Fat loss supplements, also known as fat burners, are among the most popular dietary supplements on the market. This glossary outlines and explains some of the key concepts concerning body fat and weight loss supplements.
Also known as epinephrine, adrenaline is one of the major hormones controlling the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline can have some fat-burning potential by activating special cell receptors that promote the breakdown of fat.
Brown fat is a special type of fat found in most mammals. Unlike standard (white) fat, brown fat cells have a higher number of energy-generating mitochondria, which give it its distinctive color. Brown fat is highest in children and its levels decrease as we progress into adulthood. Lean individuals and people living in cold places tend to have higher brown fat levels, which supports the belief that its main function is to generate heat to help maintain core body temperature.
A calorie is measurement unit used to quantify how much energy is produced by a specific type of nutrient. Both proteins and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, whereas fats contain 9 calories per gram and alcohol contains 7. Limiting caloric intake so that you are burning more calories than you are eating is the most straightforward method for fat loss, since you are forcing your body to burn its fat stores to compensate for insufficient caloric intake.
Found in green coffee beans and other plants, this compound has been shown to promote weight loss. Chlorogenic acid works by decreasing blood glucose levels, prompting the usage of stored fat to help maintain blood sugar. In addition, this natural compound has also been suggested to decrease fat absorption and increase fat oxidation, further accelerating its fat-burning effects.
Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP)
Otherwise known as cAMP, this molecule plays a major role in regulating cell function. In terms of fat loss, cAMP is believed to promote the breakdown of fat, although the magnitude of this effect seems to be relatively small.
Otherwise known as epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG is the main polyphenol compound found in green tea. Much research has been done on the fat loss benefits of green tea polyphenols and EGCG in particular. EGCG works via multiple mechanisms, including boosting metabolism via increased norepinephrine levels, and decreasing the absorption of dietary fat. It can be taken as tea or as an extract supplement.
Energy expenditure refers to the amount of calories we burn every day. This includes breathing, digestion, and other metabolic processes. In order to lose weight, your caloric (energy) intake must be lower than your energy expenditure, meaning that you’re burning more calories than you’re eating.
This is the scientific term for the process in which fat is “burned” – that is, used up to produce energy. More specifically, fat oxidation refers to the transport of free fatty acids from the blood into individual cells, where they enter the mitochondria – the energy-generating center of a cell – and are oxidized to produce ATP, the body’s main energy molecule. Aerobic exercise such as jogging is one of the best ways to increase fat oxidation.
Popularly known as the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin is one of the major hormones that control food intake. Ghrelin is typically released when the stomach is empty to promote food consumption. Some fat loss supplements may influence ghrelin levels.
Otherwise known as HCA, this plant compound is present in the Garcinia cambogia, a fruit grown in Southeast Asia. HCA is suggested to promote weight loss by inhibiting the conversion of sugar into fats, and by reducing appetite, but these effects are weak and remain relatively untested in humans.
The central feature of diabetes, insulin resistance refers to the inability of cells to respond to insulin as they normally should. As a result, they are unable to take up sufficient glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels.
Leptin is a hormone produced by the body’s fat cells whose main function is to reduce hunger. The more fat cells you have, the more leptin is produced. Unless you have low body fat, there is normally enough leptin to promote satiety by signaling to the brain’s hypothalamus. However, in a state of leptin resistance the brain is unable to detect even high leptin levels, and as a result your appetite is not reduced. Leptin resistance is now believed to be one of the central mechanisms behind obesity, as the brain is seemingly unable to recognize that the body’s fat stores are high enough to curb your eating.
Lipogenesis, also known as de novo lipogenesis, is a process through which excess carbohydrates are converted into fat for storage. Unlike the case for some other mammals such as mice, lipogenesis is not a major contributor to body fat in humans. As such, weight loss supplements that target lipogenesis are not very effective at promoting fat loss.
The central process behind fat loss, lipolysis involves the breakdown of the fat (triglycerides) stored in your fat cells by a hydrolysis reaction. Hydrolysis causes triglycerides to be broken down into free fatty acids and glycerol that can then be utilized by the body for energy.
Mitochondria are cell structures whose main function is to produce energy in the form of ATP. Mitochondria use oxygen and glucose or fatty acids to produce this energy.
Metabolism refers to all the essential processes that sustain life. More specifically, metabolism involves the breakdown of food into energy, and the use of food and energy for building proteins and other biological molecules.
Metabolic rate refers to the rate at which the body burns calories. It depends on many factors, including height, weight, gender, age, and activity levels. Increasing your metabolic rate is one way to promote weight loss because you are effectively burning more calories than before.
Alongside adrenaline, noradrenaline, also known as norepinephrine, is one of two major hormones involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response. Noradrenaline can aid in the breakdown of fat by binding to specific cell receptors.
Synephrine is a compound derived from bitter orange (Citrus Aurantium) fruit. It is believed to aid weight loss by influencing cell receptors that control metabolic rate and appetite, but more research is needed to back its effectiveness.
Thermogenesis refers to the production of heat by the body, and is broken down into three major types: thermoregulatory (needed for maintaining body temperature), exercise-induced, and diet-induced. Indeed, even the simple act of eating and digesting food produces heat, a phenomenon encompassed by the concept of the thermic effect of food (TEF). Because generating heat burns calories, thermogenesis is one of the processes that can be influenced to help you lose weight. Fat loss supplements that work primarily by increasing thermogenesis are known as thermogenics.
Triiodothyronine and thyroxine are both hormones produced by the thyroid gland, and their primary function is to regulate metabolism. Low levels of these hormones may result in lowered metabolic rates.
Otherwise known as “deep fat,” this type of fat is located in the abdomen rather than immediately under the skin. Visceral fat surrounds many important organs such as the liver. High levels of visceral fat are associated with diabetes and other chronic disorders.
Yohimbine is the active ingredient of yohimbe – an African tree that has long been used as a medicinal herb. Yohimbine seems to work by blocking specific cell receptors, thus freeing up adrenaline and noradrenaline a nd allowing them to have a bigger effect on other cell receptors that promote fat breakdown.