It is a well-known fact that diet and exercise are the principal factors of weight management and overall wellness. The foods we eat supply our body with fuel and nutrients it needs to carry out daily functions. However, not all calories are created equally. When we provide our bodies with the proper nutrition, processes such as nutrient absorption, muscle-building, and metabolic reactions which support weight management are affected. The good news is that supplements may be useful to fill in those nutrient gaps to help you reach your weight-loss goals. Here are four supplements to help you on your way:
Many gym-goers, from elite athletes to weekend warriors, are familiar with protein’s impact on facilitating the growth, maintenance and repair of muscle and its influence on body composition. This essential macro-nutrient also supports healthy weight regulation due to its satiating effects. Protein takes more energy and up to several hours longer to metabolize than carbohydrates, which leads to a longer feeling of fullness.
For the average adult, the recommended daily amount (RDA) is 0.8 g/kg of protein per kilogram of body weight. Naturally, these nutrient demands increase the more physically active an individual is. Incorporating more lean sources of protein such as grilled salmon, baked chicken, or legumes, nuts and seeds, keeping your portions modest and choosing lower sodium options will help reduce the calorie content of your protein sources.
Sadly, the typical eating patterns consumed by Americans show higher intake from protein sources which are more calorie-dense as opposed to nutrient- dense, particularly processed and/or high-fat meats. Protein supplements a great alternative for those who need more quality protein sources. Protein supplements also have the luxury of offering a lower carbohydrate and fat content. Adding protein powder to a healthy smoothie for a meal, or even supplementing alone in between meals and after a workout session can help you meet your protein needs for the day to enhance muscle-protein synthesis for a leaner figure.
Before running to the store to purchase the first tub of protein that catches your eye, don’t forget to pay attention to the quality! One key to finding a high-quality source is to find a product formulated with an easy-to-digest protein blend for a higher anabolic (muscle-building) effect. These products are also typically accompanied by digestive enzymes to improve the absorption of protein to aid the digestive process. They also typical list whey protein as a main source.
Whey protein is great for daily use since it is easily digested, absorbed and promotes more muscle growth compared to other sources. Casein protein has a slower digestion and absorption rate and therefore is best used before bedtime to maximize recovery. Additionally, purchase protein powders with low added sugars to keep your calorie consumption at a reasonable level. Alternative sources of protein include rice protein, pea protein, soy protein and milk protein.
Amino acids (AAs) are the chemical units or “building blocks” used to create proteins as we discussed above. Each amino acid has a specific function in the body and are all vital for proper growth and function of the body.
Amino acids are known for their role in providing direct energy to muscle tissue. A key trio of AAs – leucine, isoleucine and valine – are called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). During your weight loss journey, your body will lose body fat in addition to muscle mass. Although this may sound ideal in theory, a leaner appearance is due to the accumulation/and or retention of lean muscle mass. The preservation of lean muscle tissue also bolsters our metabolism, turning our bodies into calorie-burning machines! Lastly, amino acids help avoid fatigue during workouts because they supply the body with an immediate source of energy. Since BCAAs are found in abundance in muscle tissue, we must supply our bodies with the muscle-building components it needs. BCAAs are also classified as essential amino acids, which means they cannot be manufactured in the body and therefore must be obtained through the diet or supplements.
As mentioned above, many Americans do not supply the body with lean sources of protein to maintain a healthy nutritional balance. Fortunately, there are many product offerings which solely contain brain-chained amino acids. To ensure you purchase a valuable BCAA supplement, look for products containing leucine, isoleucine and valine together. Valine is necessary for muscle metabolism and is found in high concentrations in muscle tissue. Isoleucine enhances energy, increases endurance and assists in the repair of muscle tissue. Leucine works synergistically with other two amino acids to maintain muscle mass and healing of muscle tissue. Also, look for L-forms of these amino acids, as they more compatible with the human biochemistry. It is best to take amino acid supplements either on an empty stomach or in between meals to avoid competing for absorption with other amino acids supplied by the diet. BCAAs are also best consumed pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout.
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate derived from plant parts and is resistant to complete digestion by the body. Nevertheless, this nutrient provides extensive health benefits such as supporting intestinal function, eliminating waste and promoting regularity. Diets high in fiber can help lower one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, assist in minimizing the absorption of fats and sugars, and can help suppress your appetite which leads to lower overall caloric intake. Dietary fiber can be easily attained by consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The FDA recommends 25 grams of fiber each day, but the typical American diet provides half the recommended amount (12grams). Americans are also more apt to consume refined grains as opposed to whole grains, which contain the entire grain intact.
Fiber supplements are a great way to supplement your fiber needs. Select fiber supplements which contain both soluble and insoluble fibrous ingredients. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the digestive tract, which provides a feeling of fullness and thus helps curb your appetite. Soluble fiber also binds to substances involved in the production of cholesterol (and eliminates these substances) and helps minimize the absorption of dietary fats and sugars. Insoluble fiber helps remove wastes from the digestive tract, allowing the body to better absorb important nutrients for overall wellness.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral, which is involved in the metabolism and storage of fats and protein. It is also thought to play a role in assisting in the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels. Chromium is found in foods like broccoli and whole grains but can be supplemented in the diet with mineral-supplements, especially in combination formulas with other ingredients used to manage weight. Adequate intakes (AIs) for chromium ranges from 20 to 35 mcg/day.
Supplements are beneficial to supplying the body with essential components for protein synthesis, muscle building and minimizing the absorption of fats to help maintain weight loss. As a reminder, supplements are not intended to replace nutrients you should be consuming from a healthy and balanced diet. Rather, supplements are merely tools that may assist with your weight loss journey.