Too many people, in their desperation for a fast solution, turn to thermogenic supplements when more knowledge of the subject of what constitutes a healthy level of body fat, how to structure a diet one can live with every day, how to exercise properly and how to learn patience would get them much farther without the unpleasant or dangerous side effects of speed. Folks who wouldn’t dream of taking street drugs or other types of uppers don’t think twice about popping “stims” to get a leg up on fat loss.
Having been involved in the bodybuilding world for a long while, I’m not going to tell you that thermogenics have no place. They do, but should only be used on a temporary basis for specific purposes. If you’re a bodybuilder getting ready to compete, have all your other ducks in a row and you need to get your body fat levels down below average for a very short term, then a thermogenic may be a good choice. If you’re an athlete who must make a certain weight class, you have all your other ducks in a row and you need to drop some scale weight for a very short term for an upcoming event, then a thermogenic may be a good choice. Depending on how they are used and how you personally tolerate them, they are probably safer than prescription diuretics.
There are many products on the market consisting of various ingredients that are totally worthless or extremely dangerous with the more effective they are the more dangerous they are. The most popular are listed in order of mildest to strongest.
Fiber supplements – These are supposed to fill your stomach, thus you don’t feel hungry. Hello! Why not just gnaw the corner off your living room carpet or, better yet, eat a large salad?
Synephrine – This citrus extract taken by itself it does little, although it may work synergistically with ephedra and caffeine and is often added to the E-C stack. You could get the same benefit from eating a grapefruit or sucking on a lemon!
Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) – This product, touted as an appetite suppressant, supposedly converts an enzyme necessary for fatty acid synthesis, amongst other claims. It’s usually combined with a lot of other compounds in many weight loss products. It won’t send you flying through the roof, but it may not be particularly effective.
Thyroid Boosters – These products usually contain something called “gugglesterones” which are an Ayurvedic extract that’s supposed to increase thyroid hormone levels, thus creating a rise in body temperature. “Guggles” are also supposed to reduce cholesterol levels (I’m assuming they mean LDL, not HDL) and cure acne. Other compounds are mixed into these formulas as well. The idea is to preserve thyroid function, which often slows down when a person goes on a sub-maintenance calorie diet for long periods. They’re often taken in concert with ephedra for a synergistic effect.
Yohimbe/Yohimbine – This is a concentrated extract from African tree bark. Its main use is for male impotence and many supplement companies tell women not to take it. The reason for this is because it tends to increase sexual desire, not thought appropriate for women by many in the male-dominated supplement industry who prefer non-aggressive females. In the fitness community, it’s billed as a “thermogenic extender,” in that it supposedly enhances the effects of other compounds. You can get it in tablets or in a cream that purports to reduce lower body fat.
Caffeine/Guarana – Anyone who’s quaffed down a very strong cup of coffee knows that it acts as a stimulant, an appetite suppressant and a diuretic. The amount put in capsules is much greater than what you would normally ingest. These are the type of “stay awake” pills often used by long-distance truck drivers or pilots. Can we fly without wings?
Ephedra/MaHuang – This is the most effective of the legal weight loss compounds although it has a plethora of side effects in some people. It’s been banned in several states and the pharmaceutical industry is trying hard to get it federally scheduled (declared a prescription drug).
Clenbuterol – a prescription medication illegal in the United States but used for the treatment of asthma in Europe because it’s a good bronchial tube dilator. “Clen” causes fat to be released from beta andrenegenic cells, which are those we often refer to as “stubborn fat.” The FDA feels it has too high a side-effect profile to be safe even as an asthma medication. Although used by many competitive physique athletes at the very end of a competition diet, it’s no good for long-term use (like more than two weeks at a time) and the effects do not last once it’s discontinued.
Nicotine – Habit forming and cancer causing, it seems to be the “drug of choice” for many in the fashion and entertainment industries, as well as younger women. Combine it with street cocaine and you’ve got a first class appetite suppressant, not to mention a possible trip to the ER and maybe some jail time.
Dinitrophenol (DNP) – This is a compound that was used years ago in Germany to manufacture TNT. Some professional athletes like to experiment with this stuff, but it’s a good way to cook yourself from the inside out. You will lose body fat, but you probably won’t live long enough to enjoy the results.
Although most of the above thermogenic supplements that are sold come with warnings about their use, those worth using only need to have two ingredients: ephedra and caffeine combined in approximately a 10:1 ratio. You don’t need to stack these with aspirin, yohimbine or any other compounds, no matter what supplement manufacturers would try to have you believe. The only other ingredient that’s helpful, because it acts as a synergist, is some type of citrus extract, although you can save money by swallowing your thermogenic with store-bought grapefruit juice.