WE DON’T NEED to remind you there’s no magic little pill that will cure your weight loss woes.
Losing weight is a culmination of several efforts, where the ultimate goal is to burn more calories than you take in. The concept itself is simple, but the mechanisms are not. It’s practically a full time job—stay on top of your nutrition, caloric intake, getting in your cardio, weight training, drinking enough water, sleep, and stress.
But, none of these things will work if our body is not working properly. For all of our systems to be effective, we to provide our bodies with the nutrients that help carry out our bodily processes. That includes vitamins.
Vitamins are compounds that help our bodies carry out processes that keep us alive. They assist in everything from powering our metabolism, falling asleep, healing wounds, building muscle, maintaining our energy levels, and processing macronutrients like carbs, fats, and proteins. We obtain most vitamins from the foods that we eat.
All of these functions ultimately play a role in how efficiently we can lose weight. So, if you’re looking to shed some fat, you should be looking into what you’re eating just as much as you are how much you’re eating. Below, our experts share 5 vitamins that aid in weight loss.
5 Vitamins That Aid in Weight Loss
Vitamin D has a heavy hand in many bodily functions. Its deficiency has been linked to poor metabolic health, which is what causes our bodies to burn calories; altered insulin sensitivity, which determines our blood sugar; and altered levels of the hormone that determines our hunger levels, leptin, Kenney says. If we don’t get enough of it, we risk not burning as many calories as well as potentially consuming more—not the ideal combo for weight loss.
This vitamin is also important for building and maintaining strong bodies. Low bone density is often linked with low vitamin D levels, says Joanne Keaveney, R.D., at Boston Medical Center. That can lead to joint issues, fractures, bone pain, and increase your risk of fractures, making exercise difficult.
Vitamin D is known best as being the “sunshine vitamin”, Keaveney says, since we obtain some of it from direct sunlight. But, scientists are finding that we’re “no longer get proper amounts from the sun due to polluted ozone layer and less time in sun due to skin cancer risks,” Keaveney says.
The best place to obtain vitamin D otherwise is through oily fishes like salmon, mackerel and anchovies. Egg yolks, lean meat, milk also have some amount of vitamin D. Adults are advised to get around 15 micrograms of vitamin D per day by the National Institutes of Health.
This part of the B vitamins “plays an important role in the metabolism of your fat through your liver,” says Keanevey. “Some research shows that low levels of vitamin B12 in the body actually contributes to weight gain and obesity.”
B12 might be difficult to get enough of if you participant in a mostly plant-based diet. A majority of our consumption of this vitamin comes from animal products such as beef and fish. Those who follow a vegan or vegetarian meal plans may want to speak with their doctors about supplementation.
It’s recommended for adults to get about 2.4 micrograms of B12 daily.
This vitamin has a slew of jobs in the body. For starters, zinc aids in carb and fat metabolism, turning these fuel sources into usable energy, says Keanevey. It may also play a part in preserving lean muscle mass—and, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, since muscle requires more energy to stay alive than fat. The thyroid gland also needs zinc to help produce hormones, which is important in metabolism. Interestingly enough, it also plays a role in our senses of taste and smell, and helps heal wounds.
Men should aim to obtain 11 milligrams a day. It can be found in chicken, red meat, and certain breakfast cereals (we’re talking bran and oatmeal—sorry, not Captain Crunch, Keanevey says).
Magnesium has been becoming more and more popular as of late, due in part by its connection to relaxation and sleep— “two things which are necessary for healthy weight loss,” says Kenney. It also plays a role in processing food and turning it into energy. “Low levels of magnesium have also been associated with increased inflammation, which can contribute to weight gain.”
It is recommended to get at least 400 to 420 micrograms of magnesium per day. Deficiency is incredibly common because it’s found in few foods in small amounts. You can find magnesium in pumpkin seeds, almonds, cocoa, avocado, and black beans.
This less-discussed vitamin is essential for proper thyroid function. The thyroid is responsible for the production of several hormones and metabolism control. Without proper iodine consumption, inadequate production of hormones can lead to weight gain, says Kenney. Interestingly enough, processed foods typically contain iodized salt, so its uncommon to be deficient in iodine if you consume processed foods. It can also be found in seafood like tuna, oysters, and shrimp, seaweed, eggs, and milk.
Around 150 micrograms are recommended to consume daily.
Should I Supplement These Vitamins to Lose Weight?
We’ll say it again: There’s no magic pill that’s going to get you to your ideal physique.
Plus, you may be getting as much of these vitamins from your regular diet as you need. No supplement should be taken without direction from a doctor or healthcare professional—some have side effects and medication interactions. Meet with your primary care to get your levels tested to determine what deficiencies you have, and to create a plan of action from there.
“Supplements are an unregulated industry and can pose great risk for consumers. Always speak with your health care team before starting any supplement,” Kenney says.
Ultimately, healthy and sustainable weight loss is adds up to way more than just your vitamin and supplement intake. Along with exercise, the proper diet will help get you to where you want to be.
“The focus for achieving a healthy weight should include a healthy balanced diet, joyful movement, and reducing exposure to toxins and endocrine disruptors,” Kenney says. “A healthy weight loss should be slow and steady over time to ensure that the weight loss is not all muscle mass, and to help prevent quick regain.”
Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.