Nutrients to Speed Weight Loss

Drop pounds with 5-HTP and green tea

While exercising regularly and eating a low-fat diet goes a long way towards maintaining a healthy body weight, sometimes they’re not enough.

Natural supplements and nutrients can help. Some cut cravings while others work by increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll lose weight slowly and steadily, unlike with other fast-acting, potentially dangerous supplements.

“You can expect a modest weight loss advantage over diet alone—perhaps two pounds over several months,” says Jade Teta, ND, CSCS, a holistic physician and personal trainer located in North Carolina.

Over time, those pounds add up to a safe weight loss you’re more likely to maintain. Try these proven, natural approaches to help you shed pounds.

Green Tea
Green tea contains catechins, antioxidant polyphenols (chemicals found in plants), which can cause a significant increase in energy expenditure and fat oxidation, says Susan Kraus, MS, RD, clinical dietician at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Participants taking a green tea extract containing 375 milligrams [mg] per day of total catechins for three months lost an average of 4.6 percent of their body weight without dieting,” says Kraus. (A standard cup of green tea provides 80 to 100 mg of polyphenols.)

“Other teas contain smaller amounts of polyphenols, however, and do not demonstrate the same thermogenic effect,” says Kraus.

Expert recommendation: 200 to 375 mg a day of 95 percent standardized catechins; take with food to avoid digestive discomfort.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Studies show that this fatty acid found naturally in milk and the meat of ruminant animals may help decrease abdominal fat, says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, board-certified specialist in sports dietetics.

“[CLA] reduces fat deposits and may also help prevent fat regain after weight loss.”

Expert recommendation: 1 to 3 grams (g) a day or higher, divided throughout the day.

An amino acid biosynthesized from lysine and methione (two other amino acids), carnitine is required to transport fatty acids during the breakdown of fats.

“Carnitine shuttles the fat inside the cell to burn as fuel,” says Dr. Teta. “You'll need three to five grams a day in divided doses, which is a hefty dose. For this reason, a liquid or powder version may be best.”

Expert recommendation: 3 to 5 g of pure L-carnitine, liquid or powder.

Brown Kelp/Fucoxanthin
A carotenoid found in brown seaweed, studies show fucoxanthin plays a role in promoting weight loss.

“It seems to work by targeting a protein (UCPI) that increases the rate at which abdominal fat is burned and stimulates the production of CHA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids,” says Kraus.

Expert recommendation: Three 200 mg pills daily of most brands. Note: Check with your doctor before taking this supplement, as it may interact with medications and could be contraindicated for thyroid conditions.

Amino Acids
Certain amino acids can help reduce cravings, enabling you avoid tempting sweets and snacks.

“Eating a protein food keeps you full longer because it’s slower to digest,” says Goodson. “So it makes sense that amino acids, which make up proteins, may contribute to a reduction in cravings.”

Dr. Teta recommends tyrosine and 5-HTP. “Tyrosine reduces cravings for sweets and chocolate and 5-HTP helps reduces salt cravings.”

Expert recommendation: Tyrosine: 1 to 2 g a day for craving sweets and chocolate. 5-HTP: 50 to 100 mg a day to reduce salt cravings and reduce appetite.


Personal communication: Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD; Susan Kraus, MS, RD; Jade Teta, ND, CSCS, 9/09

“Recent Findings of Green Tea Extract . . . and its Activity for the Treatment of Obesity” by P. Chantre and D. Lairon, Phytomedicine, 1/02

“Seaweed Carotenoid, Fucoxanthin, as a Multi-Functional Nutrient” by H. Maeda et al., Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2008