Caffeine is the most popular weight loss ingredients in the world. The popular stimulant, which is what gives coffee drinkers its energizing ‘buzz’, also elevates metabolism, and acts as a mild appetite suppressant.
Caffeine’s effectiveness as a dieting tool is undeniable, and has been confirmed by several independent studies.
That being said, there are a number of natural caffeine alternatives that provide equally impressive weight loss benefits, without some of the drawbacks of caffeine.
You’ve heard it a million times- “Caffeine is the world’s most popular drug…”
Whenever I read that I think of a Starbuck’s barista wearing aviators, driving a powerboat filled with espresso in the Miami Keys.
Quite the visual, right?
But seriously – coffee is a BIG business. In fact, more than half of all Americans start their day with a cup of ‘joe1 – and collectively, we consume over 400 million cups of coffee per day2.
Chances are more likely than not, that if you’re reading this article, you yourself are a coffee drinker!
Which means you are all too familiar with the energizing rush you get from the perfect cup of coffee. The cozy, warm feeling of preparing your morning pick-me-up. The spirited conversations of friends catching up in a local cafe…
The tradition of morning coffee is largely positive – with many of its benefits extending beyond a simple caffeine boost.
But as coffee drinkers also know, there can be some side effects of coffee – especially if you’ve ever tried to take a break from coffee, when the list below becomes further amplified, to the point of experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms.
Common Caffeine Side Effects
- Poor Sleep Quality
- Dependency / Withdrawal
The list of caffeine side effects goes on even further. The point is – caffeine is a drug, and although it is generally considered safe, it is probably a good idea to limit your consumption – which is why we recommend skipping your morning coffee when taking other sources of caffeine, such as energy drinks or pre workout boosters.
Morning energy aside, one of caffeine’s most popular uses is for losing weight.
Does Caffeine Really Help with Weight Loss?
The surprising answer is, yes. Caffeine has been scientifically proven to help your body burn more calories at rest5 – estimated to be about an additional 100 calories per day from your standard cup of coffee.
Now. There is a point of diminishing returns at play here – and no physician would ever advise drinking 10 cups of coffee per day in order to burn calories!
In addition to helping your body burn more calories at rest, it is commonly thought that caffeine can also suppress your appetite.
And while some studies show this to be the case, more recent research is less clear on this front, suggesting that some of the appetite suppression may come from other compounds in coffee, and less from caffeine.6
One thing that IS clear, is that caffeine can help encourage weight loss by switching the primary fuel source utilized during exercise towards fat.5
Speaking of exercise – caffeine also reduces the perceived fatigue of athletes who take it prior to their workouts.7
Caffeine Helps Encourage Weight Loss By:
- Suppressing Appetite
- Burning More Calories at Rest
- Switching Energy Source to Fat During Exercise
- Delaying Fatigue During Exercise
Alternatives to Caffeine
Caffeine will always have its place as one of the top natural weight loss ingredients – but as mentioned, it could be that other compounds found in caffeine-containing materials are what deliver the weight loss benefits.
Which leads us to the first of our natural weight loss ingredients: green tea extract.
1. Green Tea Extract
While some of the natural weight loss supplements on this list are more recent discoveries, some others are in fact quite old.
Green tea was first discovered in China over 5,000 years ago, and is still an important part of their culture, and many other cultural traditions worldwide.
Green tea is believed to offer several medicinal benefits ranging from brain health to warding off disease and increasing longevity, to of course, assisting with weight loss.
High in antioxidants and a specific catechin called ‘EGCG’, green tea can help elevate metabolism9 while providing other health benefits.
While there is some conflicting evidence on how much green tea is safe to consume in order to reap the most weight loss benefits10, it is still widely considered a powerful natural weight loss ingredient.
2. Hot Peppers
Did you know that the uncomfortable burning sensation you feel while eating your favorite spicy dish may actually be paying off when it comes to the scale?
Spicy foods can actually help you lose weight. The key is a compound called ‘capsaicin’ – which ramps up metabolism and prevents obesity.
In fact, capsaicin was even proven to significantly reduce abdominal fat in overweight participants during a 6 week study.11
Capsaicin may also help the body convert unhealthy ‘white fat’ to healthier ‘brown fat’, which breaks down sugar and other fats.15
Will a few bites of chips and hot salsa make the difference in your diet this season? Most likely, no. But a supplement containing the right kind of capsaicin can.
For more info on capsaicin, and how spicy foods can be used in a natural diet program, see our post Can Spicy Foods Help You Lose Weight.
L-Carnitine is an amino acid found in the highest concentrations in red meat, and eggs.
Carnitine is a non-essential amino acid that is made from the essential amino acids Methionine and Lysine.
Its job is to transport long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria so they can be oxidized (aka “burned”) and used as energy.
So think of Carnitine like a highly-efficient public transportation system for your stored body fat, with a one-way route out of town!
Carnitine is found in the highest concentrations in red meat (the redder the meat, the higher the carnitine content), and in whey protein – one of the reasons why protein powder is a powerful tool for weight loss.
While a diet high in red meat is not advisable, a carnitine supplement may help your body burn fat more efficiently.
4. Bitter Orange
Bitter orange, or ‘citrus aurantium‘ is, as you may have guessed, a species of orange found most commonly in Asia.
This ‘Bitter Orange’ is the type of orange used to make orange marmalade. And while a slice of morning toast with jam sounds inoffensive enough – bitter orange is easily the most powerful natural weight loss ingredient on this list.
In fact, bitter orange is so powerful that is currently not approved by the NCAA, and some other athletic organizations.
The reason, is it’s naturally-occurring synephrine content.
Synephrine is a flavonoid, or biogenic amine, found in the peel of citrus aurantium that acts as a mild stimulant while elevating metabolic rate.
Synephrine has been proven to burn more fat than a placebo, especially in combination with an exercise program.14
The reason why synephrine, and bitter orange is so controversial, is because of concerns over it’s impact on heart rate and other markers of cardiovascular health.
While some studies seem to prove that it does not raise blood pressure/heart rate, it is still important to consult a primary care physician prior to taking synephrine supplements, or any other weight loss supplement.
5. Gymnema Sylvestre
Rounding out our list of the top 5 natural weight loss ingredients is the incredibly powerful, slightly difficult to pronounce ‘Gymnema Sylvestre’.
What is Gymnema Sylvestre?
Gymnema Sylvestre is a shrub found in India, Africa and Australia, whos leaves have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine.
(You may have heard of Ayurveda lately in connection with a powerful class of botanicals called adaptogens.)
Gymnema was used traditionally for it’s healing properties, but in recent years, has received more attention for it’s weight loss applications.
Many of the other natural weight loss ingredients on this list work by either increasing metabolism (leading to more calories burned), or by transporting fat into the mitochondria.
Gymnema belongs to a different category of weight loss ingredients called ‘carbohydrate partitioners’, in which ingested sugars carbohydrates are less likely to be stored as fat.
The way this works is that carbohydrate partitioners like Gymnema have an impact on blood sugar.
More specifically, the gymnemic acids bind to ingested sugar (glucose) molecules, preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.15
The less sugar that is absorbed into the bloodstream, the less chance there is of unused sugars being stored as body fat. This makes gymnema a potent dieting ingredient.
|Green Tea||EGCG||Increases metabolism, breaks down more fat for burning|
|Hot Peppers||Capsaicin||Converts ‘white fat’ to ‘brown fat’, elevates metabolism|
|L-Carnitine||Carnitine||Transports fat molecules into mitochondria to be burned|
|Bitter Orange||Synephrine||Elevates fat burning at rest, and following exercise|
|Gymnema Sylvestre||Gymnemic Acids||Regulates insulin naturally, blocks sugars from being absorbed into bloodstream|
VULCAN Natural Fat Burner: Weightloss Optimized.
Contains L-Carnitine, Gymnema Sylvestre, Green Tea Extract, Bitter Orange, and Capsaicin.