5 Plant-Based Ingredients Proven to Burn Fat!
1. Cayenne Peppers
One of the secrets to successful weight loss is heat. And while spending time in a sauna can help you sweat away some water weight, that’s not the heat we’re talking about. The heat we’re talking about is thermogenic. When products are referred to as thermogenic, is means that the ingredients they include produce internal heat, which stimulates metabolism, elevating the rate at which your body burns fat.
Cayenne pepper, a spicy member of the hot pepper family that we include in our NutraLeaf Vegan Fat Burner, contains the thermogenic capsaicin, which has been shown to not only elevate metabolism, but also reduce appetite, especially so in those who are not used to consuming spicy foods. 1
Capsaicin is effective because it stimulates the release of the adrenaline – a stress hormone that increases the metabolism of carbs and preps the body’s muscles for a fight-or-flight response. By activating not only metabolism but also increasing circulation and breathing rate, it causes the body to burn more calories from glucose, and when glucose stores are exhausted, it will eventually help burn more fat.
That is a thermogenic response.
The research is complex, but capsaicin appears to stimulate the body’s TRPV1 receptor, so much so that it is also known as the capsaicin receptor. This particular receptor releases amino acids that are responsible for increasing the thermogenic and metabolic response. 2
Even more interesting, a 2014 study from researchers in the United Kingdom that appeared in the journal Appetite found that capsaicin, taken daily, could help with weight management because of appetite reduction, giving capsaicin two very real weight loss benefits. 3
Capsaicin and weight loss: For real
The thermogenic effect can, over time, result in real weight loss, but like any effective weight loss program it takes time, and it can’t be the only approach you take to shedding excess pounds. (That means that popping a capsaicin supplement on the daily won’t help you get real results if you don’t make other lifestyle changes.)
According to another study that appeared in the journal Appetite, regular consumption of capsaicin can help you burn an extra 50 calories a day, about the same number of calories in an apple. Combined with a smart diet program – the most effective limit carbs and sugar, which interact negatively with the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, so you’re hungry even after eating a large meal if it is too carb-heavy – capsaicin can help you lose weight. 4
“While capsaicinoids are not a magic bullet for weight loss, the evidence is that they could play a beneficial role, as part of a weight management program,” researchers from the Manchester Food Research Center wrote.
More on thermogenesis
A 2016 study that appeared in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that the resting metabolic rate was elevated when exposed to thermogenic supplements, suggesting that they contribute to overall weight loss. The researchers, from the University of South Florida’s Exercise Science Program, tested supplements against placebos, and found positive effects on the 13 female test subjects who took thermogenic supplements. 6
What happens is that thermogenic supplements help the body burn more calories, which generates heat. (That’s why we say we’re “burning” calories.)
The key is activating the burning of adipose tissue, or brown fat. While white fat is what causes obesity, our bodies have both, and when brown fat cells are burned for energy, it generates heat, or thermogenesis.
Brown fat is considered the “good” fat, like HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol. While our stores of adipose tissue are small, found in the neck and shoulders as adults, the more brown fat we have, the more calories we burn.
One study, a 2015 mice study that appeared in the journal of Clinical Investigation, suggested that exposure to cold – hiking outdoors in the winter, for example – can help encourage white fat cells to turn to brown, amplifying our fat burn. 7
Another 2015 study found that exercise can help increase brown fat cells, which really comes back to the classic recipe for weight loss: diet and exercise.
The thing is, the whole process is complex, and traditional science hasn’t hit on the right formula yet. If they had, we would all be thin, and obesity wouldn’t be a growing national crisis.
In the meantime, the thermogenic process is researched and proven, so it’s a good first step toward a healthy, effective weight loss program.
2. Yohimbe Bark
There are many natural ingredients on the market touted for their weight loss benefits, but yohimbe bark is one of the most exotic, with interesting potential for blasting away unwanted fat.
Yohimbe bark – also known as yohimbine when the bark’s extract is in more processed forms - has ancient medicinal roots, and has been used for centuries to treat a host of different things including decreased libido (yohimbe was steeped into a tea to send a rush of blood to trigger arousal) and erectile dysfunction.
Since most of us are more adventurous in the bedroom when we feel good about our bodies, today we are talking about the potential benefits yohimbe bark has on weight loss, which, when it happens, can put a different, healthier spin on a better – shall we say sexier? - sex life.
Some studies have suggested that yohimbe is effective at sloughing away particularly stubborn body fat, especially the abdominal area for men and the thighs and bums for women.
At least one study seems to support that, as does the way yohimbe bark interacts with the body’s fat cells.
Athletes benefit from yohimbe bark
A 2006 study from researchers at the Serbian Institute of Sports and Sports Medicine and the Montenegrin Sports Academy that appeared in the journal Research in Sports Medicine found that yohimbe bark was an effective weight loss option for elite athletes, in this case, professional soccer players. 1
If it can help top athletes who are already fairly lean at the outset, imagine the benefits that it can provide those of us who don’t play pro sports for a living?
While the 2006 study found that yohimbe’s effects were most felt during exercise – in part due to an energy boost similar to caffeine provided by the bark’s extract – other studies have shown benefits that were not tied to exercise.
A team of French scientists in 1998 found that yohimbe played a significant role in the process of lipolysis, which leads to the breakdown of the adipose tissue that surround the body’s organs. Too much adipose tissue around the organs causes excess visceral fat stores, which can lead to belly fat, a precursor to type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Their research appeared in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2
Yohimbe bark: The 411
Yohimbe is harvested from the bark of an evergreen found in parts of Central and Southern Africa.
The active ingredient found in the bark is concentrated to form the compound yohimbine, which is different from the natural form of yohimbe, and according to WebMD.com, is used in the United States to make some contemporary medications used to treat ED.
So, how does it work?
According to the website Healthline, yohimbe may be effective at targeting fat because it has the ability to block the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors found in fat cells. These receptors interact with two of the key hormones associated with stress, adrenaline and norepinephrine. That interaction increases the speed at which the hormones, which encourage the burning of fat for energy, pass through the body. By inhibiting the activity of the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, stress hormones linger in fat cells longer, promoting an increased fat burn. 3
Fat from cells with more alpha-2 adrenergic receptors is more difficult to burn, so by triggering the improved fat-burning response, yohimbe bark essentially works as a stimulant similar to caffeine due to the impact it has on our bodies’ fight-or-flight hormones.
A 1991 study from the Hypertensive-Endocrine Branch of Bethesda’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute looked at yohimbe’s impact on the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, and found that the natural compound influenced levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine in rat studies. The research appeared in the Journal Brain Research. 4
Another study from the same year, this one from Polish researchers that appeared in the Israeli Journal of Medical Research, compared the results of yohimbe and a placebo on obese women found that those subjects taking the yohimbe bark supplement lost more weight than those taking the placebo. Both groups were on the same low-calorie diet. 5
Those elevated levels of stress hormones may also play a role in kicking appetite to the curb, one of the most effective ways to promote visible weight loss.
Yohimbe may also curb appetite, elevate mood
Though the research is rather old, a 1984 animal study that appeared in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found that both obese and lean mice had less of an appetite after exposure to yohimbe. 6
One study found that yohimbe provides profound benefits for those dealing with depression, which can cause overeating in those prone to consuming calories to tamp down their feelings. The 2012 clinical trial, conducted over a period of eight years under the supervision of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., found that when given during the sleep cycle, yohimbine showed real mood-boosting benefits in a short period of time.
And when it comes to depression and overeating, there is a distinct link, according to Dr. Cynthia Bulik of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who told WebMD.com that the same genes associated with depression are also linked to anxiety and eating disorders, creating a perfect storm for potential obesity. 7
Given its potential ability to shut down appetite, increase fat burn and curb emotional overeating, yohimbe bark is an excellent natural ingredient to melt away excess fat, which is why it is included in our NutraLeaf Plant-Based Fat Burner.
NOTE: Still, it does not come without risks. Those with heart disease, either high or low blood pressure, kidney or liver disease, should not take yohimbe bark supplements. Pregnant women and teens under the age of 18 should also avoid it.
3. Garcinia Cambogia
For the past two decades or so, garcinia cambogia has been the darling of weight loss supplements thanks to the high levels of hydroxycitric acid (HCA) this rind of this tropical fruit contains.
Studies have suggested that the HCA in the fruit can help crush an overactive appetite while increasing fat burn.
So how does it work?
A 2003 study from researchers in Japan that appeared in the journal Current Therapeutic Research found that HCA inhibits the activity of the enzyme citrate lyase, which turns carbs into fat, controlling the accumulation of body fat, especially so pesky belly fat. 1
In other research, Dr. Harry G. Preuss from Georgetown University found that compared to a placebo group, a group of subjects lost 400 percent more weight during an eight-week period.
U.S. researchers, including a team from the Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions in Omaha, determined that garcinia cambogia helped increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant that also plays a role in mood, suggesting the HCA could help control emotional eating. The team’s work appeared in a 2002 issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology. 2
A 2013 study from Malaysian researchers that appeared in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine also found that the HCA in garcinia cambogia had an impact on the conversion of blood glucose to energy, potentially preventing excess glucose from being stored as fat.3
Garcinia cambogia: The 411
Also known as Malabar tamardind, garcinia cambogia is a small, pumpkin-shaped fruit the size of a tomato that grows in the forests of India and Southeast Asia.
A member of the citrus family, garcinia cambogia is bright yellow with sour flesh that is most often used in cooking and as a food preservative. (Because of the region in which is grows, garcinia cambogia is most often used to flavor fish curries, thanks to the punch of citrus it provides.)
Garcinia cambogia is packed with phytochemicals including flavonoids that provide antioxidant benefits – antioxidants help fight free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress – that play a role in giving garcinia cambogia its powerful weight loss properties.
Antioxidants can protect against obesity
According to the American Diabetes Association, oxidative stress has been linked to weight gain because it damages cells including those found in fat tissue. Such cell damage over time leads to insulin resistance – the body begins to slow its response to the release of insulin, causing blood sugar to linger in the bloodstream where it is eventually stored as fat – and disrupting the hormones that control both hunger (leptin) and satiety (ghrelin), leading to the production of more hunger hormones. Increased levels of leptin make it tricky to stop overeating, and the obesity risk escalates. 4
(It’s interesting to note that the principle theory behind high-fat, high-protein diets that limit the intake of sugar and carbs is that the diet triggers a restoration of hunger-related hormone regulation, so appetite is suppressed. It also forces the body to burn fat instead of available glucose after existing glucose stores are depleted. The process of converting fat into glucose for energy also revs up the body’s metabolism.)
While there has been a debate surrounding the connection between oxidative stress and obesity – some researchers suggest that obesity triggers oxidative stress – a 2014 study from a team of scientists at both the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, and the Department of Medicine at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University determined that oxidative stress plays a role in obesity by triggering inflammation, a precursor to obesity. 5
According to Shape magazine, HCA gives serotonin levels a boost, which can suppress appetite. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter connected to depression and anxiety, which can trigger emotional eating. When serotonin levels are higher, stress eating sinks. 6
In a story for Psychology Today, Judith J. Wurtman, Ph.D., called serotonin “nature’s own appetite suppressant,” and said that high levels of the neurotransmitter helped reduce cravings.
Serotonin was definitively linked to fat burning by biologists from The Scripps Research Institute who discovered a hormone produced in the brain which they dubbed FLP-7 that works with serotonin to encourage the conversion of fat into energy by communicating with cells found in the intestines.
In 2017, this team of scientists published their research in the journal Nature Communications. 7
HCA may target belly fat
For most dieters, belly fat is the most stubborn and difficult to conquer.
It is also the most dangerous, as it could be connected to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
According to at least one study, however, HCA may help melt away those problematic muffin tops that can damage both health and self-esteem.
In 2003, Japanese researchers compared the effects of garcinia cambogia and a placebo on the accumulation of abdominal fat on test subject, finding that the garcinia cambogia group saw a reduction in abdominal fat over a 12-week period. The team’s work appeared in the journal Current Therapeutic Research, Clinical and Experimental.8
Garcinia cambogia contains high levels of HCA, which has been linked to higher levels of serotonin, a natural appetite suppressant and mood booster. It is also packed with antioxidants that can protect against oxidative stress. These two benefits alone make it worth a second look.
NOTE:According to WebMD.com, garcinia cambogia should not be used if you’re taking diabetes medications, asthma and allergy medications, pain medicines, the blood thinner Warfarin, statins for cholesterol or antidepressants. 9
4. Raspberry Ketones
While it seems as though raspberry ketones are the latest trend in weight loss claims, in reality they have been under scrutiny for more than a decade.
There are some big claims being made about raspberry ketones, too, including that they help break down fat more effectively and regulate metabolism, adding to the supplement’s berry-derived appeal.
The supplement’s biggest plug came from Dr. Mehmet Oz, who called it a “miracle fat burner in a bottle” on his long-running talk show, while his team of experts suggested that is was most effective at helping people overcome weight loss slumps that occur when metabolism slows, which is the main reason why most dieters give up.
While the word “ketones” suggests a connection to the popular keto diet, which encourages the burning of fat instead of glucose for energy by restricting carbohydrate intake, there is no link between the two.
Still, don’t let that deter your opinion of this interesting little supplement, which has been shown in studies to work two ways to increase weight loss, including speeding up a sluggish metabolism and burning fat at a faster rate.
Raspberry ketones: The basics
Raspberry ketones are responsible for the giving raspberries their sweet-tart aroma, and although raspberries have the highest level of the substance, the same ketones are found in other fruits including cranberries, kiwis and blackberries.
Many supplements feature a synthetic version of the substance – meaning the molecular structure is the same under a microscope – because extracting it from raspberries of other fruits is cost prohibitive, at five times the cost of raspberry-derived ketones.
The trouble with this budget-cutting move is that as with vitamin supplements, which often feature synthetic versions of vitamins, the body doesn’t react the same in response to a synthetic ingredient versus a natural one, meaning that no matter what the microscope shows, synthetic really doesn’t do the job. That’s why vitamins are often criticized for doing little more than creating really expensive urine, and it’s the same reason why vitamins were under fierce debate a few years ago when some scientists questioned the effectiveness of such supplements.
Our NutraLeaf Fat Burner, however, features raspberry-derived ketones in order to provide one of the best plant-derived products on the market, one that gives you the most benefits possible, naturally!
Raspberry ketones increase fat burn
Ketones are similar in structure not only to capsaicin – the compound that gives cayenne pepper its heat – but also the stimulant synephrine, which triggers the release of the stress hormones adrenaline and the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, which encourage the burning of glucose for energy.
Synephrine plays a role in reducing stored glucose in the liver, which makes less glucose available for energy. This process in turn forces the body to turn to fat stores for the energy it needs. (Because fat was once excess glucose, fat is converted to that sugary state for energy as it is broken down, so the body is pretty adept at creating the glucose it needs while melting away unwanted fat.)
But that’s not the only tie between synephrine and glucose.
One study also found that synephrine prevented glucose from being converted to fat, a process that occurs when there is too much available glucose, according to a 2018 study that appeared in the journal Cell Biochemistry and Function. 1
Bigger fat burn, less fat intake
Research has also suggested that raspberry ketones play a role in lipolysis, which is the process of breaking down fat cells.
Lipolysis is disrupted by obesity, which is why those who are overweight may in truth eat very little, but still struggle with their weight. 2
In order to restore lipolysis to normal, a reset of sorts is required.
A 2010 study from Korean researchers that appeared in the journal Planta Medica found that exposure to raspberry ketones encouraged fat cells to release more adiponectin, a hormone that helps regulate glucose levels while encouraging the breakdown of fatty acids. Those who are overweight have less adiponectin in their bodies than those with lower BMIs, so more of the hormone’s presence suggests that there will be less unused blood sugar stored as fat, and fat in cells will be broken down more efficiently. 3
When adiponectin levels are higher, the body responds as if it has always been thin, which is why Dr. Oz – who has researched and tested a wide range of potential weight-loss aids during the 10 years his afternoon talk show has aired – gave the supplement his approval.
Raspberry ketones also have been shown to suppressed the activity of pancreatic lipase, an enzyme required to break down the fat in foods so it can be absorbed.
When less fat is broken down, it passes through the digestive system untouched, much like the claims made by a certain weight-loss product on the market known for doing the same thing, without the unwelcome side effect of unwelcome and sudden intestinal distress associated with said product.
Slow weight gain with raspberry ketones
Raspberry ketones may also help prevent weight gain when a diet program goes off the rails, such as when discouragement from a weight-loss plateau that can tank even the most well-intentioned diet plan, causing a run for the carbs and sugar.
A 2005 study that appeared in the journal Life Sciences found that raspberry ketones helped prevent weight gain in mice that were fed a high-fat diet over a period of six weeks. 4
Japanese researchers attributed the findings to the role raspberry ketones play in significantly increased norepinephrine-induced lipolysis, especially in white adipose tissue.
Raspberry ketones play an interesting role in weight loss, especially because they seem to trigger the release of adiponectin, which is more prevalent in thin people than in those with a higher BMI, essentially tricking your body into thinking it is thin, restoring the fat-burning process.
5. Green Tea Leaves
Green tea is one of the most popular beverages worldwide thanks to the myriad health benefits it provides, including significant ties to weight loss.
If you’re wondering what’s so special about this beverage, it’s all about the antioxidants.
According to a 2010 study from researchers in Shanghai, green tea has high levels of catechins, especially epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals that can damage cells through a process called oxidative stress. 1
Oxidative stress has been linked to obesity because cell damage triggers the body’s immune response, leading to chronic inflammation as the body attempts to heal. 2
According to the American Diabetes Association, this low-level inflammation over time disrupts the body’s ability to convert glucose - the compound that sugar and carbs are converted to when consumed - for energy, causing insulin resistance.
When cells are not damaged, hormones that also act as neurotransmitters communicate effectively with those cells, triggering the complex process of turning glucose into energy that powers the entire body, especially the brain.
When the process works as it should, the presence of glucose in the bloodstream signals the release of the hormone insulin, which encourages cells to take in glucose for energy and store what isn’t used in the liver. Since the liver can only hold a finite amount of glucose, when the bloodstream is loaded, insulin is released at a faster pace, until eventually, the body stops responding to it as efficiently. When resistance occurs, cells don’t receive the message to take glucose in, so it is stored as fat.
Even worse, oxidative stress does not discriminate and also damages fat cells, which slows down metabolism, making it all the more difficult to lose weight.
Green tea: The 411
Green tea has been consumed in Asia for centuries, and while black tea – fermented from the same leaves as green tea – is more popular in the United States, the undeniable health benefits of green tea are elevating the lighter tea’s appeal.
Both green tea and black tea are from Camellia sinensis plant, but green tea differs from black in that the leaves are steam processed, which prevents fermentation.
The process protects many of the polyphenols found in tea leaves, so more antioxidants are available to protect against cell damage.
It’s worth taking a closer look at how green tea encourages fat loss and over time tips the scales in a positive direction.
Green tea breaks down fat
In order to lose weight, the body must break down the fat in cells so that is can move to the bloodstream where it is used for energy. The process is known as lipolysis.
The antioxidant EGCG has been shown to help speed the process by elevating the effects of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine induces lipolysis, so having it around is bad news for fat cells.
According to a 2003 study from researchers at Rutgers that appeared in the journal Drug Metabolism and Disposition: The Biological Fate of Chemicals found that EGCG worked by inhibiting an enzyme that suppresses norepinephrine’s activity, so the hormone lingers longer in fat cells, allowing more fat to be melted away. 3
A 2009 study that appeared in the Journal of Nutrition found that compounds in green tea are especially fond of targeting stubborn belly fat, which is why green tea holds a pretty esteemed place among scientists. 4
A 2012 study from researchers in China that appeared in the Journal of Functional Foods also found that green tea helped melt away pesky abdominal fat, giving more credence to the earlier theory. 5
Green tea revs up metabolism
When paired with the caffeine that is also present in green tea extract, the two work in synergy to help speed metabolism, giving weight loss a boost. 6
Studies have shown that together, caffeine and EGCG produce a thermogenic effect that burns excess fat.
A 2000 study from the International Journal of Obesity found that the two compounds inhibit the production of an enzyme that damages noradrenaline, a hormone that encourages the burning of fat in cells.
But that’s not all the benefits this dynamic duo provides.
A 2009 study, also from the International Journal of Obesity, found that catechins and caffeine helped people maintain weight loss, adding oomph to the role green tea leaves play in fighting obesity. 7
That research was corroborated in a 2010 study from the Netherlands that appeared in the journal Physiology and Behavior. That study found that green tea leaves were especially beneficial in counteracting the sluggish metabolism associated with weight loss, suggesting that they can help dieters avoid discouraging plateaus, a side effect that can derail even the most disciplined diet and exercise plan. 8
Green tea helps improve exercise performance
Speaking of exercise, it is an important component to weight loss, because it gives your body’s metabolism a jolt.
That’s because exercise builds muscle, which burns more calories than fat. Muscle may weigh more than fat – muscle is much denser – but it takes up a third of the space, so your body appears leaner even if the numbers on the scale seem to stagnate.
If workouts aren’t your favorite thing, green tea and its caffeine component can help.
A 2005 study from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that caffeine intake reduced perceived exertion, so working out will feel less strenuous, while providing the energy needed to extend exercise sessions. 9
That means adding an extra mile to a run or another 15 minutes in the weight room will seem like less of an effort, putting fitness goals more in reach.
The antioxidants in green tea help protect against oxidative stress, which can damage fat cells so they no longer respond well to fat-burning cues, while giving metabolism a boost. Helping increase exercise endurance is another big plus.