Learn More About Thermogenic Fat Burners

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What is it?

The category of products that are considered 'thermogenic' typically involve stimulants or sympathomimetics (i.e. they mimic the sympathetic nervous system which is also known as the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome). However, the term ‘thermogenic’ can really apply to other supplements such as protein powders. In reality, anytime you consume food, you’ll elicit a thermic or thermogenic response. Interestingly, protein exerts the highest thermic effect of all the macronutrients. Carbohydrate and fat are significantly much less thermogenic.

Who needs it?

Thermogenic products are typically used by two types of individuals. First, those who just need a boost of energy are frequent consumers of these products. For instance, consuming a typical thermogenic pre-exercise can and does improve exercise performance. The second type of individual are those who are seeking to lose weight and they use thermogenic agents as a tool in helping them achieve this end. In fact, many thermogenic agents are adept at helping your body oxidize or burn fat. And in the long run, many of them do indeed produce fat loss.

What does the science show?

  • Bitter Orange/Synephrine and Caffeine

    Bitter Orange, aka citrus aurantium, contains m-synephrine (phenylephrine) and octopamine and has been added to various weight loss supplements because of its appetite suppressing effect as well as its thermogenic properties. When you combine bitter orange, green tea and guarana, you can increase calorie burning tremendously. 3 Bitter orange plus caffeine is a potent combination that has been to even enhance exercise endurance by 29%.4 This was a combination of bitter orange added to coffee. This new category is often referred to as ‘functional’ or ‘fortified’ coffee!

  • Yohimbine

    Yohimbine, an alkaloid, is the primary active ingredient of yohimbe. One study determined the effects of yohimbine supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in professional soccer players. The athletes (20 top-level male soccer players) were allocated to two randomly assigned trials. Subjects in the yohimbine group orally ingested tablets that contains yohimbine at a dose of 20 milligrams per day in two equal doses for 21 days. Subjects in the placebo group ingested an equal number of identical-looking pills that contained cellulose. Percentage of body fat significantly decreased in the yohimbine group after the supplementation protocol. Also, fat mass was significantly lower in the yohimbine versus placebo trial at postsupplementation assessment. This is one reason you see yohimbine in many weight loss and thermogenic products.

  • Cissus Quadrangularis

    Cissus has been prescribed in Ayurvedic medicine as a dyspeptic, digestive, tonic, analgesic in eye and ear diseases, and in the treatment of irregular menstruation and asthma. Also, the whole plant is used in oral re-hydration, while the leaf, stem, and root extracts of this plant are important in the management of various ailments.2 A recent human study examined the effect of a proprietary extract of Cissus quadrangularis on weight, blood lipids, and oxidative stress in 168 overweight and obese persons. They found it decreased body weight, body fat, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting blood glucose levels.2

  • Thermogenic soda

    To determine the acute effects of ingesting a thermogenic drink [TD] (Celsius) participants consumed 336 ml of the TD or a non-caloric, non-caffeinated placebo (PLA). Caffeine and EGCG were prime ingredients in this thermogenic beverage. When compared to placebo, the TD significantly increased metabolic rate at 60, 120 and 180 min. Free fatty acid concentrations were significantly greater in TD compared to PLA at 30, 60, 120 and 180 minutes post-consumption. The authors of this study suggest that if sustained, these changes may help to promote weight loss and improve body composition.5

  • Red Bull

    Considered the king of the energy category, believe it or not, there are a half-dozen studies on Red Bull. Drinking Red Bull has been shown to significantly increase bench press performance!6 There’s other data showing that Red Bull also helps mental performance too.7, 8 Speed Stack is very similar to Red Bull. Try Speed Stack for similar results!

  • Protein

    The science of thermogenics is in fact quite robust. This ain’t snake oil as they say in Texas. This stuff works, and it works well. As I mentioned before, protein itself is a thermogenic agent. In fact, the thermic effect of protein is about 30%. Meaning, if you consumed 1000 calories of just pure protein, your body would burn about 300 calories (i.e. 30%) just to digest the protein. That’s one of the primary reasons that high-protein diets are excellent at promoting body fat loss. Protein has been shown to produce a 5% to 10% increase in metabolic rate within 8 to 15 minutes after eating.1 So the thermic effect tends to be quite rapid.

Is it safe?

In a study on functional coffee containing caffeine, bitter orange, and/or green tea extract (JavaFit), "no adverse side effects were reported throughout the study as both the supplementation and exercise regimens seem to be well tolerated."9 If consumers use thermogenic products as directed then they are indeed safe. The key is dosage. For instance, if you consumed 1 milligram of caffeine, nothing would happen. Heck, that wouldn’t even wake up a fruit fly. If you consumed 300 mg of caffeine before exercise, you’d burn a lot more calories and fat. But if you consumed 30,000 mg of caffeine, it would kill you. So moderation is key. The best way to use thermogenics, in my opinion, is to consume one serving 30 minutes before training. That’ll maximize your energy and fat-burning too!

Author: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., © 2008.


1. Scott CB, Fernandes J, Lehman M. Onset of the Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF): a randomized cross-over trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:24.
2. Oben JE, Enyegue DM, Fomekong GI, Soukontoua YB, Agbor GA. The effect of Cissus quadrangularis (CQR-300) and a Cissus formulation (CORE) on obesity and obesity-induced oxidative stress. Lipids Health Dis. 2007;6:4.
3. Sale C, Harris RC, Delves S, Corbett J. Metabolic and physiological effects of ingesting extracts of bitter orange, green tea and guarana at rest and during treadmill walking in overweight males. Int J Obes (Lond). Jan 17 2006.
4. Hoffman JR, Kang J, Ratamess NA, Jennings PF, Mangine GT, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of nutritionally enriched coffee consumption on aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. May 2007;21(2):456-459.
5. Dalbo VJ, Roberts MD, Stout JR, Kerksick CM. Acute effects of ingesting a commercial thermogenic drink on changes in energy expenditure and markers of lipolysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. Feb 20 2008;5(1):6.
6. Forbes SC, Candow DG, Little JP, Magnus C, Chilibeck PD. Effect of Red Bull energy drink on repeated Wingate cycle performance and bench-press muscle endurance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. Oct 2007;17(5):433-444.
7. Alford C, Cox H, Wescott R. The effects of red bull energy drink on human performance and mood. Amino Acids. 2001;21(2):139-150.
8. Reyner LA, Horne JA. Efficacy of a 'functional energy drink' in counteracting driver sleepiness. Physiol Behav. Mar 2002;75(3):331-335.
9. Roberts MD, Taylor LW, Wismann JA, Wilborn CD, Kreider RB, Willoughby DS. Effects of ingesting JavaFit Energy Extreme functional coffee on aerobic and anaerobic fitness markers in recreationally-active coffee consumers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:25.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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