You’d think that by now we’d all stop falling for supplements which promise to “blast belly fat” or “drop pounds while still eating cupcakes,” but you’d be wrong. Powerful marketing continues to dupe vulnerable people into wasting their money. Here are the common selling points (ahem, lies) that you’ll find on the label.
Weight loss supplements are a general category designed to accelerate weight loss, typically by one of several ways: suppressing your appetite, blocking absorption of nutrients, or increasing the number of calories you burn. These “benefits” come from any number of key active ingredients. You might have heard of some: ephedrine, capsaicin, caffeine, and yohimbine; and brand names such as Hydroxycut and Alli.
- Lose weight without dieting: As much as we all want a pill to grant our heart’s desires, no one can expect to lose weight by eating the same high-calorie crap and not changing their eating habits. When it comes to weight loss, gaining control over your diet is what gets you the best results.
- Exercise not required: Similar to the promise above, this claim capitalizes on someone unwilling to change their habits. Continual, healthy weight loss without exercise is a pipedream. At the same time, exercise is not the only solution to your weight loss woes.
- Accelerate your metabolism: Some ingredients, like caffeine, do slightly increase metabolism, but the exact effects range from person to person and are influenced by your individual tolerance. Even then, the effects won’t undo that donut.
- Feel fuller: You feel full by actually eating real food that takes up space in your stomach, not through a supplement. Some supplements can help suppress appetite, but if you want to keep from getting constantly hungry, focus on eating high-protein foods (like steak or eggs) and fibrous and filling foods (like a baked potato or oatmeal).
- Change your body composition. This is a fancy way to say that the weight you lose would be directly from fat, but the supplements that claim to help you drop fat—like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—are more likely to be harmful to your health in the long term. The age-old, unsexy advice isn’t going to change: If you want to change how your body looks, you have to combine diet with appropriate muscle-building exercises.
Some supplements can work if you use them alongside—surprise—good ol’ diet and exercise, but be warned: there are plenty of sometimes dangerous side effects. The beneficial effects, if any, are typically so small that you’re better off just saving your money and just exercising and eating right.