As Seen in Mens Health
Mens Health Trials: FAT-BURNING PILLS T5 Hardcore
Is trading the gym for weight-cutting drugs a good deal? MH’s Lab Rat doses up.
Human Tester: Ted Lane
Job: Assistant Digital Editor
Challenge: To lose a stone in 28 days by taking fat-loss drugs
Claim: T5 Hardcore pills are an advanced fat burner for “Everyday people who want to strip body fat.”
"Mealtimes had lost their allure and my calorie count was plummeting"
No matter how many mornings I spend standing in front of my bedroom mirror, sighing as I paw at my doughy middle, I still can’t bring myself to join my colleagues on the high-intensity, carb-free bandwagon. I’m stubborn. I choose my duvet over early morning runs and weekend takeaways over a week’s worth of lean-lunch prep on a Sunday night. So, when T5 Hardcore fat-burning pills landed on my desk with their aggressive branding and promotional bluster, I was intrigued. Could these little red pills really burn away my body fat – without demanding I sacrifice my love of lie-ins? I’ll try anything once.
Scanning the label, I realised I should probably have pored over the long list of ingredients in advance. Each two-capsule serving contains 150mg of caffeine (a coffee’s worth), alongside a cocktail of seven other stimulants. They pack far more buzz than my usual builder’s brew. An hour after my first hit, my heart was beating faster than normal. This wasn’t exactly surprising – the effects of caffeine are pretty well known; increased energy expenditure equals weightloss. But it was more intense than the feeling you get after an espresso shot. I decided to do some research about what I’d signed up for.
I called Dr Igho Onakpoya at the University of Oxford, who has published research on the effects of over-the-counter slimming pills. He explained that, while the thermogenic (calorie-burning) effect from caffeine can increase the amount of fat you lose, excessive doses can result in anxiety and sleep disturbances. Your average fat-burner packs extra ingredients such as green tea (more caffeine) and bitter orange, which contains synephrine, another similarly heart rate-raising stimulant to boot. “The danger with taking such pills in the long-term is that the caffeine concentration in the body could become toxic,” he said. “This results in detrimental health effects such as high blood pressure, irregular heart rates and sleeplessness.” Oh.
Despite this, reports by the British Nutrition Foundation show yearly sales of over-the-counter slimming products exceed £900m in Western Europe alone. This is no fleeting fad. Plus the early-hours adverts suggest a handful can transform me into an MH poster boy, no pulls-up required. They’re also comparatively wallet-friendly; my bottle set me back £40 for 120 capsules, compared to £50 for a month’s gym membership and its £100 joining fee.
Surely, like Kanye winning an award for humility, this had to be too good to be true. Only time – and a bit of self-experimentation – would tell. For the next four weeks, I endeavoured not to consciously change my habits. I popped two capsules twice a day, once in the morning and again after lunch. Almost immediately I was more satisfied by smaller meals; my usual pile of spaghetti and meatballs felt too heavy come dinner. The pills seemed to be working as an appetite suppressant, rather than simply scorching my fat.
I didn’t just eat smaller portions in the evenings, either. I became disinterested in food. Mealtimes had lost their allure and my calorie count continued to plummet. By week three, I was making significantly smaller plates of fodder and my daily intake dropped by an estimated 500 calories. By day 21 I’d already lost 6lb and an inch off my waist. Trust me, no-one was more surprised by the numbers than I was. It seemed like far too easy a win.
In the final week, the winning streak stopped. My indolent fat-burning high came crashing against a wall. My calorie intake steadied and my weight plateaued. According to Judith Stern – a professor of nutrition at UC Davis California, who’s studied the slimming-pill phenomenon – I’d built up a tolerance to the caffeine. For this reason, the pills should be regarded as a short-term aid or a way to kick-start a fitness regime. I don’t think they’re viable as a long- term solution. But still, they had worked. Sort of.
Despite losing nearly half a stone, I didn’t enjoy the process. I hated feeling my heart beating so fast that I could have been an extra in Human Traffic. I missed the pleasure I used to get from food. For the entire 28 days I felt grim; I was permanently on edge during office hours, before crashing out, exhausted, early evening. (NB Because of the high caffeine content I wouldn’t advise taking these at dinner – you’ll be too jittery to sleep.) Now that the challenge is over, I’ve flushed the pills and picked up the weights that were gathering dust in my living room. The promise of a quick fix is no substitute for heavy metal.
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By Edward Lane