November 6

Can Supplements Convert Fat to Energy?


It seems like a miracle, right? Take a pill and the fat “just melts away”? To some this may seem like fantasy, but there is some indication in the scientific community that certain foods and compounds can increase the body's ability to burn fat.

I’ve recently written an article on thermogenic supplements, and much of the science related to that question will be covered here, as well. For more in-depth analysis, and for specific ingredients, please refer to that article, as well as the product reviews of the very best weight loss supplements for men and for women.

What you need to know

  • The body generally only burns fat when it runs out of sugar; anything that can help you reduce sugar without becoming unhealthy.
  • Some supplement ingredients, such as caffeine and capsaicin, can directly lead to increased fat metabolization.
  • Several mechanisms can encourage your body to convert fat into energy, including eating less and exercising more; supplements that help with either of those can increase fat conversion. work best by helping the body’s response with hormones, the nervous system, and resting metabolic rate.

How the Body Uses Fat

Before we get any further, I’ll need to cover some basic body chemistry. That’s because I like my readers to know the real science behind the trendy headlines so you can know fact from fiction.

The body burns fat usually as a last resort–that’s because it involves more moving parts than sugar metabolism. (The hardest thing to break down for energy is protein, which the body will typically only do in starvation.) The body converts fat into energy through a process called lipolysis or fatty acid oxidation. Those are your keywords if you're searching for proof that something helps you burn fat. 

One molecule of fat has more carbon and more than twice the energy of a molecule of carbohydrate. Burning fat as energy, instead of sugar, can give you more sustained energy through the day, limiting snacking and keeping your mood level.

How to Encourage Fat Burning

It used to be thought that there was a simple and direct correlation between exercise and fat loss. Exercise more, burn more fat. Exercise harder, burn more fat. But recent data has shown, on a molecular level, that even though lipolysis increases with exercise, it doesn’t always result in long-term loss of fat around the body. One problem is that when we eat, our bodies are more prone to access the simple and highly available sugar in our bloodstream. So if we eat directly before or after a workout, our bodies won’t burn any fat at all–they’ll burn all that good sugar.

Another problem is that many people stick to one or another idea of working out–stay “low and slow” in the fat-burning heart rate zone, or kill themselves with over-exertion for an hour at a time. The truth is, it’s best to cycle your body through several stages of effort–from warm-up, to fat-burn, to cardio, to high-intensity. The trick is to alternate it so your body taps into fat-burning after you burn through all your sugar.

Supplement Ingredients that Help

We’ll cover some of the basic functions of supplement ingredients and whether they can really help your body burn fat.


Fiber like glucomannan, can help you eat less, and eat less sugar. Not only that, but fiber has been shown to help with actual burning of fat cells around the body.


Caffeine has been used for generations as a stimulant. This can help keep your heart rate in the zones necessary to burn through sugar reserves faster, and get to the fatty acid oxidation that we’re all looking for.


Branded under a number of names like Capsimax, can trigger massive adipocyte (fat cell) metabolism, even triggering the expression of genetics to help us burn fat.

Green Tea

Contains a compound called catechins that can help us burn fat, even at rest. Combined with caffeine, this benefit only increases.


This list isn’t exhaustive. Any supplement that can effectively help you gear up for intense workouts or help you reduce cravings for sugar can help you keep your body in fat-burning mode. The essential thing to remember is that your body wants to burn sugar first–getting rid of that sugar or avoiding it entirely is the key to converting fat to energy. Any supplement that can help with those two things really can help.

Final Thoughts

The secrets to fat burning are no longer secret. The science is out there, and now it’s up to each and every one of us to make the decisions necessary to burn the fat off. The key lies in the relationship our body has with another calorie–sugar. Supplements that can help us with the sugar problem will invariably lead us to convert more fat into raw energy.


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