When it comes to fat loss, the thermogenic category of products is by far the largest in the fat loss class.
The concept originated back in the late 80's – early 90's as the result of research that was done on the effects of caffeine, ephedrine and aspirin on fat loss. The results were successful enough to spawn the natural version of the above mentioned compounds to be released as a fat loss product – this was the beginning of the thermogenic concept as a supplement and yes, it did include ephedra. This concept of product was not only used for fat loss but also for energy as well. The abuse of these types of products led to FDA intervention and ultimate banning of all ephedra- based products. In the wake of this development, companies were forced to replace the ephedra with various other compounds without losing the fat loss and energy benefits.
Now, having said all that, let's define what a thermogenic is. A common definition is the following: Generation or production of heat, especially by physiological processes. Now, there are different types of thermongenesis, the one we are most interested in is the following:
Diet induced therogenesis — a portion of dietary calories in excess of those required for immediate energy requirements are converted to heat rather than stored as fat. Some types of obesity may be related to a defect in this mechanism.
So, a thermogenic supplement takes advantage of this process by raising the body temperature and metabolic rate, thereby causing calories to be burned faster than normal. While these are ephedra free, they do have a lot of various caffeine sources as well as numerous fat loss ingredients, but if you have any problems with caffeine, you will want to pass on this type of product. Now, these products differ from simply drinking coffee because of the simple fact that they include a fat loss complex of ingredients to give you the most fat burning potential possible. While each product can be different, many of them will add a appetite suppressant along with some of the standard fat burning ingredients such as l-carnitine. Some may include ingredients that promote a healthy thyroid – the thyroid controls the metabolism – as well as diuretic compounds and so on, with many, many different variations.
Guarana – also known as Paullinia cupana, Brazilian cocoa. Guarana is a creeping shrub native to Venezuela and northern Brazil in the Amazon rain forest. The fruit is small, bright-red, and contains black seeds which are rich in caffeine, containing up to 4-8% caffeine. This is very common in diet and energy formulas as well as a stand alone alertness product, in fact, it's one of the earliest herbs used in supplements as a natural source of caffeine.
Green Tea – Green tea comes from a tea plant native to Asia called Camellia sinensis. Black tea also comes from this same plant. Green teas are the least processed of commercial teas and the method used helps to preserve more of the nutrients.. The healthful properties of green tea are largely attributed to polyphenols, chemicals with potent antioxidant properties. Polyphenols contained in teas are classified as catechins. Green tea contains six primary catechin compounds: catechin, gallaogatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and apigallocatechin gallate (also known as EGCG). EGCG is the most well known polyphenol in green tea,.used primarily for it's antioxidant propeties.
Green tea also contains alkaloids including caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, which provide green tea's stimulant effects.
Kola Nut – Caffeine-containing nut of two evergreen trees (Cola acuminata and C. nitida) of the cocoa family (Sterculiaceae), native to tropical Africa and cultivated extensively in the New World tropics. The trees grow to 60 ft (18.3 m) in height and have oblong leathery leaves, yellow flowers, and star-shaped fruit. The nut has been used in medicines and in soft drinks, though American "colas" today instead use synthetic flavorings that mimic its taste.
Yerba mate – A stimulant beverage similar to tea, very popular in South America, brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of a member of the holly family. Yerba mate does contain caffeine but the amount is low compared to coffee or tea.
Caffeine Anhydrous – Caffeine anhydrous is dehydrated caffeine. It's simply regular caffeine with the water removed.
So we see that there are quite a few caffeine sources used, in many cases manufacturers will combine any or all of the above for a potent caffeine “complex”.
Listed below are some other common ingredients:
Capsicum Annuum – or, cayenne pepper. This herb is well know for increasing body temperature and thereby increasing metabolism. Once unheard of in thermogenic supplements, it's now a mainstay. The thermogenic properties of cayenne first came to light in the early 90's but has not been used in supplements until fairly recently.
Synephrine HCL – the search for an effective Ephedra replacement has been ongoing since the ban of ephedra a few years back. Many researchers feel that Synephrine, or Citrus Aurantium, may be a good ephedra alternative. Synephrine is a stimulant thought to have similar effects as caffeine and ephedrine in terms of increasing your metabolic rate which in turn makes your body burn calories at a faster rate, and also suppressing your appetite and providing energy.
Hoodia – a common appetite suppressant popular in many fat loss formulas or as a stand alone product.
Garcinia cambogia – a fruit from India that's found in a number of fat loss supplements and the original appetite suppressant used in supplements. Also known as hydroxycitric acid or HCA.
Guggul Extract – In its extracted form, guggul is a type of resin or oil that comes from the Commiphora mukul tree. Guggulsterones are believed to affect how the thyroid works. The thyroid is the gland located beneath the larynx (voice box). This gland secretes the hormones that regulate metabolism and growth. An abnormal thyroid which produces less of this hormone may cause a person to suffer from low metabolism. This condition is known as hypothyroidism, and in turn, may be responsible for weight gain. In various fat loss supplements, the extract of guggul is used as a stimulant to the thyroid, allowing it to increase production and speed up the metabolism.
L-carnitine – as discussed elsewhere in these guides, carnitine is involved in the process of burning stored fat for energy.
This list is by no means all inclusive as each product will offer different ingredients and target different aspects of fat loss, including diuretics or water retention control, more effective thyroid stimulation, more effective appetite control, stress control and mood control, to name the primary aspects that can be targeted in many of today's better thermogenic products. Certainly, these products have gone from, really, glorified energy pills to often times complex formulas that, once again, are very specialized in their application.
- to increase the metabolism thereby increasing calories burned resulting in fat loss
Formula specific benefits:
- to reduce water retention
- to suppress the appetite
- to control stress related eating
- to promote a healthy thyroid
- to promote a positive mood while on restricted calories
Notice that not once have I used the terms “diet” or “weight loss”, I always use “fat loss”. This is because I do not believe in “dieting” in the mainstream sense because to do so always means some dramatic change in eating habits that have no basis in fact or sound nutrition and also because once mainstream dieters go off the diet, they almost always fall back into old habits. The term “weight loss” does not mean fat loss it actually refers to total body mass, meaning the weight you lose is water, muscle and fat. Not good for a bodybuilder, athlete or fitness enthusiast!
Note also that many benefits are product dependent, so as you research your choices you have to buy to your goals.
Thermogenics almost always come in tablet, soft-gel or capsule form, with many new advances in delivery, such as liquid capsules. Not a soft-gel but an actual liquid-filled capsule. This is a huge category and, as stated above, you have many choices, all with a similar foundation of caffeine based ingredients but from there, branching out to fulfill many different fat loss related objectives. Again, your goals will largely dictate your choice but my suggestion would be a complete product that covers several ares of fat loss. Hey, the more you have working for you the better! As to timing and dosage, let me start by saying that it's critical to follow label directions which usually have you start with 1-2 tabs or caps and gradually work up. Do not just jump right into the full serving suggestion! Timing is typically 1-3 times per day but I suggest only two servings, once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. The reason for this is, with the amount of caffeine in these products, taking a third dose late in the day will just keep you awake. As always, completely read all label directions before using.