Happy New Year!
OK, let’s get to the weight loss. That’s what you’re wondering about this time of year, isn’t it? Your New Year’s resolution? Everyone at some time or another decides that this is the year to lose weight, and I’m going to assume that most of you have this as Goal #1.
So to begin, you and I may have some conflict here for a minute or two. From everything I hear when I visit with people at seminars, and from all the sales and marketing reports I’m reading about supplement sales throughout the country, I’ve discovered two things when talking about weight loss:
If either of these are true for you, I’ll go ahead and break the news: Food choices matter, and there are no magical supplements that negate bad food choices.
Now that that’s covered, I’m happy to tell you that there is a role for supplements in weight loss, (and just about everything else). Setting your expectations correctly is the key to not being frustrated, though. Stop listening to the miracle marketing hype. Recognize that effort plays a role.
People think of me as the Supplement Guy, and it’s true that I LOVE supplements and cool health strategies. But I feel like it is time to come clean. Diet is Square One. In fact, diet is Square Two and Three, in my opinion. After years of searching for the miracle supplements I’ve been incredibly pleased with what I’ve found, but I’ve never found the miracle.
Here’s how I think about supplements, regardless of the reason for taking them. When you take supplements without eating well, I feel like they’re about 10% – 20% effective, depending on why you’re taking them. On the other hand, if you’re eating well, they magically become 80% – 99% effective! You see, supplements are “supplemental” to an established diet and health regimen. They’re important, but not Step One.
Sometimes when you’re eating well, you need only a little bump in effectiveness in order to make huge strides in outcomes. For example, when I eat well, I may get the sniffles two or three times each year. When I eat well and supplement well, I may not get the sniffles at all. Athletes expect these kinds of changes when they supplement. Without supplements, maybe they’ll workout comfortably for an hour. With supplements, it’ll help boost their time by an extra 15 to 30 minutes.
With supplements, even though the effect can be profound, the profundity reaches it’s zenith when we’re doing other things well. If the other things aren’t being done well, performance supplements may produce only a fraction of what their impact could be.
With weight loss, here’s how I think about it. If I’m eating well and working out, let’s say that I’m losing two pounds per week. This is very do-able. With the right supplements, maybe I can bump that weight loss up by a quarter-pound or a half-pound per week. (It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when my goal is weight loss, I want to lose as much weight as possible, as quickly as possible. I’m happy for any extra boost I can get.) But without eating well, I doubt I’m going to see any meaningful change to my weight at all, no matter how many supplements I’m taking. Eating well and exercising will always give me a predictable result. I add supplements to help the first two habits work even better, but I don’t expect supplements to work by themselves. Neither do professional athletes. Neither should you.
So, have we calibrated our expectations properly? Do we know that the Phase One Diet is first? Good. Now we can delve into supplements that support weight loss.
A great way to kick start a weight loss regimen is with a “detox”. Conventional physicians will balk at the idea that anything is happening when a person detoxes. They very often object to even using the word “detox”. Call it whatever you like, people who have detoxed successfully know the impact it has. I feel profoundly better when I detox, and ideally, I’ll do it several times each year. Spring and Fall are good times to do it, but I always like the idea of starting a new year with a clean slate, so I’ll routinely do a first of the year detox.
Detoxes take on lots of different forms. Sometimes, it’s just adding a few supplements and a couple of routines each day. One example would be beginning the day with lemon juice in pure, warm water to get the liver and gallbladder going. Another may be to end the day with some liver support supplements such as NAC, SAM-e, and milk thistle. More profound detoxes can be purchased as an all-in-one kit, such as the cleanse kits from Renew Life. High-level detoxes may include fasting, colon cleansing, skin brushing, saunas, deep tissue massages, and other techniques. I’ve done them all, and I love them. (NOTE: Check with your doctor before attempting any of these. Your medications may prevent you from trying certain strategies, initially.) For more information on detox strategies, check out The Detox Book by Dr. Bruce Fife, Detox or Die by Dr Sherry Rogers, The Detox Strategy by Brenda Watson, or the classic, Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management by Dr. Bernard Jensen.
CLASSIC WEIGHT MANAGEMENT SUPPLEMENTS
Lipotropics are always included as a classic weight management class of supplements. These are supplements that are supposed to assist the body in the breakdown of fat in the body. Most are sold as combination products and includes things like choline, methionine, and inositol. Full disclosure: I’ve had zero success with these for weight management, but some experts feel like they’re important.
Another class of classic weight management supplements is the blood sugar stabilizers. I like these. They include chromium picolinate, cinnamon, (Bioactive Nutrients has my favorite combo with both of these called CinnaChrome), gymnema sylvestre, bitter melon, alpha lipoic acid and others. These may help the body utilize insulin more effectively, preventing the blood sugar spikes and dips throughout the day. This means that your hunger cravings stabilize, and you burn sugar more effectively. For some people, this class of supplements is a crucial part of the plan.
By now, CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, can be considered a classic. CLA is a type of fat that forms when beef cattle and other animals actually consume the food they were made to eat – grass. Studied for a variety of conditions, CLA has been shown in some cases to help the body burn fat more effectively.
L-Carnitine is also one that a lot of bodybuilders routinely use. It’s an amino acid that is taken on an empty stomach and, like CLA, helps the body burn fat more effectively. I like higher doses of this, myself. 1000 – 3000 mg on an empty stomach before exercise, for example. But do the research and find out if it’s right for you.
WHAT’S SUPP? THE YOUNG GUNS OF WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
The hottest weight management supplement in the world right now is raspberry ketones. A close second may be green coffee bean extract. Behind those are saffron extract, African mango, caralluma fimbriata, and others. As a fan of “the next new thing”, I have read a lot about each of these, but really haven’t taken them yet. I like what is said about most of them on paper, and some interesting studies are causing me to take a second look at them. I’m seeing some established companies using several of these products with all-time winners like wheat grass, and I love that application.
I’m someone who is never afraid to try the next new thing in natural health, and I’m sure I’ll try these before long. Since I know how my body reacts to diet and exercise, it’s easy for me to evaluate if performance products are working for me. I never expect them to do the work for me, though – only augment the work I’m already doing. I also expect to give them a really fair shot at having an impact. That’s why I never make a judgement after only a few weeks. I really want to see what happens over time when I take a new supplement. Natural products tend to work more slowly, just like nature.
A MISSING CLASS OF SUPPLEMENTS I’M NOT REVIEWING HERE
I’m not going to recommend the hardcore thermogenic combinations, such as the “ECA stack’, caffeine, bitter orange, and other similar products. It’s not that I think they’re ineffective, but too many of our readers take heart and blood pressure medications, and I’m just not comfortable recommending anything here that may possibly raise blood pressure to unsafe levels. These, like all supplements, need to be considered only with your doctor. I’m not saying that these are junk. I’m saying that extra special attention needs to be paid before considering these, and it goes beyond the scope of Know This and Know the Cause to go in to all of the factors necessary to make a decision.
So, you wanna lose weight? Go for it! It’s not rocket science, though cravings and years of ingrained habits make it seem more difficult than it is. You make the decision, set the strategy, and just do it. Don’t put a clock on it, though. That is, don’t decide that you’ll give up if you haven’t dropped three dress sizes in three weeks, (like the commercials tell you will happen). Nice and steady will win the race. Supplements may help you pick up the pace.
Have a great 2013!