What is thermogenisis?
The word “thermogenisis” is made up of the words “thermo” which means “heat” and “genesis” which means “to make” or “to produce”.
If a drug, a food, an herb, or any kind of supplement is “thermogenic” or has “thermogenic properties” it means that when a person eats it, their body temperature rises.
This term is very popular among body builders and people interested in weight loss supplements.
We all know that heat is a form of energy. So in order for your body temperature to rise, your body needs to first burn some extra calories in order to obtain the energy required to make that happen.
So a thermogenic substance will automatically raise your body temperature (hence burn extra calories), even while you are just sitting around the house and doing nothing. If you take them before a workout, you’ll burn even more calories than you otherwise would have. This is a dream for people who want to lose body fat.
What are some thermogenic herbs and supplements?
Some of the most popular thermogenic supplements are caffeine and ephedrine. You can find both in many weight loss supplements (although the rules and restrictions often change regarding how ephedrine is allowed to be marketed in both Canada and the USA).
When they are mixed or “stacked”, their combined effects are even more powerful. Even though thermogenic weight loss supplements can be very effective, it’s important to be careful when using certain ones.
Perhaps the most powerful one is 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP). This a dangerous thermogenic drug used for rapid fat loss.
Some more moderate, but effective, thermogenic supplements are:
• Green tea extract
• Cayenne pepper
• Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng)
• White Willow (Nature’s aspirin) Note: Aspirin is not thermogenic on it’s own, but it is known to enhance thermogenic properties in ephedrine and other thermogenic agents.
• Green Coffee Bean extract
• Ephedra (ma huang) “herbal ephedrine”
These thermogenic herbs and substances can be taken by themselves, mixed together “stacked”, or taken with other weight loss supplements such as Garcinia Cambogia (LINK). Garcinia cambogia is not thermogenic, but it does significantly aid in weight loss and fat burning through different mechanisms.
Thermogenisis is just one of many mechanisms for weight loss supplements. Some supplements can help you lose weight by using totally different mechanisms. Appetite suppression (LINK), for example, is another totally different mechanism for weight loss. Some weight loss supplements work on enzymes and hormones in the body by either blocking the conversion of carbohydrates and proteins into fat, or by forcing the body to use it’s own fat as a source of fuel, rather than blood sugar or muscle fibres.
Are thermogenic weight loss supplements safe or dangerous?
There seem to be two extreme sides to this debate. One side just loves them and sees no need for any restrictions or any caution whatsoever. The other side acts as though they should never be used in any circumstance, even though they have no solid arguments or scientific evidence to back up their case. We opt for a more nuanced opinion somewhere in the middle. We believe people should be cautious when taking thermogenic supplements for weight loss, but there is absolutely a place for them. Certain foods, like green tea, chilli peppers, coconut oil, and lean proteins are all thermogenic. These foods are most often considered very healthy, so there is really no need for a ridiculously hard lined approach with thermogenisis. So it’s certainly not as though thermogenic supplements are bad in and of themselves, it’s just important to be careful, as is true with anything.
Many people will combine or “stack” different supplements with thermogenic properties. This dramatically increases their effectiveness, but it also can increase the health risks involved if people aren’t careful. Caution is advised. And as you can imagine, many people really go overboard when trying to lose weight quickly, so it’s not uncommon for them to far exceed the recommended doses. Too much caffeine and ephedrine taken together can cause rapid heart rates and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
DNP is very dangerous because it results in a “dose dependent” increase in body temperature. And in large enough amounts, it does so to the point where it can induce death by hyperthermia. (Hyperthermia is when the body’s temperature is so high it overwhelmes our internal cooling systems). Heat stroke and heat exhaustion is another common and also potentially deadly form of hyperthermia.
“Dose dependent” means that the higher the dose, the higher the effect. Our bodies can’t counteract the effects of the higher doses.
Eating sugar, for example, does not increase your blood sugar levels in a dose dependent way. It’s not true that if you keep eating more sugar at one time, your blood sugar levels will keep going up with it. In a healthy person, insulin kicks in and takes down the blood sugar levels. (I’m NOT advising eating sugar all the time! I’m just trying to explain “dose dependent”)
Are thermogenic supplements effective for weight loss?
Yes. That is the short answer. But most people want fat loss more than just weight loss. Thermogenic supplements raise body temperature and force the body to burn more calories, but that doesn’t mean the calories are all coming from your love handles or other “problem areas”. If you don’t have your metabolism operating at peak performance, which most people don’t, you could wind up burning your muscle fibres rather than body fat.
Thermogenic foods and certain supplements are good for speeding up your metabolism in general, but if you use them, you also need to keep your body in a metabolic state where you burn fat rather than muscle. A high protein, high omega 3 fat, and low carb diet works well with thermogenic supplements.
A horrible idea would be to use thermogenics and eat candy, bread, or sugary stuff regularly. Those high carb foods spike your blood sugar, and force your body to store those carbs are body fat.
What are some alternatives to thermogenic weight loss supplements?
Appetite suppressants, like 5 HTP and Garcinia Cambogia are a good alternative. So are supplements which block hormones, like insulin, responsible for converting sugar into fat.
Are there any “non jittery” thermogenic weight loss supplements?
The “jittery” or nervous feeling you get from many thermogenic supplements is from the caffeine content, and not really the thermogenic aspects per se. You won’t get jittery from eating cayenne pepper. You won’t get jittery on a high protein/low carb diet. Just look for supplements with no caffeine if you want to avoid the uncomfortable jittery feeling. Everyone is different too. Some people love the caffeine content and the effect it has on them personally. Others hate it. See for yourself what feels good for you.