Low carb dieting

Many people have embraced a low-carbohydrate lifestyle in an effort to lose weight and improve health. The popularity of this lifestyle has increased as recent studies have shown very low-carbohydrate diets to be safe and effective. There are at least five categories of often overlooked supplements than can help you improve your results – meaning quicker and healthier weight loss. Here are some suggestions you should seriously consider.

1. Fish oil / omega-3

If you eat a lot of sausage, bacon, hotdogs, margarine and the like, you are getting a lot of saturated fat. High saturated fat intakes can have an adverse effect on your risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases.

To counteract this effect, it is important to consume a good portion of "healthy" fats. Examples are fish and fish oils which are rich in a type of fat called omega-3 fatty acids. The main two omega-3s are called EPA and DHA. These fatty acids are also found in other oils like flax seed oil. Omega-3s have been shown to lower blood triglycerides, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.1  Continuing research involves the role of omega-3 fatty acids on the immune system, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, kidney disease, cancer, and depression. Thus, these omega-3 fats have widespread health-promoting effects and should absolutely be a big part of everyone's diet, especially if you are on a very low-carbohydrate diet.

Minimum effective doses are about 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg HA, an amount found in a typical 1,000 mg fish oil capsule or about the equivalent of one serving of fatty fish. A more optimal dose would be three to six times this amount.

2. Multi-vitamins and antioxidants

No matter what diet you are following, it is prudent to include a multi-vitamin supplement. Even the American Medical Association has definitively recommended that all adults take a multi-vitamin daily. 2,3

Since certain carbohydrate-rich foods that contain important vitamins are consumed infrequently or eliminated on a low-carbohydrate diet, there is even a greater need to include a multi-vitamin supplement.

Furthermore, a higher polyunsaturated fat intake while on a low-carbohydrate diet increases your requirement for vitamin E.4  Vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble dietary antioxidants and low levels of this and other antioxidants may increase the risk for several chronic diseases. A multi-vitamin supplement at levels near the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is recommended. Higher intakes of some antioxidants may have further benefit in reducing your risk for disease. For example, more optimal doses of vitamin E are between 400 and 800 IUs per day.

3. Thermogenics and fat burners

While on any diet, your body's metabolism can step on the brakes as it detects calorie restriction. Therefore, increasing your metabolism and burning fat are important for weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. Here are some ingredients that can help you step on the gas and overcome a slow metabolism.

Caffeine increases sympathetic activity (by increasing epinephrine secretion and sympathetic nervous system activity) resulting in multiple metabolic effects that could have beneficial effects on burning fat. In terms of enhancing fat breakdown, caffeine has been shown in many studies to enhance energy expenditure and fat burning.5

Research on green tea extract, which contains caffeine and catechin-polyphenols, indicates that both have important effects on metabolic rate and fat burning. Green tea was shown to increase metabolic rate by 4% compared to a placebo in healthy men who were studied in a respiratory chamber for a 24-hour period.6 This amounted to an increase in energy expenditure of about 80 calories a day. Furthermore, green tea caused a shift to greater fat burning for fuel over carbohydrate for fuel. These ingredients are found in many combination diet formulas.

4. Carnitine helps with the increased fat burning load

Carnitine controls the transport of fats to the only place they can be burned (the mitochondria). Without carnitine, fats don't get in, and they don't get burned - that means they get stored. A recent study using stable isotopes (the gold standard for determining rates of fat burning) showed that carnitine supplementation (3 grams per day for 10 days) increased fat burning in healthy subjects.7 Since very low-carbohydrate diets increase fat burning, there is an increased demand for carnitine to transport fats into the part of the cell where they are burned. So carnitine supplementation may be necessary to optimize the fat burning effect, especially on a very low-carbohydrate diet.

5. Blood sugar stabilizers and starch blockers

Most people do not restrict all carbohydrates even if following a low-carbohydrate lifestyle. Those times you do eat carbohydrate, make sure you dampen the potentially negative effects of rapid swings in blood sugar and insulin. Supplements that slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood and even partially prevent carbohydrates from being absorbed include soluble fiber, particularly glucomannan, and a white bean extract.

A significant amount of research demonstrates the health benefits of increasing dietary soluble fiber to combat obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. One soluble fiber shown to have the most potent properties is glucomannan, a water-soluble fiber that comes from the Japanese konjac root. Several studies have consistently shown that glucomannan taken prior to or with a meal significantly reduces the glucose and insulin response by as much as one-half. It also leads to significant weight loss and reductions in appetite and cholesterol levels.8 These effects have been observed in a variety of healthy and clinical populations and are evident with relatively small doses (less than 4 grams per day).

Another supplement that may act to slow or partially block carbohydrate absorption is an extract derived from the white kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, tradename - Phase 2). The supplement has been shown to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down starch (carbohydrate) in the gastrointestinal tract. A recent study provides some preliminary support for this carbohydrate blocker to promote weight loss.9

If you follow some of these suggestions, you'll experience accelerated fat loss, be healthier long-term, and overcome some of the drawbacks associated with very low-carbohydrate diets.

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