingredients are being added to weight management supplements more and more because they can genuinely help.

When you’re dieting, your state of mind and general mood is of utmost importance. It becomes even more important when you are exercising while also dieting.

Exercise itself can improve mood of course, but it can also increase the hunger pangs for something sugary and decadent.

Some products like bodybuilding pre-workouts and fat burners even include nootropic ingredients as the “sensorial” or “mood boosting” suite, and other similar names.

Adaptogens like Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha and Panax Ginseng might be included to reduce the stress, and possibly anxiety, associated with dieting and calorie restriction.

When cognitive function ingredients are used in this way, they are a form of appetite suppression.

Keeping your mood positive and healthy during a period of calorie restriction is very important and can be assisted by one or more of these supplemental ingredients.

Specifically, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are very interesting, and have more than one benefit to cognitive and physical health.

Ashwagandha for Testosterone


Losing weight through calorie restrictive dieting combined with exercise is by far the best and most efficient way of going about it.

The addition of a quality supplement can help your efforts by directly burning fat or helping you to tough it out mentally.

Diet pills and fat burners can only ever account for 200 to 300 calories a day, any significant amount more would be too difficult to control, and possibly even dangerous.

When combined with a healthy diet and exercise program. Those extra calories make a lot of difference.

Click here to read how to calculate your metabolism and use it to lose weight

About Ross T. 78 Articles

Ross T., CPD Certified in sports nutrition, BEng
I've probably forgotten more about training, nutrition and supplements than most people ever learn. Why? Because I've never stopped learning. These are dynamic fields of expertise that are constantly evolving, and qualifications mean nothing if you don't consistently update your knowledge base. You can also read more About Me.

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