Fat burners are the supplement industry’s fave buzz word, but do they work and are they safe?
Supplements in the stimulants category may enhance fat oxidisation depending on the goals of the exerciser (and who you’re talking to).
According to personal trainer David Bayens (primalpt.com.au), “The benefits of caffeine are well known for fat oxidation and training drive. Green tea extract is also excellent as well as anything that supports the thyroid such as iodine.”
Consider your overall health
If you do choose to use supplements, consider what they’re doing for your overall health, not merely your fat-burning capacity.
According to Mark Ottobre, owner and director of Melbourne’s Enterprise Fitness, supplements should be viewed within the context of optimising body systems that domino into fat burning.
“You improve someone’s health; you improve their ability to burn fat. You’re balancing a deficiency in something that is required for so many functions in the body. Why would the body worry about burning fat if you’re not healthy?” Bayens says carnitine can help to ferry fatty acids into muscle tissue to be used as energy during training.
Be wary of excess calories & sugar
Maston, on the other hand, does not recommend supplements. “…The increase of fat oxidation is minimal and negated by the fact it makes people hungrier and anxious,” she says.
Supplements nested in shakes and gels can also counteract a fat loss goal.
“Some of the supplements have calories in them adding to the total intake for the day. Supplements like this also often consist of sugar or artificially sweetened ingredients that also contribute to fat mass,” Maston warns.
Pre- and post-workout protein shakes
According to nutritionist Rosie Mansfield, fat burning can be manipulated with a strategically chosen pre- and post-workout protein shake.
The optimal shake to prime the body to burn maximum fat is “a low-protein blend of soy isolate and whey protein”.
Dietitian Duncan Hunter says intake timing also affects how much fat gets burned.
“The best time to have a protein drink is within 30 minutes of finishing exercise (for example, a full body workout or weights). If it is an easy walk, it is best just to go for a whole food snack or just eat your next scheduled meal if it is within the next hour or so.”
To ensure you’re not cancelling out your workout with calories, keep each shake to around 480kJ.