Supplements work in many different ways to enhance the benefits of a healthy weight-loss diet and exercise. Try one or more that match your needs, or look for a formula that combines complementary ingredients.
Atrip down the weight-loss aisle at your favorite health food store uncovers a bewildering variety of pills, powders, and potions that are designed to help you shed pounds and keep them off. Celebrities from Dr. Oz to Dr. Phil tout their favorite formulas. But which one is really the best? Here’s a look at some of today’s most popular ingredients—how they work, how much to take—to help you find the right supplement for your particular situation and weight-loss goals.
Meratrim Blocks Fat Storage
A proprietary combination of nutrients from an Asian medicinal flower (Sphaeranthus indicus or East Indian globe thistle) and the rind of the mangosteen fruit, Meratrim blocks fat storage. It increases levels of the hormone adiponectin, which encourages food to be burned as energy rather than stored as fat. Studies with a total of 100 people, published in the journal Obesity and the Journal of Medicinal Food, found that weight loss averaged 1.5 pounds per week, and waist and hip size decreased within two weeks, when the supplement was used in conjunction with a 2,000 calorie per day diet and exercise program. How to Use: Take 400 mg twice daily. Try: Health Direct SLIMit With Meratrim.
Protein Powders Make You Leaner
An analysis of 14 clinical trials, with a total of more than 600 people, found that eating whey protein in place of other foods produced weight loss and an improved ratio of muscle to fat. “The results indicate that there is something unique about whey protein, compared to other protein sources and carbohydrates, when it comes to building lean body mass and maintaining or losing weight,” said Dominik D. Alexander, PhD, lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. How to Use: In place of carbohydrate-rich snacks or some of the starch in meals, have a scoop of whey protein in water or a half-and-half mixture of juice and water. Look for a whey powder with approximately 20 grams of protein and less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Try: Paradise Herbs Amazing Whey.
Meal replacement shakes, often rich in protein, are a popular way to cut calories, but do they work? A meta-analysis of dieters found that people who replaced one to two meals each day with a meal replacement product lost significantly more weight than people on traditional low-calorie plans. Plus, they are easy to stick with, especially if you are on the go. How to Use: Opt for a product made from whole foods free of non-GMOs, sugars, additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, or fillers. Try: Almased.
Green Coffee Extract Slows Sugar and Starch Absorption
Chlorogenic acids, found in raw green coffee (but destroyed when coffee is roasted), slow absorption of sugar and starch, which seems to spontaneously reduce appetite and produce weight loss without changing diet or exercise habits. Six studies, with a total of 303 people, show that the supplement effectively promotes weight loss, according to a review of research published in Natural Medicine Journal. How to Use: Look for green coffee extract standardized to contain at least
45 percent chlorogenic acid. Svetol and GCA (Green Coffee Antioxidant) are two proprietary forms of the extract tested in studies. Take 350–400 mg, 30 minutes before each meal, 3 times daily, with a glass of water. Try: Bio Nutrition Pure Green Coffee.
7-keto Boosts Calories Burned
In studies published in Nutrition and other journals, 7-keto tripled weight loss when taken with a somewhat calorie-reduced diet and a moderate exercise program. Daily calories totaled 9 calories per pound of body weight (1,800 calories for a 200-lb person, for example). The research shows that although 7-keto is not a stimulant, it increases basal metabolism—calories burned just to stay alive—which account for 60–70 percent of total calories for most people. 7-keto is made by our bodies but levels decline with age. How to Use: Take 100 mg twice daily, morning and evening. Try: Enzymatic Therapy Naturalean with 7-KETO.
Special Fibers Reduce Appetite
These become gel-like once mixed with moisture in the digestive tract, creating a feeling of fullness that makes it easier to eat less food. They also slow digestion, reducing swings in blood sugar and helping to diminish cravings. In studies, each of these has been shown to increase weight loss, compared with a placebo. How to Use: To avoid gas or bloating, it may be best to start with smaller amounts and gradually increase the dosage. Use only one fiber supplement at a time, unless a formula contains a combination, and drink plenty of water—at least 8 ounces with each dose.
Glucomannan: 2 grams before a meal.
Apple pectin: 500 mg or more, 1–3 times daily, with or before meals. Try: Pure Health Naturally Appetite Suppress (contains both glucomannan and apple pectin).
PGX: 2.5–5 grams, once or twice daily, 30 minutes before a meal, or per product directions. PGX comes in granules
and pills, and can be found in some meal replacement powders and bars. Try: Natural Factors PGX Daily Ultra Matrix Softgels.
More Weight-Loss Aids
Other popular weight-loss supplements include:
- Garcinia cambogia contains the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid, or HCA (Super Citrimax is a patented form). It reduces appetite and helps to burn fat. Take 500–1,000 mg of HCA, three times daily, 30–60 minutes before each meal. Try: Himalaya Herbal Healthcare Garcinia.
- Green tea extracts may or may not be caffeinated but always contain epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which increases the burning of fat for energy. Take 300 mg of EGCG daily. Try: Irwin Naturals Green Tea Fat Metabolizer.
- Chromium, a trace mineral found in many multivitamins and some weight-loss formulas, helps to keep blood-sugar levels stable and ward off cravings, generally with 200–400 mcg daily. Try: Bluebonnet Chromium Picolinate.
- Tonalin CLA is a proprietary form of conjugated linoleic acid, a fat found in meat and dairy, that has been shown to reduce body fat in overweight people at doses ranging from 1.7 to 3 grams daily. Try: Jarrow Formulas CLA.
- Moringa, from the leaves of the moringa plant, is a concentrated source of protein, vitamins, and minerals that support energy production. It’s also a good source of detoxifying chlorophyll. Moringa is available in powders, pills, and teas. Try: Organic India Moringa.
- Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, considered to be a fat burner, and is an overall tonic. Two teaspoons are often mixed in a glass of water, or it can be taken in pill form. Try: Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.
When we eat food, different enzymes break it down to enable digestion. Two types of supplements aid in weight loss by blocking the enzymes that digest sugar and starch, which are typically overabundant in our diets. As a result, some of those calories are neutralized, because they’re eliminated rather than being absorbed.
Phase 2: This proprietary white bean extract (which doesn’t cause gas) blocks starch breakdown. Studies published in Obesity and other journals show that it can double weight loss with a slightly calorie-reduced diet, and helps to maintain a lower weight. Take 1,000 mg before each meal, three times daily
Phase 3: A patented combination of l-arabinose and chromium, Phase 3 Sugar Controller blocks the breakdown of sugar. One study found that people taking the supplement absorbed 25 percent fewer sugar calories. Take 550 mg before a meal that contains sugar, once or twice daily.
Try: Natrol Carb Intercept 3 (contains both Phase 2 and Phase 3).
Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. She is the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony and the User’s Guide to Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.