Most of the “fat burners” and diet supplements you see advertised on TV and in magazines are completely worthless. They are usually just some form of overpriced caffeine tablets with some exotic herbs mixed in. Sometimes they contain diuretics, which give the dieter the illusion that he/she is losing weight.
But are there any weight loss supplements worth taking? Let’s first talk about how diet supplements work. Remember that losing weight ultimately boils down to how many calories you are taking in. Supplements and medications can (theoretically) affect your calorie balance in three ways:
- By blocking the absorption of food. There are some chemicals that can combine with the food you eat and prevent it from being digested or absorbed. Some, for example, will bind with fat and prevent it from being absorbed in the intestines. This strategy can work, but the problem is the fat does have to go somewhere. This may lead to some pretty “interesting” visits to the toilet.
- By suppressing the appetite. Most of the products you see have caffeine or some form of stimulant. There are probably other drugs that have similar effects, too. Regardless of the specific mechanism, controlling the appetite is going to be one of the best ways for something to help a dieter lose weight.
- By helping the body break down fat or otherwise affecting the metabolism. Some supplements may actually help the body with the process of lipolysis. But we shouldn’t emphasize this too much, since this kind of effect is usually not significant enough to make much difference in actually weight loss.
With all this in mind, there is only one drug combination I recommend when asked: the EC Stack (also known as the ECA stack: ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin). How does this work? Well, I’ve already discussed the three main ways these kinds of drugs/supplements can help with losing weight. The ECA stack’s primary means of helping seems to be the second—appetite control. This powerful combination of stimulants work together in a way that greatly decreases one’s desire to eat.
But there also seems to be some metabolic effects from the stack. It seems to offset the metabolic slowdown that some experience when on a diet (especially a very low calorie diet or fast). This combination of stimulants has thermogenic (heat producing qualities), so caution must be taken if one is using it in a hot climate. Athletes may want to avoid it altogether because of the dangers of heat stroke—especially if they are training in the summer months.
As mentioned in the article (linked above), most people take 200 mgs of caffeine with 20-25 milligrams of ephedrine. This can be taken 3 times a day. Aspirin is optional and seems to help more with people who are obese. But taking a full aspirin three times a day is not recommended.
Needles to say, caffeine is easy to find. But ephedrine can be a challenge to acquire. It wasn’t so hard a couple of decades ago, but the food and drug administration has banned all supplements containing ephedrine or ephedra. The best option is to look for ephedrine sulfate in drug stores.