Thermogenic Supplements

“Thermogenic” is the newest buzz word in the weight-loss supplements industry.  It seems like virtually every new weight-loss supplement contains some sort of thermogenic ingredient which purports to increase your metabolism, decrease appetite, and burn your fat effortless – all safely and naturally.  But what exactly are these thermogenic supplements and are they as good as they are hyped up to be?

Thermogenesis and Metabolism

Thermogenesis the process in which our bodies use energy to produce heat.  A thermogenic weight loss supplement is basically any product which causes your body temperature to increase.  Since the body must use more energy to sustain the increased temperature, thermogenic supplements can cause you to burn more calories even without increasing activity level. Thermogenic supplements for weight loss will usually claim to increase your metabolism.  This increase in metabolic rate is because your metabolism regulates your energy use – including the amount of energy which goes into heating your body.

Do Thermogenic Supplements Actually Help Weight Loss?

The science behind thermogenic supplements is fairly solid.  The human body expends a great deal of energy in heat production. Even a slight increase in body temperature could result in a drastic increase of calorie expenditure daily.  Thermogenic supplements also have a mild appetite suppressing effect.  The basic reason for this appetite suppressant effect is that your body has mechanisms to prioritize energy expenditure. When your body needs energy (such as for heating your body), it will “turn down” hunger because searching for food can waste a lot of energy (thinking back to our ancestors who had to hunt and gather food).

Thermogenic supplements have been a staple of the bodybuilding community for years but are just now making their way into the weight-loss supplement industry. What these supplement makers usually fail to mention is that our bodies are always producing heat and there are numerous factors which could increase the amount of heat produced. For example, thermogenesis occurs when you shiver.  It also occurs when you are sick with the flu.  Exercise is also a natural way to promote thermogenesis.  When you exercise, your body temperature increases because your muscles function better when they are warm.  Thus, exercise causes you to burn calories from activity and also to get a metabolism boost which furthers the benefits.

Compared to exercise, thermogenic supplements are a poor substitute.  No thermogenic supplement is going to be the miracle weight-loss supplement that they claim to be.  If you want to lose weight, you will have to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. A thermogenic supplement can give your efforts a nice boost though so you get better results.

It is important to be cautious when choosing a thermogenic supplement because many are just glorified forms of stimulants like caffeine or green tea (www.weightloss.us/extracting-weight-control-from-green-tea-extract/).  While these substances are “natural thermogenic supplements,” they are still stimulants and have all the dangers which come with such substances.  For long-term weight loss, stimulant supplements can be a poor choice because they may cause withdrawal effects like increased appetite and slowed metabolism.  You can find out more about stimulant weight loss supplements here (stimulant weight loss supplements: are they really going to shed fat from your body?).  Some of the most popular non-stimulant thermogenic supplements include capsicum (a chili powder extract), bitter orange, ginger, guar gum, and pyruvic acid.

How to Get the Most from Thermogenic Supplements

When taking a thermogenic supplement for weight loss, you are still going to need to exercise and make healthy food choices.  Because thermogenic supplements do have a mild appetite suppressing effect, it is often best to take them about 30 minutes before meals (or as indicated).  You can maximize the metabolism-boosting effects of thermogenic weight loss supplements by taking them before exercising.  Exercise already has a thermogenic effect which gets further boosted from a thermogenic supplement. Make sure that you are drinking extra water while taking a thermogenic supplement as well. Since your body temperature is getting a slight boost, you can become dehydrated more easily. When you are dehydrated, your metabolism slows down and you will not burn calories or use energy as efficiently.


Yoshida, T., N. Sakane, T. Umekawa, and M. Kondo. “Relationship between basal metabolic rate, thermogenic response to caffeine, and body weight loss following combined low calorie and exercise treatment in obese women.” International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 18.5 (1994): 345-350. Web.

Preuss, Harry G., Donna DiFerdinando, Manashi Bagchi, and Debasis Bagchi. “Citrus Aurantium as a thermogenic, weight-reduction replacement for Ephedra: An overview.” Journal of Medicine 33.1-4(2002). Web.

Astrup, A, L Breum, and S Toubro. “Pharmacological and clinical studies of ephedrine and other thermogenic agonists.” Obesity Research 3.4 (1995): 537-540. Web


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