Let’s face it. Losing weight is hard! So often, we’re bombarded with advertisements and testimonials about (insert dramatic voice) “the best supplements to incinerate fat and drop 10 pounds in a week”.
Unfortunately, these supplements are just quick fixes that will only work temporarily, and don’t help you achieve lifelong health. While we don’t recommend these type of supplements, we do know there is a time and place for the right supplementation! Each of the supplements listed can have a hormonal or systemic impact which can help support weight loss. Read on to learn about 5 supplements to support your weight loss in a way that’s safe and sustainable.
Have you ever sprained your ankle or cut your finger? You’ve probably noticed that the affected area gets all swollen and pink. This is your body’s protection mechanism to help it heal. It’s also known as inflammation. In some cases, inflammation is good! But, when we have chronic inflammation spanning months or years due to an unhealthy lifestyle, inflammation is a huge problem. We usually don’t realize that we have internal inflammation because it may not cause obvious symptoms. However, inflammation is often the root cause of various illnesses, diseases, and even weight gain (1). By addressing the root cause of inflammation with the foods we eat, we can begin to heal our body and may shed pounds in the process! This is where fish oil comes into play as one of the best supplements for weight loss.
When we mention fish oil, we’re really talking about two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. Our body can’t efficiently make these on its own, so we must get them from food sources. Fatty fish and algae are the only naturally occurring sources of EPA and DHA (2). These fats have awesome anti-inflammatory properties, and can even reduce levels of inflammatory chemicals in your blood, like C-reactive protein (3). Strangely enough, some studies show that EPA and DHA from fish oil may even increase your metabolism by up to 14 percent (4,5)!
How should I take it?
The best supplements for fish oil should contain EPA and DHA in the ingredients. Some fish oil can go rancid, so read the label to see if it recommends refrigeration. The dosing for fish oil varies. If you don’t eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week, the equivalent amount of EPA plus DHA to take in fish oil form is at least 500 milligrams (mg) per day.
When you eat alone, you’re never really eating alone. You have trillions of little gut bugs eating with you! Not creepy at all, right? 😉 But really, these are good bugs commonly known as probiotics. One thing we know for sure, is that the community of gut bacteria differs in overweight vs. healthy weight individuals (6). So, if we modify the balance of bacteria in our gut, can we lose weight? Studies have now begun to show that probiotics may be one of the best supplements for weight loss.
Probiotics may enhance the amount of weight lost when combined with other nutrition and lifestyle changes. These probiotics may promote loss of body fat, and help us to maintain that successful weight loss as well (6). One study found that probiotics reduced belly fat by over 3 percent, and reduced visceral belly fat (surrounding the organs) by 8.5 percent in just 12 weeks (7)! Theories behind why probiotics may help weight loss include beneficial effects on metabolism, lowering inflammation, and increasing hormones that promote feelings of fullness (7,8).
How should I take it?
Probiotic species with successful track records regarding weight loss include lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus gasseri, and lactobacillus fermentum (6,7,9). Notice any trends? It appears that strains in the lactobacillus family may be most helpful with weight loss efforts. Try to find a probiotic that contains some strains in the lactobacillus family, but also includes other varieties, too. Dosing of probiotics is extremely variable among species/strains, but common dosages range from 10-30 million CFU (colony forming units) in adults.
Most people know of Vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin”. Our bodies make vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, when we are exposed to sunlight. Although vitamin D mostly gets credit for its bone strengthening properties, it has a lot of other important jobs in our body too. Evidence shows that vitamin D protects us from cancer, heart disease, infections, and even autoimmune diseases (10). Plus, some research shows that vitamin D may be one of the best supplements to take for weight loss!
There are a couple ways that Vitamin D may aide weight loss. First, it may reduce your overall body fat mass (11). In one study, the participants who took vitamin D supplements for 12 weeks had a 7% decrease in body fat at the end of the trial. Heck yeah! Some researchers think that this is due to vitamin D’s ability to stimulate an enzyme that breaks down fat cells (11). Also, vitamin D may prevent weight gain and obesity over time (12). This may not seem important, but the average American adult gains two pounds per year (13)! Over a 10-year period, this could prevent 20 pounds of unwanted weight gain.
How should I take it?
There are two types of vitamin D supplements: D2 and D3. Most guidelines suggest that either type will successfully raise vitamin D levels (14). However, some health experts prefer to use vitamin D3 for supplementation as it is the most active form in the body. To raise and maintain your vitamin D levels to an adequate range, health organizations now recommend supplementing with 1,500 -2,000 IU of vitamin D per day (15). Higher doses of vitamin D may be needed if your blood levels are particularly low. Talk with your doctor about the right dose for you.
Have you ever had a super stressful day which ended by digging into some Ben and Jerry’s? We’ve all been there at least once! Stress can trigger a lot of food cravings. On top of that, chronically high stress levels are linked to weight gain and poor health (16). That’s why ashwagandha is one of the best supplements to consider for weight loss.
Ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in India and Ayurvedic medicine. It is considered an adaptogen, which means it helps us to manage and decrease our body’s response to stress. Ashwagandha significantly lowers cortisol levels, one of the main stress hormones that is elevated in chronic stress (17). Lowering cortisol is helpful for weight loss because high cortisol levels are linked to weight gain, particularly around the belly area! You could probably blame some of your stress eating behaviors on high cortisol levels too as women with higher levels tend to eat more calories from processed foods (18). One study found that participants taking ashwagandha had significantly lower stress levels, food cravings, cortisol levels, and body weight (19). The ashwagandha even raised their “happiness scores” which sounds pretty nice to us too!
How should I take it?
Ashwagandha is most commonly taken in pill form. Although there is no standard dosage, studies looking at ashwagandha and successful stress reduction generally use 300 mg twice per day.
The simple fact is: losing weight is a lot harder without adequate sleep! Our metabolism is closely linked to the amount of sleep we get the night before. In fact, people who consistently sleep less than 5 hours per night are at a much higher risk of obesity (20). Sleep deprivation sabotages our weight loss efforts in three main ways:
- Poor sleep can affect how well we metabolize sugar (i.e. insulin resistance).
- It causes an imbalance in our appetite and hunger hormones.
- We burn less calories when we are sleep deprived.
Our high stress, fast-paced lifestyle makes it difficult to get enough sleep sometimes. To support our body during our weight loss efforts, magnesium is one of the best supplements for promoting sleep. Magnesium is an extremely important mineral and electrolyte, especially when it comes to sleep quality and quantity. Magnesium increases a calming neurotransmitter called GABA, that can quiet our mind and body before sleep (21). Basically, it acts like the brakes when our brain seems to be running wild! Some studies have shown that taking magnesium leads to longer, and more restorative sleep (22, 23).
How should I take it?
Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 68 percent of Americans eat enough magnesium each day (21). The most important thing is still that we try to meet our nutrient demands through the foods we eat. But, supplementing with magnesium is one of the best supplements for weight loss because of its calming, sleep promoting benefits. Try to choose magnesium in the citrate, glycinate, or lactate forms, as these are generally more tolerable and better absorbed than magnesium oxide (which can sometimes cause diarrhea). For supplements, take no more than 350 mg of magnesium per day as recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Try taking it a few hours before bedtime to have the best effect on sleep.
But…there isn’t one best supplement for weight loss.
Womp womp. We know it’s not a popular concept, but weight loss is super complicated and can’t be achieved by doing just one thing! These supplements all help optimize our health, and may help weight loss efforts, but MUST be combined with other healthy habits and lifestyle changes. Here’s the other whammy: health is more than just your weight. Healing from the inside out is key, which is why we support a variety of holistic ways to achieve your best self!