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Stimulant vs. Non-Stimulant Fat Burners (The Difference)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 5, 2023
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When it comes to choosing fat loss supplements for a weight loss program and cutting phase, there’s one debate that seems to outlive all others.

Are you better off with a non-stim fat burner, or do you pick supplements with powerful stimulation?

Or maybe something in between?

As a personal trainer, this is something I carefully plan with clients.

And here’s how my clients and I approach the decision.

Quick Summary

  • Cycling between the two types of burners can be an effective strategy for weight loss, but a healthy diet and regular exercise are also crucial.
  • Stimulant fat burners, containing ingredients like caffeine, can aid in appetite suppression and fat burning but may cause jitteriness and other side effects.
  • Non-stimulant fat burners are potentially better for long-term use and avoid side effects like jitteriness, but may not suppress appetite as effectively.

Difference Between Stimulant & Non-Stimulant Fat Burners

Close up image of a pill

The main difference between stimulant and non-stimulant fat burners is in the caffeine content. A non-stimulant fat burner avoids all caffeine-like ingredients and instead focuses on non-stimulants that may also boost your metabolism into processing more body fat.

When it comes to losing weight, achieving a calorie deficit is essential. Creating a calorie deficit forces your body to tap into its fat reserves, leading to weight loss.

Therefore, incorporating a suitable fat burner that supports your calorie deficit goals can be beneficial in optimizing body composition.

Stimulant fat burners are dietary supplements containing caffeine or similar substances categorized as methylxanthines.

These types of ingredients are usually included because they can trigger thermogenesis which may reduce fat levels in your body.

However, those stimulants also impact the central nervous system, and large quantities may make you jittery.

In many cases, a non-stim fat burner is a more suitable product for long-term use.

More on this shortly.

3 Common Types of Stimulants

Supplements coming out from different bottles

Our supplement analysis and experience of using fat burners for many years has given us this common list of stimulants.

1. Caffeine

By far, the most common stimulant is caffeine anhydrous. It’s what you find in your morning brew and what can kick start your brain into action.

2. Taurine

Taurine is becoming more popular in supplements like fat burners because it’s not as potent and is a good alternative for people who are sensitive to such ingredients.

3. Green Tea Extract

While green tea has very little caffeine, a strong enough dose can have a stimulating effect on your brain and metabolism.

3 Benefits of Stimulants

A wide variety of supplements compressed with each other

Stimulating ingredients don’t just wake you up in the morning. Here are the three main positive effects.

1. Appetite Suppression

Studies have shown that stimulants may help suppress hunger, which may help people to reduce their food and calorie intake [1].

2. Fat Burning

Caffeine and green tea have been shown to trigger your thermogenic metabolism, which raises your core body temperature by burning off more calories.

3. Mental Stamina

Staying focused on everyday tasks and your exercise program is another benefit that you shouldn’t underestimate.

3 Downsides of Stimulants

Top view of different kinds of pills

While the benefit for your metabolism may be significant, these may come at a cost.

1. Jitters

Products with high doses of stimulants sometimes cause jitters, especially in folks who tend to drink a lot of coffee.

2. Cardiac Impacts

Stimulants tend to directly impact your heart rate and can cause high blood pressure. It’s part of why coffee wakes you up in the morning, but large doses can cause problems for people with heart conditions.

3. Desensitization

The longer you take stimulating ingredients, the more your body may get used to them and not react to the supplement anymore. That’s why you should take regular breaks from stimulating fat burners.

And those are the main reasons why folks sometimes choose a non-stim fat burner.

Benefits Of Non-Stimulant Fat Burners

Spilled supplements coming out from a bottle

A non-stimulant fat burner supplement has the obvious benefit that it won’t make you jittery or keep you awake at night.

But we want to focus on two common ingredients in these fat burners that could give you fat reducing results.

1. Acetyl L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is an amino acid you’ll often find in pre-workouts. It plays a role in delivering fatty acids to your muscle cells, which use them as fuel for exercise.

2. Cayenne Pepper Extract

And for the actual fat burning effect, pepper extract has been shown to work almost as well as stimulants do [2].

“Some research suggest that capsaicin acts as a thermogenic chemical, which can produce heat to stimulate your metabolism and help you burn fat.”


2. Cayenne Pepper Extract

And for the actual fat burning effect, pepper extract has been shown to work almost as well as stimulants do [2].

“Some research suggest that capsaicin acts as a thermogenic chemical, which can produce heat to stimulate your metabolism and help you burn fat.”


Downsides Of Non-Stimulant Fat Burners

Red and Blue pill on a wooden platform

Overall, a non-stim fat burner doesn't have many bad side effects, but that doesn't mean it's always the best choice when you're trying to lose weight.

Something non-stimulants tend to not do as well is provide appetite suppression.

While adding fiber and ingredients like Garcinia Cambogia might impact your appetite and blood sugar levels, our experience has been that they don’t work the same as stimulants.

For some people, that mental stimulation is also a major attraction to help them stay motivated during workouts.

And that’s something that is missing in a stimulant-free fat burner.

Making The Right Choice

A spilled medicine and a guy thinking

So, you’ll find supplements with and without stimulating effects that work well to reduce your fat storage.

And here’s the way we suggest you decide.

Mental Boosts

If you’re not sensitive to stimulating effects and enjoy a mental boost, then choose a stimulating fat burner, but stick to the recommended serving size and timing.

If you’re overly sensitive or don’t fancy giving up a few cups of coffee, then stick with a caffeine free fat burner.

Supplements Cycling

And finally, there is an option to choose both types of fat burners and cycle them. That would mean taking a stimulating fat burner for 3 weeks, followed by a non-stimulating one for 1 to 2 weeks.

Stim or Non Stim Fat Burners - Which One Will You Pick?

For maximum stimulation and appetite suppression, your decision will be obvious.

But it’s important to still set your expectations right when it comes to how much weight you can lose.

Whether you chose a stim or stim-free fat burner, remember that these aren’t magic weight loss pills, and you need to combine them with a healthy diet and solid exercise plan.


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