If you're taking a fat burner but still not seeing the weight loss you want, it's time to troubleshoot. While these supplements can help you lose body fat, they won't work unless the rest of your lifestyle is on point. Get the most fat burning for your buck by following these seven steps!

1. Get On Track

You can't simply pop a pill and make up for poor nutrition and a lack of training. A high-quality fat burner will make your journey easier, but to get the most from its effects and really torch calories, it's critical that you first get on track with a well-designed fitness program. Find a solid workout plan and stick to it like it's your job.

Keeping your diet locked in is critical, too. Since fat burners are thermogenic, which raises calorie burn, sometimes people think they counteract the consequences of french fries, pizza, or ice cream. Unfortunately, it's not that easy.

Taking fat burners in the gym

If you eat that donut at the office, you'll still have to get to the gym to work it off. The pills just help you get more out of that work.

Set yourself up for success by removing temptation from your life. A fat-burning supplement can help you control cravings and feelings of imaginary hunger, but if you constantly expose yourself to your cravings, you're never going to win.

Appetite comes from many hormones and neurotransmitters. These can be stimulated by many factors, including emotions, smells, sights, and atmosphere. Baking cookies and filling your cabinets with chips and crackers will increase your appetite, making weight loss more of a struggle.

2. Eat Enough Protein

To make sure that you see the most fat loss possible, make sure that you're also taking in enough protein to maintain lean muscle mass.

Many of the fat burners on the market will reduce your appetite. If they cause you to lower your calorie intake and you don't get sufficient protein, loss of muscle mass could begin to occur.

You should not take your protein intake any lower than 1 gram per pound of body weight when aiming for fat loss. So, while you can cut back on carbs and fats, you have to eat your protein regardless.

Taking in as few calories as humanly possible might help you maximize your weight loss, but not all that weight will be body fat. To look ripped but still be strong, you have to keep a high protein intake to spare those physique-forming muscles.

3. Timing Your Dose Right

Since fat burners can give you energy and suppress your appetite, taking them at strategic times of day will help you get the most from them.

To raise your energy and kick fat burning into gear, take a stimulant fat burner at the time of day you most need a kick in the pants. This might be first thing upon waking, or about 30 minutes before training, as you would take a pre-workout.

To take advantage of the appetite-suppressing properties of your fat burner, take it at your hungriest point during the day when you tend to struggle. One strategy is to take it 30 minutes prior to a meal so you feel more satiated.

Alternately, take one of your doses when you don't have a meal planned for a few hours to help carry you through. When it wears off and you start getting hungry, you'll know your next meal is coming soon and you'll be more likely to hold out.

Whatever you do, don't exceed the supplement's recommended dosage. If the product tells you to take one dose daily, pick the one time of day it will help you the most.

4. Drink Up

Drinking water in the gym

Fat-burning pills elevate your metabolism, so as a side effect you sweat more when taking them. Also, stimulants like caffeine tend to have a diuretic effect, so you may find yourself visiting the bathroom more often. These conditions can lead to a state of dehydration and slowed metabolism.

Drinking at least 3-4 quarts of cold water per day will not only keep you hydrated, but has also been shown to increase metabolism and support fat loss. It's recommended that you drink at least 1 cup of water with each dose of a fat-burning supplement to ensure optimal absorption and hydration support. If you're training in a hot environment and sweating for long periods, you may need to double your water intake.

5. Cycle Your Fat Burner

The body becomes desensitized to some ingredients over time, and this is exactly what happens with fat-burning supplements. In response, many people will up their intake to keep getting weight-loss results. But this approach will backfire.

Overuse of caffeine and similar ingredients can lead to high levels of cortisol (that unwanted hormone that breaks down muscle and causes fat storage), especially under the stress of dieting.

Adding to this side effect, your body can respond by slowing down your natural metabolic process to compensate. So now you're burning fewer calories, which totally defeats the purpose of taking a weight-loss supplement.

To avoid these counterproductive side effects, you should cycle this supplement. Take it for 2-4 weeks and then take two weeks off before starting again. Your body will reset and be more sensitive, so you'll get better results when you resume taking it.

The best way to know if you need a break from your fat burner is by assessing how you feel when you're on it. If after several weeks you find that you no longer get the "kick" you used to from a regular dose, or you're noticing the above side effects, then it's time to take a break—not more product.

Keep in mind, weight-loss supplements were never designed or intended to be a regular part of a diet. They're intended to help you reach a goal, whether that be to prepare for a competition, jump-start your weight-loss efforts, or break through a plateau.

Once your weight-loss goal is attained, lifestyle is the only way to keep it maintained. If you feel you can only maintain your physique with the aid of a fat-burning supplement, take a step back, reassess, and choose a more sustainable goal.

6. Don't Shrug Off Sleep

Sleep and fat loss go hand in hand. Some people turn to fat burners to get the energy to work out because they're constantly in a state of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to increases in blood cortisol and decreased testosterone, which will significantly hold you back in terms of muscle gain and fat loss.

Sleep is necessary for repair, recovery, and hormonal balance. Shoot for eight hours of deep sleep nightly, but if you have a heavy training load or are stressed out you might need more.

If you find that your fat burners are hindering your sleep, don't take anything stimulant based after your lunchtime dose, or switch to stimulant-free products entirely for a while. Also limit any other sources of caffeine to before 6 p.m., like coffee, soda, or pre-workout supplements.

7. Choose The Right Formula

None of these tips will matter if you're not taking the right kind of fat burner for your needs and goals. Different fat burners serve different purposes.

For example, if you're primarily looking for hunger control, select a fat burner that contains hoodia as one of the ingredients. Hoodia is one of the most common supplements used to support appetite control.

If it's energy you're after, you'll want to choose a fat burner that has ingredients like caffeine, synephrine, or yohimbe.[1] These are stimulants that are intended to give you a boost of energy to carry you through the day.

Running on a treadmill

A key word for this group of fat burners is "thermogenic," which literally means "heat producing" and refers to the fact that your core body temperature might rise, allowing you to possibly burn more calories throughout the day and use stored fat as fuel.

There are also non-stimulant thermogenic ingredients, like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), L-carnitine, ginger extract, and cayenne pepper extract, that may help your body use stored fat as fuel, essentially burning fat without jolting your energy levels.

Fat burning products are generally categorized as stimulant or stimulant-free. Stimulant fat burners will have caffeine, synephrine, yohimbe, or other similar ingredients. Many of them also contain non-stimulant thermogenic and appetite controlling ingredients in the mix.

Stimulant-free fat burners only have non-stimulant thermogenics and appetite suppressants. Their effects are more subtle, but they're a better choice if you're sensitive to caffeine.

If you do choose to go stimulant-free, keep an eye out for green tea extract, which is in a gray area. While green tea is often included in stimulant-free formulas, it does contain small amounts of caffeine. This amount of green tea won't be noticeable for most people, but if you're extremely sensitive to caffeine you might feel it. Try a small amount first to see how you tolerate the green tea.

No two fat burners contain the same mix of ingredients. In addition to this, no two metabolisms are the same. Each person stores fat and burns it differently.

Just because your friend got great results from a certain product doesn't mean you will. Keep trying different formulations until you find one your body likes.


  1. McCarty, M. F. (2002). Pre-exercise administration of yohimbine may enhance the efficacy of exercise training as a fat loss strategy by boosting lipolysis. Medical Hypotheses, 58(6), 491-495.

About the Author

Contributing Writer

Rob Rinaldi, MS

Bodybuilding.com’s authors consist of accredited coaches, doctors, dietitians and athletes across the world.

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