Help me find a (thermogenic?) supplement that works?
January 21, 2019 7:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for what I think is a thermogenic supplement (or possibly a pre-workout supplement or vitamin/herbal supplement?). They appear to be expensive, with aggressive over-promising marketing, so I'd only like to fork over the cash for something likely to work. The results I'd like, in order of priority, are:

(1) Feeling physically warmer (I run cold in terms of temperature, and have my whole life: I currently live somewhere where I don't control the heat, and I wear two heavy fleeces inside, despite being physically active in general)
(2) Mental clarity/focus
(3) Fat burning (am at a healthy weight but have some fat to lose)
(4) Something can push me harder during my workouts (resistance training 3x/week).

Does such a product exist, and/or has anyone had any success with any particular products on the market? Also, how do these things work? The whole reason I thought of such a purchase was that I was at GNC buying Quest bars and feeling cold, and the sales guy mentioned that he's taking Slimvance and he feels physically warmer, which sounded appealing. I'm open to one-off supplements (e.g. yohimbe was recommended to me), or pills that are a mix of things - anything effective, really. I'm also open to taking more than one product to address my different concerns. I'm possibly nervous about large amounts of caffeine or similar stimulants (took ungodly amounts of caffeine as an undergrad to pull all-nighters, which resulted in heart racing and anxiety). Brands I've heard mentioned include Hydroxycut, Cellucor, Slimvance, and Quadralean, so any feedback - positive or negative - about your personal experiences with any of those or others would be appreciated.
posted by ClaireBear to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I dunno, it all sounds like a bunch of woo to me. I eat oatmeal every day, I whisk an egg in and put some savory stuff into it but what you're describing seems like a lot of woo. Things that I wouldn't buy into.

I can drink a half a pot of coffee and it doesn't kill me so there. You see.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:20 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]

Hey, I work for a dietary supplement company, and my job is to assess the safety and efficacy of ingredients. I wish I had a sexier answer for you than Marie's, but -- caffeine is the only thing I know of that's safe* and clinically shown to do everything you want.

*Caffeine is safe in moderation -- Healthy young men have died from OD'ing on caffeine. The FDA and EU (EFSA) recommend no more than 400 mg a day (that's 3-5 cups of coffee). I drink more than that on the regular though, so everybody's different.

If you're wondering why I, who am in the business of making this stuff, am telling you these supplements don't work and/or are unsafe? Well, my company is ethical -- many, many supplement makers are not, and the laws around supplements in the US are pretty loose. You don't have to prove your stuff is safe before you sell it, and you don't have to prove it works, well, ever, if you can show a history of traditional use. (cough homeopathy cough gag)
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:42 PM on January 21 [13 favorites]

Has your thyroid been checked? Being cold and feeling sluggish can be indications of hypothyroidism. Are you eating enough to fuel your workouts? Not enough calories can cause that, too. To get energy before workouts, yeah coffee, and/or have a small serving of simple carbs a bit before your workout. To lose fat, keep protein high (overall) with a small deficit and lift weights heavy enough to be challenging (you’re probably already doing this but mentioning in case you’re doing more cardio).
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:11 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Caffeine and other stimulants are the primary reason that pre-workout and fat-burners have the effects (physical warmth, mental clarity, fat burning, appetite surpressant and workout intensity) that they have.

Additional ingredients in these supplements can enhance particular effects. Capsaicin may increase the feeling of warmth and decrease pain, allowing you to work out harder. Garcinia Cambogia may help with fat loss if taken properly. There are myriad "miracle ingredients" that these companies use in their proprietary blends which you can research; some have more behind them than others. But at the end of the day it's the stimulants that are doing most of what you are looking for here so if you don't want to take stimulants, you might not have a lot of luck. Sorry.

That said, I have taken Quicktrim in the past (yes, the one marketed by Kim K). It definitely gave me shitloads of energy, made me warm and improved my workout intensity. I found it was so strong that I couldn't take the full recommended dose. I was quite happy with the results at a lower dose, but I don't know if it is still available.
posted by windykites at 7:00 AM on January 22

1) Digesting carbs/protein makes me feel warmer (and seems to be a common thing, "carb flush" and "meat sweats" . Having adequete calories helps one feel warmer (whenever I'm losing weight I feel cool, and generally I run very warm).

2) Caffeine. If you don't want coffee, one can get supplements in 100mg or 200mg tablets cheaply.

3) Aerobic, non-anerobic cardio. I.E. make sure that you aren't going too hard during cardio. I'm unaware of any study-supported supplements that promote fat burning, and am under the impression that it's similar to spot-weight loss - I.E. it's not a real thing.

4) Nothing will push you harder. If you're doing strength training, creatine is the only well-supported supplement. It will allow your body to save more short-term energy stores. You'll still need mental effort. Short term as in it might help you get that 6th rep for short hard effort bursts. If your resistance training is 10-12x or more repetitions per set, then my understanding is creatine will only help you carry more water weight. Remember that a big part of getting stronger is rest/recovery after the stress. It won't help with cardio (more strength can aid speed/etc that aids cardio, but it won't make it "easier" to run long)
posted by nobeagle at 7:02 AM on January 22

Seconding everyone saying this is not a thing. Pre-workout supplements are basically just caffeine plus a couple other things that don’t do much. Historically, they were made with whatever borderline legal stimulants manufacturers could get their hands on, but that seems to have stopped thanks to stricter regulation.

They also typically load up on beta alanine, which reduces lactose burn and thus might give you more muscular endurance. It also makes your scalp and hands tingle, which is great if you want buyers of your pre-workout to feel like it’s really doing something. For the same reason, pre-workouts often include enough niacin to provoke a flush.
posted by chrchr at 8:35 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all the answers so far, all - thoughtful and helpful! I just wanted to clarify that I am doing keto and intermittent fasting. With keto, I feel much less cold in general than I used to on a lower-fat higher-carb diet; but especially when fasting I still do feel cold, mentally sluggish, and unable to push to previous limits on latter sets of resistance training when I lift while fasted. (I should also note that I do get a lot of protein, fat, and veggies when I'm not fasting: I follow Dr. Jason Fung et al.'s recommendations to fast when you fast, and feast when you eat.)
posted by ClaireBear at 9:48 AM on January 22

Ok! I have another idea! The bodybuilding nerds are talking a lot about consuming BCAAs prior to a fasted workout. There's a study somewhere that shows that using BCAAs before a fasted workout cause the fasted athlete to perform like a non-fasted athlete, while not being enough food to break the fast. That's something you could try.

In the general cluster of intermittent fasting, keto, and weightlifting, a common solution is coffee + butter + MCT oil before a workout, i.e. "Bulletproof Coffee". Could be.
posted by chrchr at 12:12 PM on January 22

be really careful here. back in the day I tried using chromium supplements for this and when I told my doctor he warned me I was in danger of doing permanent danger to my thyroid. See a doctor, get your thyroid levels checked (I suggest several times to avoid false results of hashimoto's thyroiditis).
posted by evilmonk at 12:40 PM on January 22

I know nothing of supplements or gyms etc... but for point 1, how about ginger and/or chilli?
posted by pompomtom at 1:39 AM on January 23

It sounds like you're not so much asking how to get those benefits, but how to get those benefits WHILE FASTING. While some folks have great success with fasting, it makes most of us feel pretty crappy, and no pills are going to change that unfortunately.
posted by metasarah at 10:36 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

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