The Dreaded Plateau: When Diet and Exercise
Don't Move the Needle
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, Director of Education for NEEDS
As we grow older, the issue of weight loss becomes more challenging for many reasons. Our metabolism naturally slows down, hormones change, and we become more sedentary as our joints and muscles get stiffer.
There is no easy answer for getting rid of excess weight. If you are doing everything right and you just can't get those last pounds to budge (assuming your target weight is reasonable), be sure to visit your doctor and rule out some key problems that could have you stalled. Are your hormones out of balance? Is your thyroid functioning properly? Is stress causing your cortisol levels to soar? Do you have insulin resistance? These are all potential root causes of weight gain that need to be evaluated, otherwise you will probably stay stuck until they are resolved.
If you are eating right, exercising, and don't have a health problem, but still can't reach your target, it might be time to get a little extra boost from supplements. There isn't a magic bullet when it comes to weight loss, but there are some credible nutrients that can prompt better results for your efforts. We researched and evaluated the top categories of weight-loss products for you and summarized what we believe to be three of the safest and most effective options to try.
One of our top picks for boosting metabolism is the simple plant camellia sinensis, otherwise known as green tea. There is research to support the fact that green tea boosts thermogenesis, which is the fat-burning ability of cells. Green tea contains catechins, which are a form of flavonoids and antioxidants, so it also offers a multitude of other health benefits such as preventing cardiovascular disease and immune support. Green tea also contains caffeine, which may or may not contribute to the fat-burning properties. One study suggested that green tea enhanced the fat-burning effects of exercise through the thermogenic activity.1 Green tea extract is also thought to help maintain weight-loss in the long-term as demonstrated in one study.2 Almost 700 mg of catechins are needed daily to boost thermogenesis, equating to 4-10 cups of green tea, depending on the quality. Drinking green tea is one way to consume catechins, but if you don't enjoy drinking that many cups of tea per day, then you can easily substitute with green tea supplements, available with or without caffeine.
Another credible weight-loss aid is an ingredient trademarked as "Phase 2® Carb Controller," which has convincing evidence that it reduces weight by interfering with how carbohydrates are metabolized in the body.3 The ingredient is derived from the white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and has been on the market for at least five years. It has been studied extensively, to the point where the FDA has permitted Phase 2® to be the only dietary supplement allowed to make weight-loss claims. The best explanation of how it works is taken from the manufacturer's website: "Phase 2® "neutralizes" the digestive enzyme alpha amylase (an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates)— temporarily delaying the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates—allowing a portion of them to pass through the system before they can be converted into glucose, and then fat. This both reduces the caloric impact and lowers the glycemic index of carbohydrates consumed." This effect can also be useful for diabetics, as it dampens the glucose spike that occurs with eating carbohydrates. Taking this product doesn't mean you have carte blanche on carb consumption, but combined with a healthy diet it could boost the weight-loss process.
Another trademarked ingredient, PGX® (PolyGlycopleX®), is a polysaccharide-based plant fiber that helps to control appetite. This is not an appetite suppressant; those can be effective, but usually only in the short-term. The premise of PGX is that it moderates appetite in a healthy way by regulating blood sugar levels. Typically, eating carbohydrates, especially simple ones, will cause a quick release of glucose and spike blood sugar levels. A spike is usually followed by a steep decline, which causes the brain to trigger hunger signals to the stomach out of necessity to raise blood sugar levels again. The fiber in PGX helps to slow the release of glucose from carbohydrates, which moderates blood sugar levels and blunts spiking and the subsequent crash. This prevents the hunger message from being triggered, thus regulating appetite. The plant fiber also contributes to the sensation of satiation and fullness, thus lessening hunger and food consumption. The mechanisms of how PGX works were discovered through several research studies, and the weight-loss effect has been confirmed in a published study,4 with several more currently in the works.
No pill will magically make the pounds melt away, but supplements can give a much-needed boost to a good diet and exercise protocol.
1. The Journal of Nutrition 139(2):264-270, 2009
2. Br J Nutr Mar 1, 2004;91(3):431-437
3. Nutr J. 2011 Mar 17;10(1):24
4. Altern Med Rev 2010; 15(1) 68-75