Fat burners are some of the most controversial supplements on the market.
They’re described as nutrition supplements that can increase your metabolism, reduce fat absorption or help your body burn more fat for fuel (1).
Manufacturers often promote them as miracle solutions that can solve your weight problems. However, fat burners are often ineffective and may even be harmful (2).
That’s because they’re not regulated by food regulatory authorities (3).
That said, several natural supplements have been proven to help you burn more fat.
This article provides a list of the 5 best supplements to help you burn fat.
Caffeine is a substance commonly found in coffee, green tea and cocoa beans. It’s also a popular ingredient in commercial fat-burning supplements — and for good reason.
Unfortunately, consuming caffeine too often could make your body more tolerant to its effects (11).
To reap the benefits of caffeine, you don’t need to take a supplement.
Simply try drinking a few cups of strong coffee, which is an excellent source of caffeine with many health benefits.
Summary: Caffeine can help you burn fat by boosting your metabolism and helping you burn more fat as fuel. You can get caffeine from natural sources like coffee and green tea.
Green tea extract is simply a concentrated form of green tea.
It provides all the benefits of green tea in a convenient powder or capsule form.
In addition, these two compounds complement each other and can help you burn fat through a process called thermogenesis. In simple terms, thermogenesis is a process in which your body burns calories to produce heat (14, 15, 16).
For instance, an analysis of six studies found that taking a combination of green tea extract and caffeine helped people burn 16% more fat than a placebo (17).
In another study, scientists compared the effects of a placebo, caffeine and a combination of green tea extract and caffeine on burning fat.
They discovered that the combination of green tea and caffeine burned roughly 65 more calories per day than caffeine alone and 80 more calories than the placebo (18).
If you would like to reap the benefits of green tea extract, try taking 250–500 mg per day. This will provide the same benefits as drinking 3–5 cups of green tea per day.
Summary: Green tea extract is simply concentrated green tea. It contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and caffeine, which can help you burn fat through thermogenesis.
Protein is incredibly important for burning fat.
For instance, a study in 60 overweight and obese participants found that a high-protein diet was almost twice as effective as a moderate-protein diet at burning fat (22).
While you can get all the protein you need from protein-rich foods, many people still struggle to eat enough protein daily.
Protein powder supplements are a convenient way to increase your protein intake.
Options include whey, casein, soy, egg and hemp protein powders. However, it’s important to choose a protein supplement that’s low in sugar and additives, especially if you want to lose weight.
Keep in mind that calories are still important. Protein supplements should simply replace snacks or part of a meal, rather than be added on top of your diet.
If you struggle to eat enough protein, try taking 1–2 scoops (25–50 grams) of protein powder per day.
Summary: Protein supplements are a convenient way to increase your protein intake. A high protein intake can help you burn fat by boosting your metabolism and curbing your appetite.
There are two different types of fiber — soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber absorbs water in your digestive tract and forms a viscous gel-like substance (24).
In addition, soluble fiber helps slow down the delivery of nutrients to the gut. When this happens, your body takes more time to digest and absorb nutrients, which can leave you feeling full for longer (27).
What’s more, soluble fiber may also help you burn fat by reducing how many calories you absorb from food.
In one study, 17 people consumed diets with varying amounts of fiber and fat. It found that people who ate the most fiber absorbed less fat and fewer calories from their diet (29).
While you can get all the soluble fiber you need from food, many people find this challenging. If that’s the case for you, try taking a soluble fiber supplement such as glucomannan or psyllium husk.
Summary: Soluble fiber supplements can help you burn fat by curbing your appetite and may reduce how many calories you absorb from food. Some great soluble fiber supplements include glucomannan and psyllium husk.
Yohimbine is a substance found in the bark of Pausinystalia yohimbe, a tree found in Central and Western Africa.
It’s commonly used as an aphrodisiac, but it also has properties that may help you burn fat.
Yohimbine works by blocking receptors called alpha-2 adrenergic receptors.
These receptors normally bind adrenaline to suppress its effects, one of which is encouraging the body to burn fat for fuel. Since yohimbine blocks these receptors, it can prolong adrenaline’s effects and promote the breakdown of fat for fuel (30, 31, 32, 33).
A study in 20 elite soccer players found that taking 10 mg of yohimbine twice daily helped them shed 2.2% of their body fat, on average, in only three weeks.
Keep in mind these athletes were already quite lean, so a 2.2% reduction in body fat is significant (34).
Also, animal studies have shown that yohimbine may help curb appetite (35).
Nonetheless, more information is needed on yohimbine before it can be recommended as a go-to fat-burning supplement.
Furthermore, because yohimbine keeps your adrenaline levels elevated, it may cause side effects like nausea, anxiety, panic attacks and high blood pressure (36).
It also can interact with common medications for blood pressure and depression. If you take medications for these conditions or have anxiety, you might want to avoid yohimbine (37).
Summary: Yohimbine may help you burn fat by keeping adrenaline levels high and blocking receptors that normally suppress fat-burning. However, it can cause unpleasant side effects in some people.
Several other supplements may help you lose weight.
However, they either have side effects or lack evidence to support their claims.
- 5-HTP: 5-HTP is an amino acid and precursor to the hormone serotonin. It may help you burn fat by curbing your appetite and carb cravings. However, it may also interact with medications for depression (38, 39).
- Synephrine: Synephrine is a substance that is especially abundant in bitter oranges. Some evidence shows it can help you burn fat, but only a handful of studies support its effects (40, 41).
- Green coffee bean extract: Research shows green coffee bean extract may help you burn fat. However, studies on green coffee bean extract are sponsored by its manufacturers, which may cause a conflict of interest (42, 43).
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid): CLA is a group of omega-6 fatty acids that may help you burn fat. However, its overall effects appear weak, and the evidence is mixed (44, 45).
- L-carnitine: L-carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid. Some studies show that it can help you burn fat, but the evidence behind it is mixed (46, 47).
Summary: There are other supplements that may help you burn fat, including 5-HTP, synephrine, green coffee bean extract, CLA and L-carnitine. However, they each have limitations.
Commercial fat-burning supplements are widely available and very easy to access.
However, they often don’t live up to their hefty claims and may even harm your health (2).
That’s because fat-burning supplements don’t need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before they reach the market.
Instead, it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to make sure that their supplements are tested for safety and effectiveness (3).
Unfortunately, there have been many cases of fat-burning supplements being pulled off the market because they were tainted with harmful ingredients (48).
Additionally, there have been many cases in which contaminated supplements caused dangerous side effects like high blood pressure, strokes, seizures and even death (49).
On a brighter note, the natural supplements listed above can help you burn fat when added to a healthy routine.
Keep in mind that a supplement cannot replace a healthy diet and regular exercise. They simply help you get the most out of a healthy exercise and eating routine.
Summary: In some cases, commercial fat burners can be dangerous, as they are not regulated by the FDA. There have been cases of dangerous side effects and contamination with harmful ingredients.
At the end of the day, there is no single “magic pill” to solve your weight problems.
However, plenty of natural solutions can help you burn more fat when combined with a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
These include caffeine, green-tea extract, protein supplements, soluble fiber supplements and yohimbine.
Among these, caffeine, green tea extract and protein supplements are likely to be the most effective at helping you burn fat.