Losing weight isn’t as easy as popping a few magical pills. But there are a few vitamins 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 vitamin and mineral needs.
If you’re on a limited diet, on the other hand, 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 are created equal. Read on to find out which vitamins 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)
- folic acid (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, fats, and proteins, and to use the stored energy in food.
Thiamine, 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.
You can find B vitamins in a range of foods. Good sources include:
- lean meat
- whole grains
Vitamin B-12 isn’t found in any plant products, so it’s difficult for someone following a vegan diet to get enough. In general, dietary supplements containing all eight B vitamins are known as vitamin B complex, which can easily be found in stores or online.
2. Vitamin D
Your body can get all the vitamin D it needs courtesy of the sun. Unfortunately, most people today spend too much time indoors, or live in climates where the sun doesn’t always shine. Vitamin D is critical for a healthy immune system.
Researchers have noticed lower than normal levels of serum vitamin D in obese people. The exact role of vitamin D in weight loss is unclear. But a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that overweight and obese adults taking calcium and vitamin D supplements lost significantly more stomach fat than people not taking any supplements.
While the sun is the best source of vitamin D, you can also get this vitamin from food, especially fortified foods. Foods with vitamin D include:
- cod liver oil
- egg yolk
- fortified milk and yogurt
- fortified cereals
Getting enough vitamin D from food is difficult, so supplements are often recommended. Adequate levels of vitamin D may also help prevent depression. And a positive attitude is fundamental for an effective diet. You might want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you spend most of your days indoors. It is still important to use sunscreen.
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. Too little iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the United States.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include fatigue, weakness, and low energy levels. Low iron levels also reduce your physical endurance and athletic performance. <
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.
Eating iron-rich foods along with a source of vitamin C, like strawberries or tomatoes, can help improve absorption. 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 an iron deficiency, talk to your doctor about an iron supplement. Take iron supplements with food and add extra fiber to your diet, as iron supplements can be constipating.
Magnesium is necessary for energy production in the body. The 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
The best sources of magnesium include:
- green leafy vegetables like spinach
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 nuts because they are high in calories.
Like many other nutrients, dietary surveys of people in the United States regularly show that magnesium intakes are too low. A magnesium supplement can ensure you are getting enough magnesium. A word of warning though: Very high doses of magnesium from supplements or medications often result in diarrhea.
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 reduce fat production and absorption. The extract of this popular beverage is known to contain powerful flavonoid antioxidants known as catechins. Green tea also contains a healthy dose of caffeine.
An analysis of six controlled clinical trials found that caffeine alone, or in combination with catechins, significantly increased energy expenditure compared to placebo. A review published in Cochrane found that green tea supplements reduced body weight in obese individuals by an average of nearly 2 pounds, as compared to placebo.
Green tea extract is considered safe, but clinicians advise that you should take the extract with food to minimize any potential risks.
What supplements don’t work for weight loss?
The list of supplements that claim to increase metabolism of fat is quite long. Unfortunately, there isn’t sufficient research to back up the claims of the majority of these supplements.
This is not an exhaustive list. But at the moment, there is 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
- Garcinia cambogia
- ephedra (banned by the FDA due to major safety concerns)
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. This is especially true for people who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or who have underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
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.
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. 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.
Finally, if you’re trying to boost your energy because you are feeling constantly 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 be able to support your weight loss journey. But you’re not going to lose any weight without also modifying how much you exercise and how many calories you eat each day.
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. Vitamin supplements can help fill in any gaps in your diet that come from limiting your calorie intake. It’s important to note that taking extra or “mega” doses of a vitamin or mineral supplement won’t help you.
Vitamin 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 is more likely to be successful.