• Austin Nicoson

Fat-Burning Creams; Ridiculous or Legit?

Updated: Mar 20, 2019


Welcome to the 21st century, a time when people are subjected to more advertisements than ever before. In particular, ads for dietary supplements has skyrocketed over the past decade (see the stats here). With so many ads bombarding us each day, it becomes a constant struggle to determine fact from fiction.

As a Personal Trainer and Health Coach, I’ve seen the ridiculous trends come and go over the years. And it’s my job to help my clients understand what’s actually going to help them, vs. what’s going to simply line the supplement companies’ pockets.

One of the ridiculous fitness trends that stood out in 2018 was the use of topical fat-burning creams and gels.

So today we’ll take a look at these creams’ proclaimed benefits, the science

(if any) behind their claims, and what may be a better alternative.

Let’s dig in!


Proposed Benefits

There's a ton of fat-burning creams on the market.

Many claim their product will cause fat-loss in targeted (“stubborn”) areas of the body.

As we’ve learned by now, the ability to “spot-reduce” body fat in specific areas is a total myth.

These products use ingredients that raise the temperature of the skin, while also utilizing natural oils to trap body heat close to the skin.

This combination is what causes the increased sweat and blood flow, which can be awesome, but won’t directly promote fat loss.


The Scientific Evidence

Unfortunately, there just isn’t much in the way of scientific support for the claims of these fat-burning creams. In fact, a company by the name of Beiersdorf, Inc. was sued in 2011 for misleading consumers and providing no scientific evidence that their product Nivea Skin Cream causes fat-loss

The Federal Trade Commission had this to say about their product;


“One of the products claims as soon as it is applied to the body, it would cause fat and weight to just disappear simply by applying the product, and that just isn’t so,” Len Gordon, Northeast Regional Office.


Some of the creams are made with an ingredient called synephrine,

which has been used as an oral treatment to aid weight-loss

(in combo with diet + exercise), but lacks any scientific evidence as a topical fat-loss agent.

And that, my friends, is where the confusion lies.

Many of these companies’ advertisements will mix around various facts, or use ingredients with proven benefits in unrelated circumstances to mislead consumers and boost their credibility.

But as a whole, I’ve yet to come across any scientific studies that prove the application of fat-burning creams will directly cause fat-loss.


Better Options?

As profitable as the health supplement industry is, the greatest success you’ll have when it comes to fat-loss is undoubtedly rooted in your nutrition, exercise, and overall lifestyle.

These factors play a significantly greater role in your body’s metabolism and overall fat loss than any supplement ever could.

And in today’s world where products are delivered faster and faster,

you must remember that healthy weight-loss takes time.


My advice for initiating your weight-loss journey is this:

Get an estimate of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) by using a free calculator that can be found here.

From there, you’ll have an idea of how many calories you should aim to eat in order to lose weight.

Familiarize yourself with nutrition labels and gain a thorough understanding of how to accurately read them.

Here's an awesome article on how to do so.

Begin tracking and monitoring your daily food intake. It will seem tedious and annoying at first, but I ensure you it’s well worth it!

And after awhile, you’ll get used to it and it won’t be nearly as much as a hassle.

Remember, it’s for your success!

I recommend using the free app MyFitnessPal,

Begin tracking your daily calories while eating as you normally would, don’t reduce or change your eating habits right away.

By tracking your current eating habits for a few days, you’ll get an idea of the amount of calories you’ve been eating regularly.

From there, you can compare those numbers with the daily caloric intake that was recommended for weight-loss from your TDEE calculation. I'd used the average of the two.

Rule of thumb: eat roughly 300 calories less + exercise about 200 calories more to create a 500 calorie deficit from your TDEE each day to lose weight.


Wrapping Things Up…

If you’re thinking of starting a weight-loss journey, resist the urge to purchase supplements claiming “quick and easy benefits”.

The reality is, there’s no shortcut to weight-loss success.

It requires dedication, consistency, and proper planning (and patience!).

Fat-burning creams are just one example of health supplements that are misleading and make claims based on no scientific evidence.

If you decide to try a health supplement, you’d be wise to do your homework to determine what’s in it, does it work, and is it actually even healthy for you?

In most cases, you could save yourself some money by passing on the supplements and buying healthy groceries instead!

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