Top 5 Supplements You Wouldn’t Expect to Use for Weight Loss
You’ve all looked at them in the pharmacy. Or seen them on television. Or heard about them from that friend at the gym. Diet pills. They generally have bright, bold names like MEGA BURN or THERMO FUSION, and the bottles generally contain some sort of really bold claim about how you could lose 185 pounds in just three weeks! or something like that. Some may even have some fancy charts on the side of the box explaining how a group of subjects in one trial lost more weight than those taking a placebo. Seems enticing, right?
You’d be correct in thinking that these may be a surefire way to increasing your potential for weight loss. But are they healthy?
Yes and no. When taken correctly, thermogenics (read: fat burners) can be pretty useful to lose weight if you’re working out. However, most of these products are loaded with stimulants and should only be used in moderation (and that’s for those who are already healthy, if you have any sort of heart/blood pressure/autoimmune issue you should absolutely stay away). For those of you who don’t know how to pick out common stimulants in a weight loss product, I’ll list the most popular ones here:
1. Caffeine (the obvious one, proven to be okay when taken in moderation)
2. Synephrine (sometimes also labeled as bitter orange extract or citrus auriantium)
3. Ephedrine (an outlawed ingredient- if your product contains ephedrine chances are it isn’t technically legal to sell)
4. Yohimbine (or yohimbe, a natural stimulant with common interactions with medications and other supplements)
5. Guarana (plant extract containing caffeine)
6. Yerba Mate/Green Tea/Black Tea/White Tea (all plant extracts containing caffeine)
7. Theobromide (found in cocoa beans and kola nuts)
Not that I’m saying these are “dangerous”, but it’s something to consider avoiding when shopping weight loss products. They tend to raise the heart rate, increase blood pressure, and give certain people “jitters” and sort of a shaky sensation after consuming them. If you choose this route, then simply make sure you follow the directions very strictly in order to avoid problems.
Now, the point of this article was to provide alternatives. The following are supplements found very easily in a vitamin/health store which have been used in conjunction with weight loss regimens. And the best part is, every one of these has other benefits in addition to losing weight. Here goes:
1. L-Carnitine. Derived from amino acids in the liver, L-carnitine is a compound your body is already familiar with, as it produces it in trace amounts. When you supplement with it, it stores up in fat cells and helps to metabolize fat as an energy source for the muscles to feed off during exercise. And for those of you who remember anything from biology in college, fat is more than twice as effective an energy source as carbohydrates and protein (which your diet likely consists mostly of). So you get an increase in metabolism, an increase in stored fat burned during exercise, as well as some other benefits: it promotes healthy circulation, helps stave off neuropathy in diabetics, and is shown to improve cognitive function. Supplement with 1500-3000 mg daily, best absorbed on an empty stomach.
2. Alpha Lipoic Acid. An antioxidant fatty acid also found in your system, it helps convert sugar into energy in the body. This can help in the dieting sense in making better use of your carbohydrate intake. The theory is that anything good for the metabolism can help with weight loss, as the faster your metabolism is, the more efficient your body becomes at burning calories. Other benefits to ALA: protects cells from free radical damage, assists anti-aging, good for diabetics, and protects brain and nerve tissue. Take 600-1200 mg in divided doses daily.
3. Protein. It’s thought by many that protein is only for bodybuilders and athletes looking to get “jacked”. Well, toss that misconception in the trash right now. Protein is a necessary part of your diet that frequently gets overlooked. Muscles are made up of proteins, and without adequate protein intake, your muscle mass cannot be maintained. Therefore, your body cannot burn fat as efficiently. The FDA says you should have 50-60 grams of protein daily based on a 2000 calorie diet. However, if you’re looking to lose weight and maintain muscle, your intake should be 1 gram per pound of body weight per day (based on your goal weight). Example, you weigh 180, and want to weigh 150, take in 150 grams of protein daily. Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? That’s where protein shakes come into play. Shakes are a very cost-effective and simple way to add large amounts of protein into your diet.
Most people just need to learn how to shop for protein. First off, if weight loss is your goal, skip the Muscle Milk. It has too much fat, too much sugar, and while it seems like the obvious choice because it tastes good and you can buy it anywhere, it’s not. Weight loss requires something much leaner. A good protein should have at least 25-30 grams per scoop, less than 5 grams of carbohydrate, less than 2 grams of fat, and little to no sugar. Look for whey isolate as the primary form of protein in the mix, as it absorbs quickly and is optimal for use after exercise. Avoid casein and soy isolate as they absorb slower.
When to take it is really up to you. The most important time is right after you work out, as your body needs nutrients to recover from the workout. You can also use it to complement a balanced breakfast, in between meals, or as a snack after dinner. DO NOT USE AS A REPLACEMENT FOR EVERY MEAL. Many people become obsessed with losing weight, that they replace every meal with protein to reduce calorie intake. Do not, as it is not only unhealthy to deprive your body of the nutrients you get from real food, it will in time reverse the effects of your weight loss efforts when your system goes into caloric shock and starts storing everything you eat. Other benefits: improved immune function, increased metabolism, and increased HDL (good cholesterol) production.
4. 5-HTP (or 5-hydroxytryptophan). An amino compound which acts as a precursor to serotonin in the brain. Aids in reducing stress levels, sleeplessness, and anxiety issues. Well, it’s also shown in trials to help with weight loss. How? Reduced stress = lower cortisol levels = weight loss. Everyone has some sort of stress problem, whether it be work, kids, money, or all of the above. Take 100-300 mg a day (if 200 or more, in divided doses). Avoid if you take antidepressants.
5. Cayenne pepper. An herb containing capsaicin, which aids in increasing the metabolism. Remember what I said previously, whatever helps with energy can help with weight loss. It is also shown to decrease appetite. You have two options for supplementing with it: buy the fresh pepper whole or ground up, or purchase in capsules. Either way can be effective, and it is shown to be very useful for weight loss when combined with a healthy diet. Other benefits: promotes healthy blood flow, increase in sex drive, and helps maintain blood pressure. Caution: it is a pepper, it is spicy, and it can burn going down and in the stomach, which is normal but may be unpleasant for some.
So there you have it. Just remember that diet and exercise is always important when it comes to weight loss, diet being of the utmost importance. The more you contribute to your weight loss, the better results you will get.