Paths to Weight Loss
Whether you’re looking to bump up your metabolism or cut carb absorption,
there are natural ways to help shed those pesky pounds.
By Lisa James
Oh, the good old summertime: Hours spent in a hammock with a book and a cold drink, at backyard barbeques with friends and family, sinking your toes into sand at the beach...in a swimsuit. In front of other people. Who may actually be looking at you.
Weight loss is the country’s most common New Year’s resolution. But it’s the beginning of summer—when even if you’re not wearing a swimsuit, you are wearing less clothing than in January—and that often prompts a serious effort to slim down before the big reveal.
The first step is cleaning up your diet. Swapping out refined carbs and other processed foods for whole grains, fresh produce and lean protein can not only cut calories but also provide the nutrients needed for all body functions, including proper metabolism. (A high-quality multivitamin can provide extra protection against nutrition shortfalls.) And exercise helps to not only burn calories but also provides an emotional lift to help you stare down the candy machine.
Once the basics are covered, a thoughtful supplementation program targeted to specific weight management functions may supply that little something extra you need to rock a two-piece at the shore this year instead of hiding under the umbrella. (Always be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting any weight loss program.)
Weight loss doesn’t start in the abdomen or derriere but in the brain. In one survey, 44% of those trying to control their weight say lack of willpower is their greatest barrier to success—making it the number one stumbling block.
Being unable to overcome the urge to eat excessively doesn’t stem from personal weakness. Rather, it comes from a survival mechanism rooted in the fact that until the middle of the 20th century, most people had to worry more about consuming too few calories instead of too many. In response, our bodies have become adept at conserving energy output while increasing energy input in the form of high-calorie foods.
The way to override this default setting is through better regulation of metabolism, energy usage and other factors directed by the brain reward cascade (BRC), a sequence of events that helps the brain say, “Enough.” The BRC is controlled by brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Synaptose is a formula that helps the BRC operate the way it should by supporting proper neurotransmitter function. A precisely calibrated combination of amino acids, passion flower, vitamins B1 and B6, chromium and metallosaccharide complex, Synaptose has helped people cut food cravings, especially for sweets.
A Siberian herb called rhodiola was used for years in the Soviet Union as an adaptogen, an agent that allows people to cope with challenges to body and mind. Today, it is often used in supplements designed to boost mental and physical performance, fight fatigue and enhance overall well-being.
Forskolin, an extract taken from a species of coleus, has helped curb hunger among some people, as has garcinia, a pumpkin-like Indian fruit. In addition, green tea has been found to increase satiety after meals in a Swedish study.
Controlling cravings is one way to deal with carbohydrate consumption. The other is to stop carbs from being absorbed by the intestinal tract, particularly by interfering with the process that converts starches into readily absorbable sugar.
Brown seaweed extract, especially that taken from Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus, is able to block the action of starch-splitting enzymes. Brown seaweed has shown an ability to reduce the amount of simple sugars reaching the bloodstream.
White bean extract is another carb blocker that has shown effectiveness in clinical trials. In one study, people who took it lost more than 10% of their total body fat and nearly 6.5 pounds.
While some supplements support different dietary aspects of weight management, others concentrate on the other main route to developing a slimmer profile—physical activity. Effective exercise promotes the loss of body fat and the formation of lean body mass. Lean mass doesn’t just let you face the mirror without wincing; it also burns more calories than fat even while you’re at rest.
Conjugated linoleic acid, better known as CLA, is a fatty acid found in dairy products and meat. It promotes the movement of fat from the bloodstream into exercising muscle cells, helping them burn off calories and become more toned. What’s more, recent studies have linked CLA with other health benefits, including immune support and fighting the development of artery-clogging plaque.
Besides its brain-boosting properties, rhodiola has shown an ability to enhance exercise capacity. Chromium, a trace mineral best known for helping to regulate blood sugar, has been used to build muscle mass while reducing body fat.
CLA also helps the body burn its fat stores, which is another way to promote weight loss. Some substances encourage lipolysis, the breakdown of stored fat; others encourage fat cells to commit a form of cellular suicide called apoptosis, which gives fat fewer places to hide. And in addition to burning body fat, some supplements also help to block dietary fat from being absorbed through the intestines.
Two of the most popular fat fighters come from foods. Raspberry ketones, which provide the fruit’s delicate aroma, have a sweet benefit of their own: They boost production of the hormone adiponectin, which helps control the body’s fat buildup-and-breakdown process. In one study, mice on a high-fat diet were split among two groups, one of which also received raspberry ketones.
Those mice that didn’t receive the compound not only gained abdominal fat but showed greater fat deposits in their livers. In contrast, the berry ketone group didn’t develop body fat and their livers remained healthy.
The latest fat fighter is green coffee bean extract. Coffee beans contain chlorogenic acids, which tend to be more active within the body when taken from unroasted (green) beans. These acids appear to frustrate fat development in two ways, by inhibiting fat absorption within the gastrointestinal tract and by activating fat metabolism in the liver. Researchers have found that people who took green coffee bean extract lost significant amounts of weight and body fat even without a change in diet.
Other foods can be used supplementally to block or burn fat, including cacao, the source of chocolate, and the spice ginger. Green tea has also shown an ability to reduce fat accumulation.
In addition to helping hold hunger at bay, garcinia interferes with fat formation by impeding the process by which excess carbohydrate is broken down to be repackaged as body fat. Garcinia’s hunger-easing partner, forskolin, promotes fat burning.
Basal metabolism, the energy that supports basic functions, accounts for about 70% of the energy you expend every day. Another 10% comes from thermogenesis, the process of creating body heat. A number of substances can enhance these metabolic processes.
Guarana, a vine found in the Amazon rainforest, produces fruits rich in the stimulant caffeine. Researchers have speculated that guarana may also increase satiety, the sensation of fullness after eating. Guarana has been found to improve cognition, and people who use it habitually are less likely to suffer from metabolic disorders.
The fat-fighting trio of cacao, green tea and ginger help boost metabolism as well. All three show the ability to fight inflammation, a condition that often accompanies obesity.
Part of green coffee bean extract’s weight-fighting power comes from it’s ability to promote a faster metabolism; the same can be said of forskolin.
Keeping glucose (blood sugar) under control supports weight loss efforts by helping to dampen hunger and hold fat formation in check. One way to manage glucose is to impede the movement of simple sugars from the intestines to the bloodstream; the other is to regulate it once it gets there.
Inulin takes the first approach. A plant fiber, inulin provides indigestible bulk and food for the probiotic bacteria within the large intestines.
Chromium takes the second line of attack. It enhances the effects of insulin, which shepherds glucose into cells for energy production. An Indian herb called gymnema acts on insulin and a number of other hormones involved in weight management. Rhodiola and green coffee extract also have sugar-controlling effects.
Don’t fear beach season. Adopting better eating and exercise habits—with some supplemental help—can help you achieve the kind of body you’ll be proud to show off.