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Maintaining a normal weight and body composition is essential for physical and mental health. With countless weight loss solutions (and gimmicks) on the market, it can be challenging to determine which supplements help with weight loss. In this article, we will explore the top supplements that can support your weight loss journey and guide you in choosing the right one for your needs. Remember, supplements should be used in addition to a healthy, high-protein diet and strength and conditioning program, not as a replacement.
The Role of Diet and Exercise in Weight Loss
Before diving into supplements, it’s crucial to understand no weight loss supplement is so good that it can offset the effects of a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Weight loss supplements should only be used in addition to a high-protein diet, a consistent strength training program, and a lifestyle that includes enough sleep every night.
I would almost always recommend starting with The Foundational 5, my list of the five most “foundational” supplements, before using weight loss-specific supplements as well. The Foundational 5 ensures you get enough of the essential micronutrients necessary for a healthy metabolism.
With that said, once you’re doing everything else right, the weight loss supplements below can undoubtedly add to the effects of your program and get you leaner faster than you otherwise would.
Which supplements help with weight loss?
The following are some of the most research-supported and readily accessible weight loss supplements available.
1. Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract is a popular supplement derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. It is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which have been shown to boost metabolism and increase fat oxidation.1Dulloo, A. G., Duret, C., Rohrer, D., Girardier, L., Mensi, N., Fathi, M., … & Vandermander, J. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(6), 1040-1045. Green tea extract can help you lose weight more effectively by stimulating your body’s ability to burn fat.
In a study conducted by Dulloo et al., participants who consumed green tea extract rich in catechins and caffeine experienced a significant increase in their 24-hour energy expenditure and fat oxidation compared to those who consumed a placebo. This led to an average increase of 4% in total energy expenditure and a 12% increase in fat oxidation. These results suggest that green tea extract can aid weight loss by boosting metabolism and promoting fat burning.
Another study found that participants who consumed a green tea-caffeine mixture for 12 weeks experienced greater weight loss and weight maintenance than those who consumed a placebo. The green tea group lost an average of 2.9 kg more than the placebo group, indicating that green tea extract can be a valuable addition to a weight loss plan.2Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Lejeune, M. P., & Kovacs, E. M. (2005). Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation. Obesity research, 13(7), 1195-1204.
Glucomannan is a natural dietary fiber derived from the root of the konjac plant. It works by expanding in your stomach, creating a feeling of fullness, which can help you eat less and reduce overall calorie intake.3Keithley, J., & Swanson, B. (2005). Glucomannan and obesity: a critical review. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 11(6), 30-34. Studies have shown that glucomannan, when combined with a healthy diet, can contribute to weight loss.4Walsh, D. E., Yaghoubian, V., & Behforooz, A. (1984). Effect of glucomannan on obese patients: a clinical study. International journal of obesity, 8(4), 289-293.
Obese participants were given either 1 gram of glucomannan or a placebo three times a day, one hour before meals, for eight weeks. The results showed that the glucomannan group experienced an average weight loss of 5.5 lbs compared to the placebo group, who lost only 1.5 lbs. This study suggests that glucomannan can be an effective supplement for weight loss by reducing overall calorie intake.
Glucomannan has the potential to promote weight loss, particularly when combined with a calorie-restricted diet. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and duration of treatment.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant. It has been shown to boost metabolism, increase energy expenditure, and improve exercise performance. By increasing your daily energy expenditure, caffeine can help you burn more calories and lose weight over time.
One study found that participants who consumed a caffeine-containing beverage experienced greater weight loss and weight maintenance compared to those who consumed a placebo. The caffeine group lost an average of 1.1 kg more than the placebo group over the 12-week study. The researchers concluded that caffeine can be an effective supplement for weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation. It also increases stamina and reduces fatigue, which allows you to exercise longer and with a higher intensity, which may further accelerate weight loss.
4. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally occurring amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate appetite and mood. Supplementing with 5-HTP has been shown to reduce appetite and promote weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness.5Cangiano, C., Laviano, A., Del Ben, M., Preziosa, I., Angelico, F., Cascino, A., & Rossi-Fanelli, F. (1998). Effects of oral 5-hydroxy-tryptophan on energy intake and macronutrient selection in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. International journal of obesity, 22(7), 648-654.
Non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients received either 750 mg of 5-HTP or a placebo daily for two weeks. The 5-HTP group experienced a significant reduction in daily energy intake, primarily due to decreased carbohydrate consumption. Moreover, the 5-HTP group lost an average of 2 kg more than the placebo group, suggesting that 5-HTP supplementation can aid in weight loss by reducing appetite and promoting feelings of fullness.
5. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a type of polyunsaturated fat found in meat and dairy products. Research suggests that CLA can help reduce body fat and increase lean body mass by improving the body’s ability to use stored fat for energy. However, results may vary, and more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.
In a study by Blankson et al., overweight and obese participants were given either CLA or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. The CLA group experienced a significant reduction in body fat mass compared to the placebo group, with an average decrease of 3.8% in body fat. Additionally, the CLA group showed a slight increase in lean body mass.6Blankson, H., Stakkestad, J. A., Fagertun, H., Thom, E., Wadstein, J., & Gudmundsen, O. (2000). Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat mass in overweight and obese humans. The Journal of nutrition, 130(12), 2943-2948.
6. Garcinia Cambogia
Garcinia Cambogia is a tropical fruit that contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which has been shown to inhibit fat production and suppress appetite. Although some studies have reported positive results, others have found no significant difference in weight loss between those taking Garcinia Cambogia and a placebo.
A randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of Garcinia Cambogia extract containing hydroxycitric acid (HCA) on weight loss. Participants were given either 1,500 mg of HCA or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. The results showed that both groups lost weight, but there was no significant difference in weight loss between the HCA group and the placebo group. The researchers concluded that Garcinia Cambogia extract did not produce substantial weight loss compared to the placebo.7Heymsfield, S. B., Allison, D. B., Vasselli, J. R., Pietrobelli, A., Greenfield, D., & Nunez, C. (1998). Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 280(18), 1596-1600.
However, a systematic review and meta-analysis analyzed multiple randomized clinical trials on Garcinia Cambogia extract for weight loss. They found that, on average, the extract caused a weight loss of about 0.88 kg more than placebo. Although these results suggest a potential role for Garcinia Cambogia extract in weight loss, the effect size was relatively small, and the authors called for further research to confirm the findings.8Onakpoya, I., Hung, S. K., Perry, R., Wider, B., & Ernst, E. (2011). The use of Garcinia extract (hydroxycitric acid) as a weight loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of obesity, 2011.
Berberine is a bioactive compound extracted from various plants, such as Berberis, goldenseal, and Oregon grape. It has been traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its potential health benefits. Recent research has suggested that berberine may have weight loss properties by improving insulin sensitivity, reducing fat storage, and regulating metabolism.9Zhang, Y., Li, X., Zou, D., Liu, W., Yang, J., Zhu, N., … & Zhang, X. (2008). Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93(7), 2559-2565.
In a study conducted by Zhang et al. (2008), participants with metabolic syndrome were given either 500 mg of berberine or a placebo three times a day for three months. The berberine group experienced a significant reduction in body weight, with an average weight loss of 5.06 lbs compared to the placebo group. The study also found improvements in blood lipid levels and insulin sensitivity in the berberine group, indicating that berberine supplementation may be beneficial for weight loss and overall metabolic health.10Zhang, H., Wei, J., Xue, R., Wu, J. D., Zhao, W., Wang, Z. Z., … & Zhang, M. (2010). Berberine lowers blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients through increasing insulin receptor expression. Metabolism, 59(2), 285-292.
Another study by Hu et al. (2012) investigated the effects of berberine on weight loss in high-fat diet-induced obese mice. The mice were given either berberine or a control diet for 12 weeks. The berberine-treated mice experienced a significant reduction in body weight, fat mass, and blood lipid levels compared to the control group. The researchers attributed the weight loss effects of berberine to its ability to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, as well as to reduce fat storage and synthesis.11Hu, Y., Davies, G. E., & Berberine. (2012). Inhibition of adipogenesis by berberine in 3T3-L1 cells. The FASEB Journal, 26(1_Supplement), 1202-1207.
Synephrine is a naturally occurring alkaloid found primarily in the peel of bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) and has been used in traditional medicine for its potential health benefits. Synephrine is chemically similar to ephedrine, a stimulant that was once popular in weight loss supplements before being banned due to safety concerns. However, synephrine is considered a safer alternative, as it is thought to have fewer side effects. Research suggests that synephrine may aid weight loss by increasing metabolism, promoting fat breakdown, and suppressing appetite.12Stohs, S. J., Preuss, H. G., & Shara, M. (2011). A review of the human clinical studies involving Citrus aurantium (bitter orange) extract and its primary protoalkaloid p-synephrine. International journal of medical sciences, 8(7), 625-636.
Study participants were given a single dose of 50 mg of p-synephrine, a common form of synephrine found in dietary supplements. The results showed that the participants experienced a significant increase in resting metabolic rate compared to the placebo group, with an average increase of 65 kcal over a 75-minute period. The study also found no adverse effects on heart rate or blood pressure, suggesting that synephrine may be a safe and effective supplement for weight loss by boosting metabolism.13Stohs, S. J., Preuss, H. G., Keith, S. C., Keith, P. L., Miller, H., & Kaats, G. R. (2011). Effects of p-synephrine alone and in combination with selected bioflavonoids on resting metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate and self-reported mood changes. International journal of medical sciences, 8(4), 295-301.
Another study investigated the effects of a multi-ingredient supplement containing synephrine on weight loss, body composition, and energy expenditure in resistance-trained athletes. Participants took the supplement or a placebo for eight weeks while engaging in a resistance training program. The synephrine-containing supplement group experienced a significant reduction in body fat percentage and a greater increase in lean body mass compared to the placebo group. The researchers concluded that the synephrine-containing supplement may promote fat loss and improve body composition in resistance-trained individuals.14Ratamess, N. A., Bush, J. A., Kang, J., Kraemer, W. J., Stohs, S. J., Nocera, V. G., … & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2015). The effects of supplementation with p-synephrine alone and in combination with caffeine on resistance exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 1-13.
Forskolin is a natural compound found in the roots of the Indian coleus (Coleus forskohlii), a tropical plant related to mint. It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for various health benefits. Forskolin is believed to aid weight loss by stimulating the release of stored fat from fat cells, increasing metabolism, and promoting lean body mass.15Seamon, K. B., & Daly, J. W. (1981). Forskolin: a unique diterpene activator of cyclic AMP-generating systems. Journal of cyclic nucleotide research, 7(4), 201-224.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, overweight and obese men were given either 250 mg of Coleus forskohlii extract containing 10% forskolin or a placebo twice a day for 12 weeks. The forskolin group experienced a significant reduction in body fat percentage and fat mass compared to the placebo group, with an average decrease of 4.52% in body fat. Additionally, the forskolin group showed a significant increase in lean body mass and bone mass. These findings suggest that forskolin may be an effective supplement for weight loss and improving body composition.16Godard, M. P., Johnson, B. A., & Richmond, S. R. (2005). Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men. Obesity research, 13(8), 1335-1343.
Another study investigated the effects of forskolin on body composition, testosterone, metabolic rate, and blood pressure in overweight and obese women. Participants were given either 250 mg of Coleus forskohlii extract containing 10% forskolin or a placebo twice daily for 12 weeks. The results showed no significant differences in weight loss, body composition, or metabolic rate between the forskolin and placebo groups. However, the forskolin group did experience a non-significant trend toward reduced body fat percentage and fat mass. The researchers concluded that forskolin may have potential as a weight management supplement, but further research is needed to confirm its effectiveness and determine the optimal dosage and duration of treatment.17Henderson, S., Magu, B., Rasmussen, C., Lancaster, S., Kerksick, C., Smith, P., … & Hickey, M. (2005). Effects of Coleus forskohlii supplementation on body composition and hematological profiles in mildly overweight women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2(2), 54-62.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Supplements
When selecting a weight loss supplement, consider the following factors:
- Quality and safety: Look for products from reputable manufacturers that undergo third-party testing to ensure quality and safety. When you order through my Wellevate dispensary, you get access to the highest-quality, healthcare practitioner brands. This ensures you
- Dosage and instructions: Follow the recommended dosage and instructions on the product label.
- Potential side effects: Be aware of possible side effects and discontinue use if you experience any adverse reactions.
- Interactions with medications: Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have pre-existing health conditions.
Now that you know which supplements help with weight loss, you might be tempted to start using them without changing your diet and exercise program. Don’t make that mistake. These weight loss supplements have the most significant impact when they’re used in combination with a healthy, higher-protein diet, a professionally-designed strength and conditioning program, and when you get enough sleep. Once you do that consistently, you could consider adding some of the supplements above to your supplement regimen and start shedding extra LBs. Also, be patient. You didn’t put on the extra weight overnight, so you shouldn’t expect to lose it that fast either.