Are Supplements Necessary For Weight Loss? 9 Do’s And Don’ts!

By Lily | Last Updated:  September 2, 2021
 

It is a common misconception that supplements are necessary for weight loss; this is not true.

Supplements are typically used to make up for nutrition gaps or when the body does not produce enough of certain vitamins/minerals.

Furthermore, they are not regulated by the FDA, and are often made from ingredients that have not been scientifically proven effective.

There is no doubt that supplements are a controversial topic. And with so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know what is true and what is not.

This blog post will discuss when supplements can help with weight loss and when it’s best to avoid them.

Are Supplements Necessary For Weight Loss

What Are Dietary Weight Loss Supplements? How Do They Work?

Throughout history, people have found various ways to cut the pounds. From restricting calorie intake to exercising more often, these are proven ways to keep off weight. 

However, in an effort to speed up the weight-loss process and target specific weight issues, several dietary supplements have been created.

While the general idea of these supplements is all about helping you lose weight, supplement providers tackle this problem in different ways.

Types of Supplements

Supplements can be from the following sources:

While most weight loss supplements are available over the counter, some will require a doctor’s prescription. 

Prescription weight loss medications are often given to patients with obesity. Such pills are regulated for safety reasons, and therefore must be taken according to the doctor’s instructions only.

How Do They Work

Supplement companies claim their products help people lose weight by:

1. Fat burning

A lot of weight loss supplements work by fueling the burning process against fats and calories. This can be done in different ways:

By speeding up fat burning, your body can shed more fats faster. It’s also worth noting that there are 2 main types of fat burners, those with stimulants (usually caffeine) and those without stimulants.  

Natural sources said to speed up fat burning are: 

  1. Caffeine – found in coffee and tea
  2. Garcinia Cambogia – found in garcinia frui, tpot tamarind, and Malabar tamarind
  3. Green tea extract – found in green tea
  4. L-carnitine – found in meat, fish, and dairy
  5. Yohimbine – found in Yohimbe fruit and tree bark

2. Boosting Metabolism 

Supplements that boost metabolism work pretty much the same as fat burners. Ingredients that can do both make a frequent appearance in supplement labels.

The most common natural metabolic boosters are:

  1. Caffeine – found in coffee and tea
  2. Capsaicin – found in jalapeños, chili peppers, cayenne pepper, paprika
  3. L-carnitine – found in meat, fish, and dairy
  4. Conjugated Linoleic Acid – found in beef and dairy
  5. Green tea extract – found in green tea
  6. Resveratrol – found in wine, the skin of peanuts, berries, and red grapes

3. Appetite suppression

For weight loss to happen, calorie reduction is required. This is why suppressing appetite is also one of the most common ways to restrict food intake. 

We all know how difficult it is to say no to cravings. And I’m sure you’ll agree that the temptation just seems to increase when you’re trying to lose weight, doesn’t it?

Appetite suppressants work by simply curbing your appetite or making you feel full. There are dozens of ingredients that can suppress your appetite, so I will only include the natural ones for this list.

  1. Caffeine – found in coffee and tea
  2. Conjugated Linoleic Acid – found in beef and dairy
  3. Fenugreek – found in fenugreek seeds
  4. Glucomannan – elephant yam or konjac
  5. Green tea extract – found in green tea
  6. Garcinia Cambogia – found in garcinia frui, tpot tamarind, and Malabar tamarind
  7. Yerba mate – found in Yerba mate leaves

4. Blocking fat absorption (lipase inhibitors)

Another way to prevent new fats from developing is to block their formation. This is how lipase inhibitors do their work. Lipase is our body’s natural enzyme that digests fats. 

By inhibiting this enzyme, the fats that you eat skip digestion and go through elimination instead. This way, your body will not absorb any of the fats that you eat. 

There are lipase inhibitors from plant sources. However, they haven’t been tested or used in humans yet. 

Currently, orlistat is the only lipase inhibitor in the market, which, fortunately, is also approved and regulated by the FDA. 

5. Inducing Bowel Movement (Laxatives)

This is probably the most simple and common of all. If you have been attempting to lose weight, I’m sure you have tried one of the many laxative teas in the market with slimming claims. 

The types of laxatives are :

The most common laxatives in the market today:

  1. Bisacodyl
  2. Castor oil
  3. Fiber (soluble and insoluble)
  4. Senna or sennosides

Many common laxative ingredients have been banned by the FDA, such as cascara and aloe latex. Despite their previous popularity, these ingredients are either unsafe or have insufficient proof of efficacy.

Laxatives are not meant to aid in weight loss. Aside from the obvious reason that they are stool softeners only, laxatives only make you lose water. What’s more, losing water weight is only temporary!

This fluid loss can be significant enough to cause health issues such as: Impairment of intestinal function, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, irritation of intestines which can lead to bloody stools, and protrusion of intestine from the rectum (prolapse).

A Warning About Weight-Loss Supplements

While these supplement providers claim their products are highly effective at keeping off the pounds, there is no substantial scientific evidence to back it up. 

In fact, some of these supplements can even be harmful to your health. They can also be expensive, and some can even interact with medications.

In this day and age, you can find countless weight-loss supplements online. However, experts urge caution when shopping around. As you want options that work, you also don’t want supplements that can harm your health. 

That said, it’s essential to speak with your physician before taking a dietary supplement for weight loss. This is especially true if you have a medical condition, such as:

People react differently to weight loss supplements. This means that what works for your friend may not work for you. 

Moreover, side effects may also vary from one person to another. This often depends on sensitivity, tolerance, and current diet.

Some people may also have sensitivity to some of the ingredients and subsequently cause an allergic reaction. So always look for a detailed list of ingredients.

Another thing to note is that most supplements, especially OTCs, do not require FDA approval. Some may have it, but most will not. This is why you have to be very careful when choosing supplements. 

However, supplements that do not have FDA approval don’t necessarily mean that they are shady. It’s just not a requirement. 

In the same way, supplements with FDA approval cannot guarantee your results. While they are definitely tested by the FDA, remember that bodies work differently, and results will always vary.

Now when it comes to the maximum doses, don’t even think about tempting faith. The numbers are the “maximum limit.” 

If you are more sensitive, a lesser amount than the limit can be more than enough to trigger adverse reactions. If you really want to be safe, always stick to the recommended dosage. 

Testing your tolerance is important when you’re starting on a weight loss supplement. To do this, start with a smaller dose in the first few days. If you don’t get any adverse reaction, gradually increase the dose until you reach the recommended dose.

Weight loss supplement brands may also recommend a combination of other products from their line. You’ll notice this with supplements that claim to be “stackable.” 

If you want to do this, check for drug interactions, especially if the supplements you want to combine are from different brands. 

Also, a lot of weight loss pills have to be taken with food to avoid stomach irritation. The problem is, many people still miss this important instruction. 

While you may read some catchy marketing lingo of how these pills are a “weight loss breakthrough,” don’t be fooled. It’s always best to speak to your doctor before making a purchase decision.

How To Choose Weight Loss Supplements

Choosing can be tricky if you find yourself in a sea of thousands of weight loss supplements. Here’s a guide to help you know what to look for and what to avoid.

1. Choose supplements that have:

  1. Natural ingredients and no synthetic additives and fillers
  2. Nutrients that help in weight loss like B vitamins, Vitamin D, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
  3. Undergone testing for safety and efficiency
  4. Reliable consumer reviews (with lots of positive ones!)

2. Avoid supplements that have:

  1. No proper labels (incomplete label information, no ingredient list, etc)
  2. Interactions with the medications you are currently taking
  3. Any of these banned ingredients: Ephedra, HCG, Hydroxycut, Fen phen, Kratom, Meridia, Sibutramine, Rimonabant, Phenytoin, Phenolphthalein

These ingredients are either unsafe or do not have enough studies to support their claims. Check FDA’s list of “tainted” weight loss brands and products here

I would also suggest that you do your own research about the brand or manufacturer before buying. 

If there are ingredients that sound strange or new to you, research on that too. Remember that this pill will be going inside your body. Find out all that you can before you even get your hands on it.

Do’s And Don’ts When Taking Weight Loss Supplements

1. DO NOT combine weight loss supplements

Are you sure you want to make a concoction for disaster? Unless you have stackable supplements, taking different supplements together is a bad idea. This will only result in more adverse reactions.

2. DO NOT take prescription supplements without your doctor’s prescription

I know this should go without saying, but yes, some people can get hold of prescription pills without proper prescription. Prescription supplements are regulated for a reason: consumer safety. 

3. DO NOT combine them with other stimulants

The best example is taking beverages with caffeine when you’re on a caffeine-loaded supplement. The same goes for your medications too if you’re taking any. Make sure one does not interfere with the other.

4. DO NOT exceed recommended dose

If you think a double dose (or more!) will speed up weight loss, you’re wrong! VERY WRONG! You will only get more side effects, and possibly some dreadful signs of overdose. Even if you think you don’t feel anything, your amped-up intake can still wreak havoc inside your body. 

5. DO NOT take your supplements forever

If you do, it might disrupt your body’s natural balance for good. Consulting a doctor can give you a proper time frame according to the goals that you both agree on. The less, the better.

6. DO adjust dosage per weight

You need to do this especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. However, most OTC diet pills do not have the exact instructions for this. The best way for you to get the right dosage is through your doctor’s recommendation.

7. DO change your diet

Supplements are just that — a “supplement”. It cannot work just by itself. You will also need to change your diet for it to work best. If you think you can use fat burners so you can eat whatever you want, then you are mistaken!

8. DO assess your level of tolerance first

When starting on any supplement, it is best to test your tolerance first by starting on a lower dose. Observe for any reactions in the first few days. If there are no adverse reactions whatsoever, you can increase your dose.

9. DO increase your fluid intake

Most weight loss supplements will make your body lose a lot of water through sweat and other means. Avoid dehydration by replenishing this fluid loss as much as you can every day.

What Ingredients Are Found In Weight Loss Supplements?

Weight-loss supplements may contain a wide assortment of ingredients, including herbs, minerals, and fiber. 

These supplements are typically sold as tablets, capsules, powders, or liquids.

Here is a small sample size of the common ingredients found in weight loss supplements:

It’s important to note that the majority of weight loss supplements contain multiple ingredients. And when they’re mixed together, the effectiveness can vary.

Unfortunately, many supplement providers don’t perform scientific tests to ensure their ingredients are safe and effective. 

And when studies are performed, there’s usually only a small number of participants in the experiment.

A study over a long period of time is needed to fully understand the true impact of weight loss supplements.

Why Do People Seek Dietary Supplements For Weight Loss?

While dietary supplements for weight loss aren’t scientifically proven, why do people keep buying them? 

Here are some common reasons why people invest in these supplements:

Many people view exercising and eating healthy as a massive hurdle to overcome when losing weight, as this can significantly change a person’s lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, when many people are too afraid to make a serious lifestyle change, they may turn to dietary supplements instead.

“Magic Pill” of weight loss

People are always looking for a quick solution to losing weight. Exercising and eating healthy can be challenging and time-consuming, so many want a “magic pill.” 

Many supplements providers claim their supplements can yield results in just a few weeks. And humans, being as impatient as they are, rather than waiting months or even years to see results, believe those claims easily.   

So now you are looking for that magic pill that will help you get there faster, right?

Sorry to break your bubble, but there is no magic pill! No supplement alone can make you lose weight. I know this is not what you want to hear, but it is the honest truth.

However, I don’t want to totally dismiss weight-loss supplements. They can help. But you need to understand that they are just that, supplements.

Vegan weight loss supplements should be a complement to your plant-based diet and exercise regimen.

My point is that you can’t just take vegan weight loss supplements, eat whatever you want, and lose weight.

Having said that, there are some natural supplements out there in the market that can give you a little needed push if you feel like you need it.

But, how do you choose from the hundreds of slimming supplements out there? Isn’t it overwhelming?

To understand which supplements may be suitable for you, ask your doctor about the common ingredients used to treat weight loss, including their safety and quality. 

Learning that information and diagnosing a patient’s health problems can help develop a targeted, more effective weight loss treatment plan.

Are Supplements Necessary For Weight Loss? No, But They May Help.

Now onto our original question: are supplements necessary for weight loss? While the short answer is—no, they aren’t necessary—it is possible they can aid in the weight loss journey. 

This is because some natural ingredients can help in the weight-loss process. While weight loss supplements aren’t scientifically proven, many of them contain herbs and minerals that have been used for hundreds of years.

I recommend that you eat healthily and exercise to keep off the pounds. But if you take weight loss supplements, they typically contain ingredients that help to:

While taking these ingredients doesn’t guarantee you’ll lose weight, they may help you get there faster. 

However, always talk to your doctor first about which supplements are best for your needs. On some occasions, your physician may suggest an alternative weight loss approach.

What Are The Alternative Methods For Losing Weight?

As dietary supplements for weight loss aren’t a proven way to lose weight, you may be better off trying some alternative methods.

Here are some common tactics for losing the pounds and keeping them off for good:

1. High fiber diet

It has been found that high fiber carbohydrate sources may lead to weight loss. This is due to a boost in satiety and greater nutrient density compared to lower fiber sources. Consuming high amounts of fiber can also help to decrease calorie absorption.

2. High Protein Diet

Those who follow a high protein diet consume more than the recommended amount of protein every day. This approach is commonly used in conjunction with a calorie-restriction diet, used to offset the loss of calories. Studies have proven that a high-protein diet can help people lose weight.

3. Very Low-Calorie Diet

This approach is typically focused on meal replacement options, such as powders and ready-to-drink beverages. This diet can lead to rapid weight loss. However, this approach can be dangerous, so it’s best to use caution.

4. Ketogenic Diet

The keto diet is still trendy. This weight-loss approach forces the body to burn fats instead of carbohydrates. I do not recommend that you go this route. This diet is known to cause health issues if followed long-term. If you do decide to try it out, only do it for a month.

Conclusion

Are supplements necessary for weight loss? No. However, they may help in the weight-loss process by providing ingredients that aid with fat burning and appetite suppression.

Keep in mind that you cannot just take weight loss supplements and expect to lose weight. You will also need discipline, a lot of exercise, and to make healthy food choices to reach your goal. 

The only service that supplements provide is that they can provide you with a little boost. However, you will need to eventually stop taking them, and if you have not built strong healthy habits by then, you will most likely gain back any weight you might have lost up to that point.

Weight loss supplements are a sensitive subject to talk about, at least for me. I don’t believe in them myself as I don’t think they are necessary for you to lose weight. 

However, if you are going to take supplements, I rather you read the information I provide, then for you to go read God-knows-who blog post on the web.

I advise that you go the route of trying to lose weight with methods that have been proven effective—such as a low-calorie diet plan.

If you want to try a supplement anyway, make sure your physician knows and can inform you of its safety before trying it out on yourself.

Have you ever tried a weight-loss supplement before? If so, are you still using it? If not, why?

Hi, I'm Lily! Like you, I have struggled with my weight. It was not an easy journey but I was able to lose 40 pounds and have kept it off for 14 years. My goal is to share with you all the research, tips, and tricks that I have learned over the years to help you lose weight also.