In today’s world, we are used to getting everything quickly. So why should weight loss be any different?

Culture is obsessed with waistlines, thigh gaps, and an hourglass physique. Companies have literally made billions selling supplements that claim to help achieve this. Among these best-selling products are appetite suppressors, weight loss injections, keto gummies, and fat burners.

What are fat burners?

Fat burners are chewable or liquid supplements that claim to help burn excess fat through increased metabolism and energy expenditure. But how effective are they? What side effects do fat-burning supplements have on your body? Should you be taking fat burners after bariatric surgery? These are the questions we’re going to answer in this article.

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Do fat burners work?

Diet supplements that increase metabolism are known as thermogenic fat burners. Despite their name, fat burners don’t actually burn fat cells. Instead, they promote weight loss by

  • Increasing your metabolism, causing you to burn more calories
  • Allowing energy accumulated in the adipose tissue to be released
  • Reducing how much fat your gut absorbs
  • Suppressing your appetite

Fat burners are typically infused with large amounts of caffeine, green tea extract, yohimbe, and carnitine to provide a short-term energy surge in hopes of promoting fat loss. However, the diuretic nature of fat burners has a placebo effect by flushing your body of water. The scale moves down primarily due to losing water weight, not adipose tissue.

Ultimately there is no empirical evidence that fat burners actually work.

  1. Exercise alone or with a change in diet was found more effective than taking a supplement 1.
  2. Studies show that when combined with an exercise plan, thermogenic fat burners have minimal effect on long-term weight reduction.
  3. Ingesting fat burners alone have little to no documented benefit.

If diet and exercise alone haven’t been enough to achieve your weight loss goals, bariatric surgery is a great long-term solution for individuals struggling to lose weight.

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Side effects of fat burners

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate new fat burners when they enter the market. Instead, they use their limited resources to focus on public health emergencies and products that have already caused harm. This means there is no way to know the safeness and precise effect of these supplements. Historically due to their stimulating ingredients, fat reducers have been linked to harmful repercussions such as liver failure, heart problems, stroke, and in extreme cases, death.

In a study on the effectiveness of fat burners, an average of 43% of participants reported negative reactions, with a majority being cardiovascular issues, followed by sleep and gastrointestinal issues1.

In the long run, these supplements can have the opposite effect and cause you to regain the pounds you lost and then some. They can alter your physiology to create adrenalin resistance, leading to fat retention, inflammation, and decreased sensitivity to leptin, the hormone responsible for feeling full. Other side effects include

  • Liver Failure
  • Fluctuations in blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Dehydration

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Can I use fat burners after bariatric surgery?

Fat burners amplify dehydration, leading to migraines, energy depletion, nausea, and organ failure. These supplements can also cause a weight gain relapse. Fat blockers trigger metabolic adaptation as a response to synthetic weight loss. This forces an individual to consume higher doses of fat burners to achieve the results they seek, which can lead to dependency. Stopping the supplement can then lead to hormone imbalances responsible for depression and anxiety.

If you are considering using a fat burner, speak to your primary care physician first to see if it will be a safe fit for you.

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  1. Comparing effectiveness of fat burners and thermogenic supplements to diet and exercise by Clark JE, Welch S.