Should I take vitamins for weight loss?
Losing weight isn’t as easy as popping a few magical pills. However, there are a few vitamins and minerals you can take to ensure your body is functioning as efficiently as possible for weight loss.
A well-balanced diet can fulfill most of your nutrient needs. But if you’re on a limited diet, adding a few safe vitamin supplements could provide the extra boost you need to stay on track with your healthy weight loss regimen.
When it comes to weight loss, not all vitamins and minerals are created equal. Read on to find out which ones can help you shed excess weight and keep it off.
1. B vitamins
The B vitamins include:
- thiamine (B-1)
- riboflavin (B-2)
- niacin (B-3)
- pantothenic acid (B-5)
- pyridoxine (B-6)
- biotin (B-7)
- folate (B-9)
- cobalamin (B-12)
These vitamins are essential for a fully functioning metabolism. The main function of the B vitamins is to help your body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and to use the stored energy in food.
Thiamine (B-1), for example, helps the body cells convert carbohydrates into energy. In other words, low levels of one or more of these vitamins means your metabolism won’t be functioning at its best. This makes losing weight even harder.
Food sources: You can find B vitamins in a range of foods. Good sources include:
Tip: In general, dietary supplements containing all eight B vitamins are known as B-complex vitamins. They can easily be found in stores or online.
Try it: Shop for vitamin B supplements.
2. Vitamin D
Your body can get all the vitamin D it needs courtesy of the sun. Yet most people today spend too much time indoors, or they live in climates where the sun doesn’t always shine.
Getting enough vitamin D from food is difficult, so supplements are often recommended. Adequate levels of vitamin D may also help prevent depression, according to some research. A positive attitude is also fundamental for an effective diet.
A 2011 study found that overweight and obese adults taking calcium and vitamin D supplements lost significantly more stomach fat than people not taking any supplements.
Foods with vitamin D include:
Tip: You might want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you spend most of your days indoors. It’s still important to use sunscreen.
Try it: Shop for vitamin D supplements.
Iron plays a role in helping your body create energy from nutrients. Iron helps carry oxygen to all of the cells in your body, including your muscles. This, in turn, helps them burn fat.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
Low iron levels also reduce your physical endurance and athletic performance.
Women who experience heavy menstrual periods and people who frequently donate blood are more prone to iron deficiency.
If you’re at higher risk for iron deficiency, talk to your doctor about an iron supplement.
Food sources: You can grow your body’s iron stores with the following foods:
- lean meats
Your body absorbs the type of iron found in meat better than the iron that comes from a plant-based source. Not a meat eater? You could be deficient in iron if you haven’t properly replaced meat with another source of iron.
Tip: Take iron supplements with food and add extra fiber to your diet, as iron supplements can be constipating.
Try it: Shop for iron supplements.
Magnesium is necessary for energy production in the body. This mineral acts as a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems. These systems are responsible for a wide range of reactions in the body, including:
- controlling blood glucose
- regulating blood pressure
- keeping bones strong
- keeping the nervous system functioning smoothly
Dietary surveys of people in the United States regularly show that magnesium intakes are too low. A magnesium supplement can ensure you’re getting enough of it.
Food sources: The best sources of magnesium include:
You may want to keep a handful of nuts on hand for quick energy boosts and so you don’t wear out as easily while you diet, especially if you’re working out a lot. Just don’t overeat them: nuts are high in calories.
Tip: Very high doses of magnesium from supplements or medications often result in diarrhea.
Try it: Shop for magnesium supplements.
5. Green tea extract
It’s technically not a vitamin or mineral, but green tea extract is one of the few marketed supplements worth a second look. Green tea is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.
An analysis of six controlled clinical trials found that caffeine alone, or in combination with catechins, significantly increased energy expenditure when compared to placebo.
Tip: Green tea extract is considered safe, but clinicians advise people to take the extract with food to minimize any potential risks.
Try it: Shop for green tea extract.
Supplements that don’t work for weight loss
The list of supplements that claim to increase metabolism of fat is quite long. There isn’t sufficient research to back up the claims for the majority of these supplements, though.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. However, at the moment, there’s no sufficient evidence to show that the following supplements help promote weight loss or increase lean body mass safely:
- bitter orange (synephrine)
- conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- chromium picolinate
- garcinia cambogia
When to talk to your doctor
If you’re considering taking a vitamin or supplement to assist with weight loss, talk to your doctor. They can discuss each product’s potential benefits and risks.
Be sure to ask your doctor about possible interactions with any medications you might be taking. If you experience any side effects after taking a supplement, stop taking it and contact your doctor.
Finally, if you’re trying to boost your energy because you’re constantly feeling under the weather or fatigued, see your doctor. This might be a symptom of a larger problem that vitamins can’t fix.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may help provide you with the energy necessary to manage stress, keep a positive mood, and reduce fatigue. All of these add up to a diet that’s more likely to be successful.
Experts agree that the basis for long-term weight loss is following an overall healthy eating pattern, reducing caloric intake, and participating in physical activity.
Most of your required vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients should come from food. Supplements can help fill in any gaps in your diet that come from limiting your calorie intake.
Make sure to read the label thoroughly to check its active ingredients and to understand the correct dosage. It’s possible to overdose on certain vitamins if you’re not careful. Keep in mind that taking extra or mega doses of a vitamin or mineral supplement won’t help you.
Also, note the expiration date prior to taking the supplement. Vitamins lose potency over time. You should discard any supplements that are past their expiration date.
Jacquelyn has been a writer and research analyst in the health and pharmaceutical space since she graduated with a degree in biology from Cornell University. A native of Long Island, New York, she moved to San Francisco after college, and then took a brief hiatus to travel the world. In 2015, Jacquelyn relocated from sunny California to sunnier Gainesville, Florida where she owns 7 acres and 58 fruit trees. She loves chocolate, pizza, hiking, yoga, soccer, and Brazilian capoeira.