Winter has arrived and, for many, that means being exposed to an abundance of tempting treats that can sabotage your fitness goals. Beyond being tempted by calorie-dense foods that do nothing for your health and fitness, during the winter there is a propensity to overeat, even though outside activity tends to decrease for many.
It’s no secret that the best way to avoid packing on 10 to 15 pounds of fat over the winter is to keep your diet on point and work out regularly. So here is a list of six key supplements that can help keep your appetite in check while promoting fat loss and without making you an insomniac.
What it is: Chromium is a trace mineral that is available in low amounts in many foods.
How it works: When supplemented, chromium enhances the action of insulin to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. As such, chromium reduces carb cravings and enhances fat loss. So, overall, chromium curbs your appetite and helps burn fat.
How to take it: Reports on the effective doses range between 50 and 300 micrograms per day. For best results, split your daily dose into two or three smaller doses and take 30 minutes before eating.
What it is: Caralluma fimbriata is a succulent (fleshy) cactus used by tribes in South India to suppress hunger and enhance endurance.
How it works: In a recent pharmacological review published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, it was reported that pregnane glycosides are the compounds responsible for Caralluma fimbriata’s appetite suppressant effects. Animal studies have illustrated that pregnane glycosides act on areas of the hypothalamus (in the brain) involved in hunger and satiety. In a study published in Appetite, subjects who took 1 gram per day of Caralluma fimbriata extract for 60 days had an almost 10 percent decrease in hunger by Day 30 and 20 percent decrease by Day 60.
How to take it: Human studies used 1 gram per day (100:1 extraction); however, potencies may vary with level of extraction. Take as directed.
What it is: This naturally occurring capsaicinoid is what makes chili peppers hot. In chemical terms, it is known as 8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide.
How it works: When we ingest large amounts of capsaicinoids, they activate specialized receptors in the body that lead to the release of a peptide transmitter called substance P, which activates receptors that increase the release of the catecholamines — norepinephrine and epinephrine. Catecholamines not only provide potent appetite suppression but also bind to adrenergic receptors on fat cells to promote the activation of lipase, leading to the release and mobilization of fats from fat cells into the circulation, to be burned as energy. Thus, supplementing with capsaicin provides appetite suppression with a “side order” of fat burning.
How to take it: The potency of capsaicin is measured in Scoville units or heat units. The average capsaicin supplement has about 40,000 Scoville units per dose. However, comparable products that use Capsimax patented capsaicinoid extract contain about 300,000 Scoville units per dose — which increases potency without feeling the burn. For best results, use 30 to 50 milligrams of Capsimax, three times per day, 30 minutes before meals.
GYMNEMA SYLVESTRE EXTRACT
What it is: Gymnema sylvestre is a slow-growing perennial plant found in central and peninsular India and is used in folk, ayurvedic and homeopathic systems of medicine.
How it works: Gymnema sylvestre contains compounds called gymnemic acids, which lower and stabilize blood sugar levels, decrease sugar absorption and reduce sugar cravings. This is because the structure of gymnemic acid molecules resembles that of glucose molecules. In fact, gymnemic acid stimulates receptors located on the taste buds of the tongue and prevents their activation by sugar molecules, leading to decreased sugar absorption and cravings. The blood sugar–lowering effects of gymnemic acids result from increased insulin secretion from the pancreas, increased regeneration of insulin-producing beta islet cells in the pancreas and greater glucose utilization. Gymnemic acid also can bind to specialized receptors in the intestine, which further prevent absorption of dietary glucose.
How to take it: Take 100 milligrams of Gymnema sylvestre, three times per day, 30 minutes before meals. For best results, use Gymnema sylvestre supplements that have been standardized to 75 percent gymnemic acids.
What it is: This soluble fiber is derived from the tropical East Asian perennial konjac plant that can take on more than 200 times its weight in water.
How it works: Being a fiber supplement, glucomannan is great for creating a feeling of “fullness” and thus suppressing the appetite. Furthermore, its water absorptive characteristics provide bulk that cleanses the digestive tract and colon. In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, glucomannan greatly improved blood lipid levels and regulated blood glucose to normal levels in Type 2 diabetics. In another placebo-controlled trial published in La Clinica Terapeutica, it was confirmed that a low-calorie diet yielded greater weight loss and was better tolerated in individuals who were taking glucomannan.
How to take it: Take 1 to 3 grams of glucomannan with 250 to 500 milliliters of water an hour before meals.
What it is: Green-tea extract comes from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, the same tea species used for black tea.
How it works: Green tea is non-fermented and nonoxidized, so it retains several unique and beneficial bioactive components that are absent in black tea. Specifically, green tea contains high concentrations of pharmacologically bioactive polyphenols, including epigallocatechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Although green tea has caffeine, green-tea extract is caffeine-free and contains a standardized concentration of high-potency EGCG. EGCG has been shown to increase fat burning, especially when taken before cardiovascular exercise. Further, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition illustrated that EGCG promotes the release of appetite-suppressing hormones, like cholecystokinin (CCK), glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) and peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY), from the digestive tract.
How to take it: Take 300 to 500 milligrams of green-tea extract three times per day, 30 minutes before meals. For best results, be sure your green-tea extract is standardized to at least 45 percent EGCG.