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 fulfil 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.
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 mean 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:
- lean meat
- whole grains
Cobalamin (B-12) isn’t found in any plant products, so it’s difficult for someone following a vegan diet to get enough.
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.
Vitamin D is critical to a healthy immune system.
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.
Researchers have noticed lower-than-normal levels of serum vitamin D in obese people. The exact role of vitamin D in weight loss is still unclear.
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.
Food sources: 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
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.
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:
- low energy levels
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.
Eating iron-rich foods along with a source of vitamin C, like strawberries or tomatoes, can help improve absorption.
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:
- leafy green vegetables such as 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 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.
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.
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 when compared to placebo.
One study in 2012Trusted Source found that green tea supplements reduced body weight in obese individuals by an average of nearly 2 pounds, as 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.
The list of supplements that claim to increase the 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
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, breastfeeding, 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.
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.