Guarana for Weight Loss
Guarana Extract is a small bean that is found predominantly in South America – most noticeably in the Amazon jungle. Guarana seeds are rich in caffeine, which works by stimulating the Central Nervous System, heart and muscles. Also contained within Guarana are the chemicals theophylline and theobromine, which also have stimulating properties comparable to caffeine.
The main claims for Guarana is that it has a powerful effect in regards to increasing the metabolic rate, suppressing the appetite as well as positively enhancing physical and even mental performance.
Initially, the main active ingredient within Guarana was thought to be guaranine (or tetramethylxanthine), but this ingredient was later found to be caffeine, in fact Guarana is so rich in this ingredient that it is known to have one of the highest caffeine contents of all plants (up to 7%). The weight loss properties of Guarana can be linked to the thermogenic effects of caffeine, this being the process of fat (or calorie) burning as a result of increased heat output.
Guarana is not a new ingredient to the diet pill industry; indeed, it has been an active ingredient in a couple of supplements, for example ‘Slimette‘ – which also utilizes the acai berry.
A common theme around the manufacturers of products that utilize Guarana (which goes beyond just the diet pill market) is the claim that you will be less fatigued and more alert, a claim that has led to Guarana being utilized in soft drinks and energy shots – specifically in South America.
Ultimately, Guarana is cited as having many physical as well as mental benefits. These benefits though, seem to revolve around the high density of caffeine that is prevalent in Guarana. Therefore, the effectiveness of Guarana is underpinned by how useful caffeine is in regards to supplementing weight loss. As far as scientific opinion goes on the weight loss properties of caffeine, it can be seen to be divided. For those that do support caffeine as a weight loss supplement, the question arises as to what chemical mechanisms within caffeine – and thus Guarana – help you with your weight loss.
How does Guarana help with Weight Loss?
As mentioned before, the main active ingredient in Guarana is caffeine. The major point of debate surrounding the weight loss properties of caffeine is the extent to which the thermogenic properties of caffeine supplement weight loss, and whether this attribute of caffeine makes a tangible difference.
Thermogenesis is essentially the process of heat production – in living organisms, primarily warm-blooded animals but also some thermogenic plants. One of the most well known examples of thermogenesis is ‘shivering’ where the muscle groups around vital organs begin to shake in small movements to create warmth through the expenditure of energy.
Thermogenesis is a vital component of an individual’s metabolic rate and so by stimulating thermogenesis you increase energy expenditure and also fat oxidation. This begs the question of how you can stimulate thermogenesis, the answer is that there are three ways our bodies induce thermogenic processes:
1. Exercise-associated Thermogenesis (EAT)
2. Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
3. Diet-induced Thermogenesis
One major study on caffeine (published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) noted that caffeine does indeed have a thermogenic effect, which therefore induces calorie burning and fat-oxidation. Additionally, caffeine also increases the amount of urine the body secretes – which obviously results in less water retention. This is because it is a diuretic and also an alkaloid meaning it is metabolized in the liver and excreted through the kidney.
Additionally, there is clinical support for Guarana’s effectiveness when it comes to increasing vigour and even mental performance. One study (conducted in Britain) found that Guarana tablets “boosted scores on a battery of tests for memory, alertness and mood compared with the same group of students’ performance on a different day when taking a placebo tablet”. These findings on the cognitive effects of Guarana were actually higher than expected, meaning that it was not just the caffeine content in Guarana that gave rise to these results.
Another aspect of caffeine (and so Guarana) that makes it more viable as a weight loss supplement is the appetite suppressing characteristics of caffeine.
As a stimulant, caffeine masks hunger and fatigue, while providing a boost in alertness and energy levels. Although it should be noted that this is only the case if caffeine is taken in moderation.
In excess, caffeine can in fact lead to hunger cravings because it stimulates insulin secretion – which reduces blood sugar – and so increases the feeling of hunger. These are not the only negative side effects that come with ingesting too much caffeine; the next section of this article will outline some more issues that must be taken into account when using Guarana.
Side Effects Associated with Guarana
It is designated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) that Guarana is ‘generally recognised as safe‘ which essentially means that Guarana is considered by experts as not being a harmful substance for human intake. However, the high dosage of caffeine in Guarana means it is ‘likely unsafe‘ – and possibly even deadly – when taken in high doses or over a long period of time.
It is also noted that even at typical doses, the caffeine in Guarana can cause “insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, tremors, delirium, diuresis, and other side effects”. (It should be noted though that these effects are the same as the effects as an everyday cup of coffee might have on a user.)
Large guarana doses might cause “headache, anxiety, agitation, ringing in the ears, pain when urinating, stomach cramps, and irregular heartbeats”. People who take Guarana regularly may experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms if they reduce their usual amount.
However, it should also be taken into account that the seriousness of the side-effects that come attached with caffeine are to a degree dependent on an individual’s caffeine sensitivity, smoking behaviour, age and prior caffeine use. So while Guarana does have the capacity to have serious side effects, in the majority of cases there will be nothing out of the ordinary – although before going upon a course that contains Guarana as an active ingredient, it is highly recommended that you see your doctor beforehand and inform them of your plan.
Ultimately, if used correctly and sensibly, the side effects that come with Guarana will not be experienced. Although, there are some groups for which ingesting Guarana is unsafe – these are listed below:
The groups include:
– Expecting and Breast-Feeding Mothers
– Sufferers of Depression and Anxiety attacks
– Bleeding disorders
– Those suffering diarrhoea
– People with high blood pressure
Reviews on Guarana Extract
Guarana is quite well known in wider society, and as mentioned before has been included as an active ingredient in a number of diet pills. Guarana has also found use in supplementing professional and personal athletic performance. As the studies on the weight loss properties of Guarana are debated in the scientific community, the best way to assess whether it will have a positive impact on your own weight is to look at the various reviews of both consumers and scientists on Guarana extract and products that contain Guarana.
Indeed, the most beneficial evidence when assessing whether Guarana extract is a suitable weight loss supplement is to look at the experiences of other normal consumers who have taken the extract over a comparable period of time, and whether they experienced weight loss over that period.
On GNC.com, Guarana is available in a standardized capsule format and is described as being of benefit to those who wish to either enhance athletic performance, tackle fatigue and also supplement weight loss regimens. Currently the tablets are rated at 4.8 out of 5 – an exceptional rating – but this comes with the drawback that most of the reviewers who have commented on the effectiveness of Guarana are reviewing it from the perspective of tackling fatigue and/or enhancing physical performance. As of this current time, there are no reviews on the product on GNC about how good it fares in supplementing weight loss.
Another website that sells Guarana in capsule form is ‘iHerb‘, but again the reviewers are predominantly looking at the product from its energizing qualities, something that it is rated as being very successful in, with the overall rating being 4.2 out of 5 from 27 independent reviews.
These findings are not too surprising given the caffeine content that is present in Guarana.
Guarana tablets are also available for purchase from Amazon, and from 29 reviews has an average rating of 3.7 out of 5. Also, there are a couple of reviews from users that directly address the weight loss properties of Guarana. One user commented that she had specifically ordered the tablets to “try to assist with weight loss”, and that she found that along with the obvious effects of caffeine, there was also a definite suppression of her appetite, she noted that – “it doesn’t take my appetite completely away but rather makes it so I don’t feel hungry”.
So to sum up, Guarana extract does have some benefits that remain consistent across products and the types of people that use it, in particular the energizing effects of Guarana as a result of the high caffeine content contained within the extract. This is also supported by clinical studies and trials of Guarana that assert that along with the general fatigue fighting properties of Guarana – there is also a short term cognitive boost. As for supplementing weight loss, there have been trials on the effects of caffeine that support the hypothesis that it does help prevent weight gain and induce weight loss but this is not the primary property of Guarana, as can be seen in the way reviews of the tablets are written.
Still though, there have been positive results with regards to Guarana and weight loss, but it should be noted that these trials have usually involved other ingredients like Green Tea.
So is Guarana a weight loss supplement worth investing in?
Although there is no simple answer to this question, on the balance of it, it would appear that Guarana does have a multitude of benefits and though supplementing weight loss is not the primary one, it is relevant and has been clinically supported to a certain degree.
However, as mentioned earlier, the trials that have specifically looked at the effect of Guarana on weight loss have not isolated the Guarana extract and have instead included a couple of other ingredients – the most noticeable being Green Tea. So if you do decide to purchase Guarana for its purported weight loss properties, it is important to keep in mind that to really maximize the effects, it may need to be combined with another supplement.
Guarana is also typically safe if used in a measured way, as though the reported side effects can be severe – they are typically only prevalent in cases where the user has ingested a high dosage and/or been taking Guarana in addition to other stimulants, such as coffee or tea. Therefore, it is recommended to first see your doctor before undertaking a course of Guarana, and also to personally highlight any issues in your lifestyle that may be incompatible with Guarana, for example having a lot of coffee per day or not getting adequate and healthy amounts of sleep.
It is worth mentioning that Guarana is not a specialist or niche ingredient, and is widespread in its use around South America, especially in energy drinks. It is also an active ingredient in some diet pills that are on the market and can be purchased today – for example ‘Slimette‘ that is also reviewed here.
Ultimately, Guanara is an ingredient that can be assimilated into a healthy lifestyle, as it is not only a more cost-efficient alternative to a cup of coffee in the morning, but also more effective. And as for supplementing weight loss, it is best to use Guarana in tandem with Green Tea extract for the best results.
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