Here at WH, we have an old-school approach to weight loss: eat a balanced diet of actual food and get regular exercise. But we also know that the supplement aisle is a big and enticing place, full of products promising dramatic results in a tantalisingly short space of time.
Tempted? The first thing to remember is that supplements are, as the name suggests, designed to supplement your healthy diet and exercise programme, not replace it. Then, look out for these natural supplement ingredients.
1/ Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Try it if: You crave fatty food; struggle to feel full; suffer from joint pain; have trouble concentrating.
What it does: The essential fatty acids are linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3). Unlike other fatty acids, your body can’t make them so you have to get them from food – like fatty fish and seed oils – or supplements, like fish oil. That’s important because they form part of your cell membranes, including those of your muscles, nerves and brain. They also play other important roles, such as controlling inflammation in your body.
Cool, cool. But what about that weight loss? Well, in some studies, healthy adults who supplemented with fish oil experienced a spike in metabolism. In other studies, supplementing with EFAs decreased hunger. So taking them could help you eat less and burn more fat. Plus, if you’re craving all the grease, giving your body the healthy fats it needs could offset those cravings without the kilojoule overload. While more research needs to be done, there are plenty of other health reasons to take this supplement: It has been shown to help with joint pain in arthritis sufferers, boost concentration, alleviate depression and boost effectiveness of antidepressants.
Need to know: A side effect can be blood thinning. So if you have any kind of bleeding disorder, chat to your doc first.
Find it in: The Real Thing Omega Fish Oil
Try it if: You’re struggling to recover after your workouts; you feel fatigued all the time; your muscles are still sore four or five days after you trained; your muscles are shrinking even though you’re working hard.
What it does: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which in turn is the building material for your body’s tissue, including muscle. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. So it occurs naturally in your body, where it’s essential for muscle growth, immune function and intestinal health. It’s also necessary in order for your body to make other chemicals like other amino acids and glucose, which is what your body uses as its main energy supply.
If your body is under stress and using too much glutamine, say if you’re training extremely hard, you could start losing muscle mass as a result. That’s bad news for your weight-loss aspirations because the more muscle mass you have, the more energy you burn while at rest. Lose muscle mass and you’re going to start storing more energy in the form of – you guessed it – fat. Plus, if your body’s feeling wrecked, you’re not going to be able to work out as hard, which will slow your metabolism even further. Eish.
Need to know: If you have any kind of liver disease, don’t take glutamine.
Find it in: Biogen Platinum L-Glutamine
3/ Green Tea Extract
Try it if: You’re often off training because you’re fluish; your joints ache; you have a sluggish metabolism.
What it does: Green tea contains large amounts of polyphenols – micronutrients that have all kinds of benefits. They prevent inflammation, strengthen cartilage and help maintain joint health – great news if persistent joint pain is keeping you out of the gym. It also contains caffeine, which, as you know, is a stimulant and so improves alertness and can boost your performance in exercise. The harder you can push yourself in your workouts, the better your results.
It could also give you another edge: Some studies have shown that green tea extract increases fat burning and energy consumption. And others have shown it could help protect your body against colds and flu, thanks to its high antioxidant content.
Need to know: Stick to the recommended dosage; skip it if you have glaucoma, high blood pressure or liver disease.
Find it in: Solal Green Tea Extract
Try it if: Your energy levels are consistently low, you feel fatigued and weak and you’re also suffering from muscle spams, tremors or cramps.
What it does: Magnesium is an essential macromineral that helps your body convert glucose into energy, helps control muscle and nerve function and plays other important roles in the body like promoting blood clotting when you cut yourself and maintaining a normal heart rhythm. So pretty important stuff.
If you’re low on magnesium, you could find that you’re not getting the most out of your workouts or struggling to work out in the first place. It’s also important for sleep, which is when your body builds and recovers after exercise.
Need to know: Although rare, it is possible to OD on magnesium. If you’re already eating a diet full of green leafy veggies, nuts and bananas, chat to your doc before popping a supp.
Find it in: Slow Mag