Topical Fat Burners - Hype or Not?
Love handles, bubble butt, thunder thighs, and man boobs.
Everyone out there has that “stubborn” fat that’s been with you since adolescence and never gone away. Train your tail off, diet like your life depended on it, and still no change. Sure, you got some muscle growth and lost some fat (in other areas), but those pesky trouble spots on your body just won’t budge!
No matter how many fat burners pills you pop, you still keep those unsightly areas of fat. So, are you doomed to a life of squishy spots, or is there salvation from some yet undiscovered fat shredding supplement?
It turns out, there just might be in the form of a topical or transdermal fat burner!
What are Topical Fat Burners?
Fat burners primarily are ingested orally either in the form of a pill or powder, but an entire other class of fat burners exist that can be applied topically -- on the skin. Topical, or transdermal, fat burners work by applying a fat burner cream or ointment to “stubborn fat” areas with the idea that they help spot-reduce fat in those regions of the body that always seem to hold fat -- love handles, man boobs, etc.
Whereas orally ingested fat burners provide systemic benefits, i.e. they enhance fat burning throughout the body, the thought process behind topical fat burners is that they are only applied to stubborn fat areas and provide a more targeted approach to site-specific fat loss.
Is Stubborn Fat real?!
"Stubborn fat" is very, very real. It refers to regions of fat storage that resistant “mobilization” for a number of reasons -- high alpha-2 density, anatomical constraints, or changes in hormone receptors.
These stubborn areas can be helped with yohimbine, which “liberates” them from their restraints, but unless you’re in a caloric deficit, the fat will just shift to another area of the body. Here’s where the topical fat burners purportedly work. They help “burn fat” in only those areas to which it's applied ensuring maximum fat burning at those areas.
Do Topical Fat Burners Actually Work?
Yes and no.
In the truest sense of the word, topical fat burners do not magically make you lose fat in the trouble areas merely by applying a cream to them. So, in that sense they do not actually burn fat.
However, what topical fat burners do is liberate the “stubborn” fatty acids stored in those unsightly areas so that they can be released into the bloodstream and ultimately used for energy. This is great if you’re already in a caloric deficit, as your body will use that freed fatty acids for energy to compensate for the calories you’re not consuming. But, if you’re not in a caloric deficit, those freed fatty acids will be returned to storage in fat tissue -- either the exact same spot you just applied the cream or to another area on the body.
Topical fat burners aren’t purely hypothetical either. A number of studies have shown that they are indeed effective for losing weight, improving fat loss, reducing waist size, and waist-to-hip ratio. [1,2,3,4]
It’s important to remember though that these topical creams are only targeting subcutaneous fat (the type of fat deposited beneath your skin), NOT visceral fat (the fat inside your stomach and lining your internal organs which is the more life-threatening type if it gets out of control.).
Topical Fat Burner Ingredients
So, what sort of ingredients can you expect to find in these topical fat burners. You might be surprised to see that a lot of the same ingredients you find in pill / powder fat burners are included in topical fat burners too. More specifically, among the various topical creams on the market, you’ll see ingredients including:
There’s other ingredients you’ll encounter, but these are just some of the most common ones you’ll see included in both oral and topical fat burners.
It’s worth mentioning again that none of these ingredients directly “burn” fat. What they do is optimize hormone levels, increase energy expenditure, elevate thermogenesis, and ramp up fat oxidation. The results of these activities can lead to weight loss, provided you’re in a caloric deficit and exercising, but none will magically make the fat disappear from your body.
As surprised as you may be, topical (transdermal) fat loss creams can be an effective aid at losing those “last 5 pounds.” However, these topical fat burners aren’t actively torching the fat around your midsection. They can indirectly enhance your ability to deal with stubborn fat by optimizing hormones, liberating stored fatty acids to be used as fuel, and increasing your energy expenditure. Paired with a structured diet and exercise program, they can do wonders. Without those two components though, topical fat burners are as useless as any other supplement when not used appropriately.
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