Fat-burning supplements may seem like a dream come true for many, and when they're effective, they're very effective. However, like all medications, supplements, and dietary adjustments, they may have both short-term and long-term effects on your body and your health.
How long can you safely take a fat-burning supplement? The answer varies wildly depending on a range of different factors, so let's discuss those factors.
Consult Your Doctor
The first and most important thing you need to do when you're taking a fat-burning supplement is keep in contact with your doctor.
Pretty much every doctor will be in favor of you losing weight, assuming you're above the range that science has determined is healthy. Obesity is responsible for a wide range of different diseases, shortened lifespan, and other issues. Losing weight is one of the most common pieces of medical advice given worldwide and specifically in North America.
That said, your doctor will be more aware of what is going on with your body and how different supplements might affect you. For example, if you have diabetes, you might not be able to effectively use certain supplements, or you may need to change your dosage of whatever medication you're taking.
Some medications have a dosage that is prescribed based on your weight, because it's absorbed into the body and needs to be an effective dose. As you lose weight, the dosage for those medications may change. Rather than risk overdosing and dealing with side effects, keep in touch with your doctor.
Additionally, you may have or be at risk for certain nutritional deficiencies. Fat-burning supplements typically minimize your caloric intake while maximizing your metabolism, so you may end up needing a vitamin or mineral supplement to take alongside your fat burner.
Another concern is the content of the fat burner itself. Many weight loss supplements include caffeine or a caffeine analogue as a primary ingredient. If you're used to drinking caffeinated beverages like soda or coffee, you'll want to cut back on those to make sure you aren't going to give yourself caffeine migraines or jitters.
Here's our recommendation:
- Start by doing plenty of research into the supplements you want to take. Are you going to go for a simple pill you take each day to encourage fat burning, or are you going to opt for a meal replacement shake, or something in the middle?
- Armed with the knowledge of what supplements you want to take and how you're adjusting your diet, consult with your doctor. They will be able to tell you if your plan of action is safe or not, and how to adjust it to be safe while still being effective.
- Embark on your potentially modified plan and endeavor to lose weight.
- After a month or so, schedule another meeting with your doctor to evaluate your progress. Make sure to get blood work done to make sure you don't have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and describe any symptoms or side effects you've been having. In particular, watch for cognitive or cardiovascular side effects, as well as side effects involving sleep. These might be indicative of a bigger problem.
If your doctor indicates that you should cease, alter, or otherwise change your diet plan, do so. Losing weight doesn't do you any good if you cripple yourself or die in the process, right? Better obese than dead.
Follow the Recommended Usage Instructions
Every weight loss supplement will have some manner of instructions. Depending what's in them, you may have different levels of intake or different durations you can safely take them. For example, some weight-loss focused cleanses should only be taken for a week or two at the most, while some meal replacement shakes are meant to be long-term or even permanent changes to your diets.
To use an example, we looked at a range of different weight loss products to give you an idea of their instructions.
- Garcinia Cambogia extract: This supplement typically has instructions to discontinue use if side effects occur or the product is not well tolerated, but otherwise can be used until such time as you've achieved your target weight.
- Hydroxycut: This weight loss product is potentially dangerous for extreme or long-term use. The default Hydroxycut program is 17 weeks long, after which you should discontinue use and switch to a maintenance diet and exercise plan until you're used to your new normal. Additionally, watch for symptoms of liver disease, seizures, or kidney disease, and discontinue use if any occur.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant included in many different weight loss supplements. In large doses it can be dangerous, causing vasoconstriction, jitters, and possible heart issues. High amounts of caffeine are dangerous, and while many people live on a daily dose of caffeine from coffee, it's not something you should overdose on.
- Orlistat: This is an over the counter or prescription drug, also found under names like Xenical or Alli. Depending on the size of the dose, your weight loss needs, and doctor's instructions, you can take Orlistat for up to four years. Often, weight loss tapers off after about one year of use, however.
- Glucomannan: This dietary fiber supplement absorbs water and nutrients in the body and should be taken shortly before meals for maximum effect. Current studies have not shown any adverse effects for long-term use in general, so it's likely that this supplement can be taken indefinitely.
We highly recommend that you investigate the ingredients in any supplement you plan to take, and look into actual studies, doctor's recommendations, and other information to make an informed decision. Bodily awareness is most important, however, and if you start experiencing any side effects, consult a professional to determine of you should discontinue use of your supplements.
Keep an Eye on the News
Weight loss supplements are a largely unregulated industry. Since supplements are not evaluated by scientific study or by the Food and Drug Administration, it can be difficult to say what's in them with any degree of accuracy. Dosage information may vary, the exact ingredients may not all be listed properly, and it's entirely possible that your supplements could have issues.
We highly recommend keeping an eye on the news. News can tell you two important things: if the FDA is banning a substance that's in some supplement you take, and if there are signs that a particular ingredient or supplement may be tainted. You want to watch health news as well as recall lists to make sure anything you're taking is safe.
For example, back in 2003, the FDA banned weight loss supplements that include the ingredient Ephedra. Ephedra is a potent stimulant and, while it had beneficial uses in weight loss and in decongestion, it was also dangerous in high doses. Since weight loss supplements are largely unregulated, some supplements could contain as much as 10x the recommended daily allowance of such a stimulant. This could lead to everything from hyperactivity to jitters to heart palpitations to death. In fact, over 150 people died because of Ephedra before it was banned. Over 16,000 reports of negative effects also led to its ban.
Other times, you might find that a supplement you considered safe actually contains something detrimental or banned. Back in 2010, the stimulant sibutramine was banned and labeled a controlled substance. In 2015, a particular weight loss formula called Meizi Super Power Fruits, billed as an organic and fruit-based weight loss formula, was found to have sibutramine in it.
Again, since weight loss supplements are largely unregulated, you have to rely on news and reports after the fact. There's a wide range of possible contaminants in supplements, so you should monitor a list like this one to make sure the supplement you're taking does not show up. If it does, consult your doctor and discontinue use immediately.
As of this writing, near the end of 2019, there have been sixteen weight loss products that have been found to include controlled substances, hidden drugs, or other regulated ingredients that make them banned or restricted on the open market.
Consider Additional Supplements
As mentioned, some weight loss supplements or meal replacements will limit what you're consuming in other ways. They may have semi-complete replacement formulas, but you may end up lacking certain essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Remember that even if you're taking a multivitamin alongside your fat burning supplement, you might still fail to properly absorb the nutrients contained in the vitamin. You want to keep in touch with a medical professional who can offer you advice on additional supplements.
For example, if you find that consuming a fat burner has left you feeling light headed, you may be suffering from an iron deficiency and have a form of anemia. If this is the case, you may want to supplement your supplements with an iron booster.
As always, consult your doctor. They will be able to help identify any deficiencies you may be experiencing, and can offer alternative solutions, including prescription supplements that will have better effects than what your normal supplements allow.
How to Maximize the Effect of Fat-Burning Supplements
You likely want to make sure your fat burner is actually working, so you need to combine it with healthy living tips, additional consumption, and adjustments in lifestyle.
In addition to boosting the effectiveness of the supplement, these tips will help keep you healthy and minimize side effects.
- Make sure you're getting enough protein and fat in your diet. Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive to consume fat when you're trying to burn fat, but your body needs a certain amount of fat to survive. Protein, meanwhile, is essential and cannot be cut down for risk of major health effects.
- Make sure you're drinking enough water. One of the most common side-effects of weight loss supplements is low-level chronic dehydration. Consuming more water will help your body better absorb nutrients, purge toxins, and generally keep you healthier and feeling better.
- Get enough sleep. One of the most important aspects of health is sleep, which allows your body to heal and restore itself each day. It's also not enough to just sleep long enough; you need to make sure your sleep quality is high. Consider participating in a sleep study, which can identify if you're waking up too frequently for deep sleep, and if you have sleep-related disorders like sleep apnea.
- Exercise regularly. At the core of the issue, weight loss is always going to be about burning more calories than you take in. Supplements help regulate appetite and give you more energy, but you need to use that energy to burn fat if you want to lose weight. A regular exercise regimen is extremely important. You can do anything from jogging to lifting weights to yoga in your living room, it doesn't matter what you do. Just make sure you find something that won't injure you and that you enjoy enough to continue doing.
Remember that weight loss is a lifestyle change. You can't participate in a diet or start taking supplements for a short time and then expect everything to be fixed. Supplements help you lose weight, but you need to adjust your habits permanently to keep that weight off. Otherwise you, like thousands of others, will experience rebound weight gain once you discontinue your diet, exercise, or supplement regimen.
As long as you're willing to make long-term changes, you're frequently consulting with a healthcare professional who can diagnose potential issues, and you're consuming safe levels of supplements, you can lose weight very effectively. You just need to make sure you're laying that groundwork and keeping your patterns going indefinitely.