Gaining fat is one of the easiest journeys a man could ever embark on. However, burning it off is as difficult as getting a camel through a needle’s eye. It takes a lot of consistency, determination and hard work to lose fat efficiently.

Exercise and proper dieting are effective for fat burning. However, it takes a lot of consistency to maintain these habits. People often need an extra push – something to promote fat-burning with less stress and more convenience. This is where fat-burning supplements come in. Keep reading to learn how these supplements work and which ones work best.

body fat percentages

Body fat and body fat percentage

When you measure your weight, you measure the sum of two components – lean mass (muscle bone, water, organs etc.) and fat mass. The relative composition of each component is a clear indicator of fitness and overall health. 

Body fat defines the sum of all fat stored in the body. This includes;

  • Essential fat: essential fat refers to body fat essential for life. Essential fat is found in the brain, bone marrow, nerves and membranes that protect solid organs. Essential fat plays a major role in hormone regulation, temperature regulation and vitamin absorption.
  • Subcutaneous fat: is fat that is stored under the skin and is a combination of white, brown and beige fat cells. Subcut fat accounts for most of the body fat. It mostly gathers around thighs, buttocks, chests, arms and belly.
  • Visceral fat refers to the white fat stored under the abdomen and surrounding essential organs like the heart, liver and kidneys. Visceral fat protects these internal organs and can be broken down as an energy source.

The relative composition of fat and lean mass is an indicator of overall health. The body fat percentage describes what percent of body mass is made up of fat. Body fat percentage must be within healthy limits to ensure optimal functioning without causing harmful effects. A healthy percentage depends on several factors, including age, sex and level of physical activity. According to the American council on exercise, 14-17% of body fat is considered healthy in men, while healthy women have 21-24% of body fat. In addition, men require 2-5% of their body mass to be from essential fat, while women require 10-13%. The table below describes the required body fat percentage in various populations.

DescriptionMenWomen
Essential fat2-5%10-13%
Total fat (non-athlete)14-17%21-24%
Total fat (athlete)6-13%14-20%
Obese> 25%> 32%

Athletes have lower body fats than healthy non-athletes due to intense fat breakdown during workouts. Having a lower fat percentage improves physical performance and cardiovascular health.

Having too little or too much body fat is problematic. A less than healthy body fat percentage deprives the body of the many benefits of fat, including thermoregulation, insulation and protection of visceral organs. However, except in extreme cases of starvation, having too little body fat is rare.

On the other hand, excess body fat, even up to obese proportions, is more common and has a lot of negative effects on one’s health. Excess body fat is like a drain on the body’s energy resources. Visceral fat is the major culprit for the negative effects associated with excess fat. A high visceral fat percentage increases the risk of;

  • cardiovascular disease
  • stroke
  • coronary artery disease
  • atherosclerosis
  • type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers like colorectal and breast cancer
  • Arthritis

It is thus essential that fat levels be kept within the required range to avoid these complications.

 

what is fat burning

What is fat burning?

Fat burning is the process of relying on fat rather than carbohydrate metabolism for energy production. Carbohydrate is the body’s major energy source at baseline since it is faster to burn. During exercises, carbohydrates are also burnt more easily. However, as exercise continues into endurance zones, fat is recruited more readily and burned more efficiently for energy production.

Fat burning relies on the body’s almost inexhaustible fat stores as an energy source. The overall effect is more efficient energy production (one gram of fat produces 9cal of energy compared to 4cal produced by 1 gram of carbs) and a reduction in body fat percentage, resulting in better performance and fitness.

Besides endurance exercises, fat burning may occur through calorie balance. By taking in fewer calories than your body requires, you can force the body to turn towards fat for energy production at baseline. This is why body fat reduces upon starvation, as the body has to use fat to produce the energy needed for vital body functions like thermoregulation.

Fat burning is a “controlled” process that reduces the body fat percentage, thereby improving fitness and reducing the risk of various ailments. However, it should not be taken to extreme levels where body fat composition becomes disproportionately low. Healthy fat burning has several health benefits, including;

1. Promotes better sleep: fat burning helps you get better quality sleep. Research shows that you can get a quality, longer and better sleep when you lose 5% of your body weight. Getting rid of your body’s excess fat also helps reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring.

2. Improves hormonal balance: getting rid of your body’s excess fat helps regulate homeostasis in the body. In addition, it helps release important hormones in the thyroid gland that regulate metabolism and boost muscle strength.

3. Improves sex drive: fat burning helps boost testosterone levels and libido and increases sex drive.

4. Improves mood: engaging in fat-burning activities helps release the feel-good chemicals called endorphins. This chemical interacts with your brain receptors, reducing your pain perception and boosting mood.

5. Clearer, brighter skin: fat burning helps to improve your skin tone. Fat-burning activities also push junk out of your pores, encouraging detoxification.

fat burning food sources

Natural Means to Promote Fat Burning

Fat burning is a function of calorie balance wherein you expend more calories than you take in. This forces the body to rely on fat stores rather than carbohydrates as an energy source. Depleting fat stores reduce body fat composition and increase the lean composition.

Natural fat burning thus involves;

Exercise

Exercise is the primary fat-burning technique. Exercising produces an energy deficit that carbohydrates cannot meet, particularly when routines are prolonged. As a result, the body turns towards adipose tissues that store fat to meet this deficit. Broken down adipose releases fats which are then burned for energy.

As a fat-burning process, exercising increases caloric expenditure without affecting caloric intake.

Dieting

Dieting compliments exercise in promoting fat burning. In dieting, caloric expenditure may be kept constant, but caloric intake may be drastically reduced. This is accomplished by reducing high-calorie foods, including carbs and fatty meals stored in adipose tissues, and prioritizing low-calorie foods that promote muscle formation and improve metabolism. A fat-burning dietary plan prioritizes the intake of;

  • Low-calorie proteins that aid metabolism. These include; salmon, potatoes, black beans, cauliflower etc.
  • Fruits and vegetables that are rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols promote metabolism and stimulate fat breakdown even at rest. Polyphenol-rich foods include;  apples, pears, green tea, grapefruits, turmeric, spinach, broccoli and red grapes.
  • Caffeine improves basal metabolism and promotes fat loss with or without exercise.
fat burning supplements

Fat-burning supplements

Fat-burning supplements are tablets or capsules that contain vitamins, minerals or herbs, which promote fat burning by increasing basal (resting) metabolic rate. These supplements may also reduce appetite or block fat or carbohydrate absorption from the intestines.

By increasing basal metabolism, some of these supplements cause an increase in heart rate. Thus, an overdose of these supplements can cause hypertension and worsen arrhythmias.

Some of the best known fat-burning supplements include;

Biotin

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a vitamin found in foods like eggs, milk, and bananas. Biotin has several health benefits, including elevating mood and reducing bad cholesterol levels. In addition, biotin enhances basal metabolism, helping burn fat in the process. It is generally safe at doses of 25 micrograms/day but may rarely cause side effects like rashes and kidney problems.

L-carnitine

L-carnitine is a chemical produced in the human brain, liver, and kidneys, necessary for heart and brain functioning. L-carnitine transports fat into cells, where they are burned for energy. Thus, L-carnitine is seen as a potent fat burner and is synthesized and packaged as a fat-burning supplement.

L-carnitine has other health benefits, including preventing dementia, reducing blood pressure and improving exercise performance. A dose of 2 grams per day is effective and typically safe. However, this supplement may increase levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide, which increases the risk of atherosclerosis.

Chromium

Chromium is an essential trace mineral with key roles in regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Chromium increases insulin sensitivity, improving cellular uptake and utilization of glucose. In doing so, less glucose is converted and stored as fat. Chromium also regulates cholesterol metabolism and is beneficial for mental disorders like anxiety. CHromium is recommended at doses of 35 micrograms per day. It is typically safe but may cause mild to moderate side effects like headaches, nausea and irregular heartbeat.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of fat produced naturally by grazing animals. This fat is then packaged as supplements. CLA causes upregulation of fat-burning enzymes in the body. It also reduces appetite and reduces fat deposition. Other health benefits include improving the immune system and enhancing performance. However, the research on its fat-burning qualities is still inconclusive.

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA)

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a chemical found in the Garcinia tree. It prevents fat storage, reduces appetite, and increases exercise endurance. It is also used in treating obesity, improving athletic performance and treating joint pain.

Vitamin E

The effect f vitamin E on fat burning is still a subject of debate. Some research shows no correlation between vitamin E and weight loss. However, other studies indicate that vitamin E improves outcomes in obese people. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and improves energy levels. Improved energy levels may allow people to exercise more efficiently, helping to burn fat. Vitamin E has also been shown to improve fatty liver disease. Doses of up to 1000IU daily are safe. Side effects include diarrhea, headaches and nausea.

fat burning supplements

How do fat-burning supplements enhance exercise performance?

There is a feedback positive feedback loop between fat burning and exercise. The relationship is cyclical in that exercise helps you burn fat, which in turn improves how well you can exercise to burn more fat.

Lean body mass is beneficial to exercise. A greater lean mass means more muscle mass, which means improved muscle strength. Fat burners help the muscles to take up more volume and build up strength more efficiently. These supplements ensure that fat is the primary energy source even while resting, which is more efficient as it produces more calories per gram.

Apart from their direct effect on stimulating fat loss and muscle growth, these supplements usually contain antioxidants that fight inflammation and promote rapid healing post-workout.

Summary

A healthy body fat percentage is needed for the body to perform essential functions. Too much body fat increases the risk of many diseases, requiring that it is shed.

Diet and exercise are effective in losing fat. However, people often need an extra push to augment their efforts. Fat-burning supplements provide this push and promote more efficient fat burning even at rest through different means. IN essence, these supplements make the weight loss journey easier.

However, you should consult your healthcare provider before using any fat-burning supplements. These supplements have side effects; speaking to your doctor helps you make the right choice of supplements that will work best for your body.

References

Types of Body Fat: Benefits, Dangers and More

Body Composition: What it is and ways to determine it