8 Best Supplements and Vitamins for Weight Loss
A healthy diet and exercise plan are essential for weight loss. Here's a list of vitamins that may support your efforts.
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The ups and downs of weight loss
If you’ve tried something like the grapefruit juice diet, cabbage soup diet, baby food diet, a cleanse, or a detox, you probably know that fad diets don’t really work. “The most effective strategy for losing weight is to eat less and move more. Do that and you’ll start seeing the pounds peel off consistently,” says New York-based registered dietitian and health expert Joy Bauer, author of several books, including Joy Bauer’s Superfood!: 150 Recipes for Eternal Youth. “As you do this, also consider adding a multivitamin/mineral supplement to ensure you’re covered if you happen to have any nutritional gaps, particularly in any vitamin or mineral that may contribute to metabolism. It’s like a nutritional insurance policy.” Some potential vitamin or mineral shortfalls may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts may. We spoke with medical experts to identify vitamins and supplements that may help you achieve your weight loss goals.
For those with an underactive thyroid gland, weight management can be challenging. Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormone. If you don’t get enough, your body can’t make enough thyroid hormone and your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, can’t do its job, namely controlling your metabolism and numerous other crucial body processes. “If someone has a clear iodine deficiency, filling that hole will be valuable for general health and possibly for weight management,” says Scott Kahan, MD, the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. But, he cautions, almost no one is deficient in iodine anymore because this mineral was added to table salt in the 1920s. Too much iodine can cause problems including thyroid gland inflammation and thyroid cancer. Talk to your doctor to find out where you stand. (Take a look at these before and after photos—just the motivation you need to start losing weight now.)
$28, 300 count
Many dieters experience hunger and an increase in appetite, and that can lead them to overeat, but fiber makes you feel fuller faster, which leads to weight loss, Dr. Kahan says. The average American eats about 15 to 17 grams of fiber per day; the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for women is 25 grams; for men, it’s 38 grams a day. Supplementing your diet with fiber can help you eat less, quell hunger, and lose weight. Increase the fiber in your diet by eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—here are ways to get more fiber in your diet without even trying. “Fiber has other health benefits too like colon cancer prevention,” says Dr. Kahan.
$11, 90 count
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a host of health concerns and conditions, and obesity is on this list. You may be low in this super-important vitamin and not even know it. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that overweight or obese women who took vitamin D supplements for six weeks lost more weight than women who did not receive supplements as part of the study. The best way to see if you are deficient is to have your doctor check your blood levels and go from there, Dr. Kahan says. “Vitamin D deficiency can lead to low mood and fatigue. Supplementing may lead to an improvement in these symptoms and, by extension, can support weight loss indirectly.” The Institute of Medicine recommends that people aged 1 to 70 take 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day, and people older than 71 should aim for 800 IUs.
$10, 1 ounce
Matcha is a type of green tea. But, instead of steeping a tea bag, you whisk a powder made from the ground leaves into hot water. It also contains caffeine which can help you power through your exercise routines, says Sharon Zarabi, RD, bariatric program director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. That’s just one of the many benefits of matcha. You can purchase matcha tea in coffee shops and at grocery stores, or you can add matcha powder to smoothies.
$14, 60 count
Iron is found in your red blood cells or hemoglobin, and these cells transport oxygen to the rest of your body, Dr. Kahan explains. If you don’t have enough iron or red blood cells, you aren’t funneling oxygen to where it is needed, and this may cause fatigue and other symptoms that make it harder for you to be physically active. But if you don’t have a documented iron deficiency, don’t take iron supplements. Too much iron is risky and can damage your organs. If you are low in iron, your doctor may suggest eating more iron-rich foods or taking a multivitamin: Men need 8 mg per day; women require 18 mg daily. For example, Nature Made Multi Daily Vitamin With Iron and Calcium has 18 milligrams of iron.
$16, 100 count
Carnitine is an amino acid that shuttles fatty acids through the cells of the body and throws them into a metabolic furnace, where they burn fat instead of storing it. The Office of Dietary Supplements says that carnitine may confer “modest reduction of body weight.” Side effects could include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and a “fishy” body odor. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends that anyone who does decide to take carnitine supplements consider taking at least 500 to 1,000 mg per day of l-carnitine. (Carnitine is the generic term for a number of compounds that include L-carnitine.) “It makes sense that this could be valuable, but the studies that support it are not done yet,” says Dr. Kahan.
$21, 60 count
L-citrulline may help you get more out of your workout. A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that L-citrulline supplementation may improve performance during high-intensity exercises, such as interval training. Current recommendations range from 5 to 7 grams of L-citrulline per day, taken far in advance of a workout. The researchers note NOW Sports Nutrition did provide the L-citrulline (Cit), L-arginine (Arg) and placebo (Pla) supplements for this study. However, they did not receive funding from NOW Sports Nutrition. Because L-citrulline dilates and relaxes blood vessels, Gabrielle Fundaro, PhD, a sports nutritionist and assistant professor of exercise science at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia, says it can trigger a drop in blood pressure; people with heart or blood pressure issues should check with a doctor before trying this supplement.
If you’ve been thinking, “Why isn’t chocolate ever on these lists?” It’s here. Theobromine is an organic alkaloid found naturally in chocolate that is used for its appetite-suppressing effects, and cocoa beans contain up to 1,200 mg of it. If this sounds like a perfect excuse to get your chocolate fix along with some daily theobromine, there’s a hitch: It has to be dark chocolate—at least 85 percent cacao. And a bonus: even a dash of cinnamon could help with weight loss.
- Joy Bauer, author of several books, including Joy Bauer's Superfood!: 150 Recipes for Eternal Youth
- Scott Kahan, MD, the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C.
- Nutrients: "History of U.S. Iodine Fortification and Supplementation"
- International Journal of Preventive: "Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Weight Loss, Glycemic Indices, and Lipid Profile in Obese and Overweight Women: A Clinical Trial Study"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Carnitine"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "L-Carnitine"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine"
- Journal of Applied Physiology: "l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans"
- Gabrielle Fundaro, PhD, a sports nutritionist and assistant professor of exercise science at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia
- Frontiers in Pharmacology: "The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption"
- Sharon Zarabi, RD, CDN, bariatric program director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fiber"