One of the most popular categories in the supplement industry is “fat-burners”. This comes as no surprise given that most people starting an exercise routine are generally looking to lose body-fat and improve their body composition.
Before we delve into what supplements you should consider when building your own “fat-loss stack” it’s important to keep in mind that no amount of supplements will ever “do the work for you” or make up for poor dietary habits and lack of exercise.
Therefore, the supplements analyzed herein should be used in conjunction with proper exercise and diet, not as a replacement for those lifestyle factors. For efficacy, it is recommended that you first and foremost get your nutrition and training regimen on track before spending money on fat-burning supplements.
Now with that “disclaimer” out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the more popular/effective fat-burning supplements that can contribute to one’s personal fat-loss stack. The rest of this guide will give a brief description of what each supplement/ingredient does, how much you should take, when to take it, and finally give some examples of how to implement it into your supplement stack.
A foundation/staple to most any fat-burning stack is the stimulant drug caffeine. Caffeine is an alkaline, organic substance (specifically a methylxanthine) found abundantly in coffee beans, coca, tea leaves, and other foods/plants.
How it works-- The ingestion of methylxanthines postpone the breakdown of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) via inhibition of phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzymes; thus caffeine is considered a PDE inhibitor. Since cAMP and cGMP are crucial messengers in cell signal transduction, the metabolic processes in the cell are sent into “overdrive” after the ingestion of PDE inhibitors.
Therefore, the elevated metabolic rate would be conducive to helping burn more calories. This elevation in calorie expenditure can further be bolstered by caffeine’s promotion of catecholamine activity. 
Based on the research, caffeine appears to augment both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, as well as lower the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).[2,3] Essentially, after taking caffeine, you generally have an increased athletic performance capacity, thus you can work harder and longer than those who workout without caffeine use beforehand; this in turn would likely increase caloric burn/fat-burning from exercise.
How much to take—Dosages for caffeine vary by individual; it is generally recommended to take 1-3mg per kg of bodyweight at a time (remember: 2.2lb=1kg). If you’re a 180lb (~81kg) person, your dose range will land between 80 and 240mg. Do not go too crazy with caffeine dosing since there isn’t much extra benefit to exorbitant amounts and it can in fact be lethal/toxic at high enough doses (>5g). Be safe and methodical with caffeine; it is a drug, so treat it as such.
When to take--As a starting point (and to assess your tolerance), try taking caffeine on an empty stomach about an hour before training. If you prefer to take caffeine with a meal, give yourself a bit more time before hitting the gym. If you find your performance in the gym is indeed bolstered after caffeine ingestion, than there is little reason to alter your approach. On the contrary, if you notice no change or a decrease in performance, you will either want to adjust your dose and/or manipulate the dose timing.
Yohimbine is a stimulant compound derived from the plant species Pausinystalia yohimbe. It is an antagonist of alpha-2 adrenergic receptors and acts as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).
How it works—Research seems to suggest that, when taken pre-exercise, yohimbine enhances lipolytic (fat releasing) activity via blockade of alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in adipocytes and stimulation of catecholamine release. [5,6] It is further purported that yohimbine works most optimally in the absence of insulin (or preferably in a fasted state).
How much to take—As with caffeine, yohimbine intake needs to be carefully monitored so as not to overdo things. As with other supplements, yohimbine dosage will vary by body size, and extrapolating from literature it appears that about .1-.3mg/kg of bodyweight at a time is a sufficient dose for fat loss (and you may take up to 3 doses per day if necessary).
When to take—It is preferable to take yohimbine about 20-30 minutes pre-exercise (especially cardiovascular activity) and on an empty stomach.
Synephrine is another stimulant compound extracted primarily from Citrus aurantium tree leaves (and is also found in trace quantities in orange-derived food products). It is structurally similar to the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine.
How it works—It appears that synephrine works primarily through stimulation of beta-adrenergic receptors, thereby increasing concentrations of catecholamines in the blood which in turn activate lipolysis in adipocytes. 
How much to take—Synephrine should be taken in quantities quite similar to that of yohimbine. As above, this equates to about .1-.3mg per kg of bodyweight per dose.
When to take—Since synephrine appears to enhance lipolysis primarily by agonism of beta-adrenergic receptors, this should preferably be taken prior to exercise (say 30-60 minutes preworkout).
Capsacinoids are the compounds found in peppers that give them spice/heat. Literature has supported the finding that capsaicin acts to increase metabolic expenditure.  The measurement of capsaicin content in certain peppers is given as Scollville thermal units. However, eating large amounts of hot peppers to reach nominal doses of capsacinoids is impractical due to gastric irritation and other digestive qualms.
How it works—Research supports that the mechanism for increased metabolic expenditure after ingestion of capsaicin is based on beta-adrenergic stimulation.  It is suggested that this increase in energy expenditure and concomitant decrease in respiratory quotient positively affect fat oxidation. 
How much to take—In the Janssens et. al study, 2.56mg of capsaicin were provided with each meal. It is likely that a nominal dose ranges between 2-3mg at a time, and may be taken up to 3 times per day.
When to take—It is generally preferred to take capsaicin with meals since it may cause gastric irritation on an empty stomach; if you can tolerate otherwise than feel free to dose it at other times.
Green Tea Extract (specifically epigallocatechin gallate/EGCG)
Green tea extract has become a common ingredient in many fat-burning products mainly due to its ability to raise caloric expenditure (similar to that of capsaicin). The primary constituent in green tea leaves responsible for this metabolic effect is the antioxidant epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG).
How it works—Epigallocatechin gallate acts as an inhibitor of the enzyme catechol-O-methyl transferase, which serves to breakdown catecholamines. Therefore, ingestion of EGCG enhances the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine, which positively effects fat burning.  It also an anti-carcinogenic agent and has potent anti-oxidant effects. 
How much to take—This will depend on the concentration of EGCG provided by the green tea extract you use. The positive metabolic effects observed in the literature are achieved with a dose of about 150-250mg of EGCG per day.
When to take—Preferably take green tea extract/EGCG about 30-60 minutes before you work out since it slows breakdown of catecholamines.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)
PQQ is a natural compound contained in quinoproteins (often found in bacteria), and is primarily retrieved from fermented soybeans. The most intriguing finding behind PQQ thus far is that it acts to create new mitochondria in cells (a process referred to as mitochondrial biogenesis). 
How it works—PQQ acts as a cellular messenger mimicking some of the most fundamental effects of exercise, ultimately increasing the body’s natural production of the hormone Irisin. In humans, Irisin release can be considered one of the most important effects of physical activity, as circulating Irisin levels are negatively correlated with age, insulin, cholesterol, and adiponectin and positively correlated with fat free mass and ghrelin.  Also, as noted above, PQQ serves to increase mitochondrial biogenesis, a favorable adaptation that increases metabolic rate.
How much to take—Placebo-controlled safety studies in humans show the consumption of PQQ at 20mg and 60mg per day is effective and safe.
When to take—Timing of PQQ is not too important since its effects are somewhat latent and develop after continual use has been established.
Raspberry Ketone (RK)
Raspberry ketone is the major aromatic compound of red raspberries (Rubus idaeus).It is actually similar in chemical structure to synephrine and capsaicin (discussed earlier herein); therefore it is thought that RK is a worthwhile ingredient/supplement for weight/fat loss.
How it works—As with other catecholamine inducers, RK has been shown to significantly increase norepinephrine-induced lipolysis in white adipose tissue.  Moreover, RK has been shown to inhibit small intestinal absorption of dietary fat by suppression of pancreatic lipase.
How much to take—Typical doses for RK range from 200-400mg per day (divided into at least two doses).
When to take— It is suggested to take raspberry ketone twice per day, with one of those servings preferably 30-60 minutes before working out.
Building your own Fat-loss supplement stack
Now that we have covered some of the more potent fat-burning agents on the supplement market, we can now put the above information to good use and provide some sample supplement stacks to help you achieve the body you want. (NOTE: the doses provided herein are based on an individual weighing 80 kgs—adjust your doses as needed)
Stack 1: A Stimulant-based Fat Loss Arsenal
- Pre-Workout: Caffeine (160mg), Yohimbine (12mg), Synephrine (12mg), EGCG (200mg), Raspberry Ketone (150mg)
- Dose 2 (with a meal): Raspberry Ketone (150mg), PQQ (30mg), Capsaicin 2.5mg
- Dose 3 (with a meal): Capsaicin 2.5 mg
Stack 2: Stimulant-free Fat loss
- Pre-Workout: EGCG (300mg), Raspberry Ketone (200mg), Capsaicin (2.5mg)
- Dose 2 (with a meal): PQQ (30mg), Raspberry Ketone (200mg), Capsaicin (2.5mg)
- Dose 3 (with a meal): PQQ (30mg), Capsaicin (2.5mg)
Bear in mind these are just templates, be creative and use the information in this guide to help you build your own personal fat-loss supplement stack!
Should I buy these supplements/ingredients individually or find a product that contains them all?
Currently, some of these ingredients are not available “in bulk” or as standalones in the Muscle & Strength Supplement store. However, Muscle & Strength carries a plethora of products that contain most of these ingredients. Here are a few products to consider and the ingredients they contain:
- Haleo OnPoint - Currently the only supplement on Muscle & Strength that contains PQQ. Also contains all the other ingredients in this guide besides yohimbine, synephrine, and raspberry ketone.
- Nutrex Lipo-6 Black - Contains caffeine, synephrine, yohimbine and a few other ingredients. This is a good option to cover your stimulant portion for your fat-loss stack.
- MuscleTech HydroxyCut Hardcore Elite - Has caffeine, yohimbine and some other notable fat-burning ingredients that are not part of this guide.
- MusclePharm Shred Matrix - Contains caffeine, yohimbine, EGCG, capsaicin, and a few other compounds not discussed herein.
- VPX Meltdown - Similar in composition to Lipo-6 Black with the addition of a few other compounds. Again, a good option to cover the stimulant part of your fat loss stack.
For efficacy/ease, I would recommend buying one of the above supplements and “filling in the gaps” with bulk/standalone ingredients that are missing in the product you choose. So for example, you could purchase Haleo OnPoint and then buy yohimbine, synephrine, and raspberry ketone separately.
Again, the options are really limitless, so use the info in this guide to find the fat-loss stack that suits you best!
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