This article is for general information only and not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making significant health changes. Individual health profiles vary, and personalized medical guidance is essential. The content doesn't establish a doctor-patient relationship, and readers should consult a licensed healthcare provider, especially if they have medical conditions, take medications, or are pregnant/nursing. Supplements and lifestyle changes may have risks or interactions; discuss with a healthcare professional. The authors disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from the information provided.
A year ago, the average American probably hadn’t even heard of Novo Nordisk or Eli Lily. But now, they’re close to being a household name. And if I could go back 12 months and buy stock in these giant pharmaceutical companies, I’d be very happy right now. The reason is due to a weight loss drug classified as a GLP-1(Glucagon-Like-Peptide-1) that’s taken the country by storm. People are losing weight from it without necessarily even changing the types of foods they eat. And it’s all due to a hormone called glucagon.
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When we eat, our blood sugar and insulin levels rise. This causes glucagon levels to drop, telling our brains that we’re full. Basically, lowered glucagon production equals feelings of fullness.
These weight loss drugs you may have heard about from a friend, the TV, or social media, like Ozempic or Wegovy, work by stimulating insulin release and subsequently lowering the production of glucagon. While that’s the very brief science behind it, the end result is what really matters. And that is a signal being sent to your brain telling your body that you’re full.
There’s even a significant reduction in cravings for highly palatable foods like pizza and ice cream. You have less of a desire for foods that you usually crave, and when you do sit down to eat, you can’t eat close to as much as you used to. Suddenly you only have enough room for a cup of mac and cheese instead of the usual bowl. Say goodbye to “cleaning your plate,” like you were told to do as a kid. You simply get full much quicker and many report not even thinking about food as much.
Most people think these GLP-1 drugs are new to the market, but the truth is, they’ve been around for a long time. Some Doctors have been prescribing GLP-1s for more than 15 years to treat type 2 diabetes. It is just more recently being used for the overweight and obese population with its popularity skyrocketing in 2023. And with people losing 10,15, even 20% of their bodyweight, these drugs will become even more mainstream. I believe that eventually they will be synonymous with medications such as anti-depressants and statins, and will probably end up being the most profitable drugs in the history of the United States.
So, the question many are asking is, “What’s the downfall?” Usually, if something seems too good to be true, it is. Knock out your appetite and cravings and lose up to 20% of your bodyweight within a year, and all you to do is take an injection once a week... what’s the catch?
Initially, most people notice some basic side effects. The most common are nausea, fatigue, acid reflux and constipation. Nausea hits most people immediately upon using these drugs. 10% of users stop taking the medication due to some of these side effects, however, if the medication is titrated up appropriately, it can be tolerable and eventually completely go away.
It's the long-term use that’s more in question. People should understand going into it that the likelihood of having to stay on the medication for the rest of their life is high. We know that most people that are on a GLP-1 for any length of time and lose weight, almost always gain it back and often more than they originally started with if use is discontinued.
The question I’ve been getting lately is, “Are there any natural supplements I can use for weight loss that will give me a similar effect to these drugs?” Many people don’t want to deal with the side effects of a GLP-1 and don’t want to start a drug that they might have to stay on for the rest of their life.
While I’m always an advocate of doing something naturally, this is really like comparing apples to oranges. The overall purpose of supplements is much different than drugs.
Most drugs are meant to treat an issue that’s having a negative impact. They don’t necessarily make the body healthier. For example, Ambien is a prescription sleep medication that is prescribed for people that have trouble falling or staying asleep. While it does work to put you to sleep, it actually lowers the amount of quality sleep you get. It knocks you out, but you lose a lot of the therapeutic benefits of deep sleep.
On the other hand, we can look at a supplement like ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a very therapeutic adaptogen that helps to modulate the stress response. It doesn’t put you to sleep immediately like Ambien might, but in clinical studies, it has been shown to not only improve testosterone function but also improve the amount of quality sleep we get, making the body healthier.
Now when it comes to weight loss, there isn’t going to be anything in the supplement world that’s going to obliterate your appetite like a GLP-1. No one substance is going to cause such a dramatic impact on weight and appetite like these newly popularized weight loss drugs. But, there are products that when taken in combination, can have a significant impact on a number of things including metabolic rate and thermogenesis, fat breakdown and oxidation, and also cause a decrease in hunger. And these supplements have a more noticeable and positive impact on energy, health and well-being.
l-carnitine is a vitamin-like substance your body makes. It plays a crucial role in transporting fatty acids into your cells’ mitochondria, where they can be burned for energy. When taken as a supplement, it can increase the amount of fatty acids taken from your bloodstream and burned off. Meaning, you will release and get rid of more fat.
One review of 37 studies found that L-carnitine supplementation significantly reduced bodyweight, BMI, and fat mass. While it’s not a cure-all, it is beneficial in the weight loss process when taken in conjunction with other herbs.
In a pilot study, administration of carnitine combined with pyruvate and hydroxy citrate (HCA) showed a remarkable rate of body fat loss and thermogenesis in obese subjects. Taken individually, neither one of these substances would have a very noticeable effect on body fat or weight, but the combination has potential to produce real results.
Appetite reduction is also possible through nutritional combination therapy.
Glucomannan, found in konjac flour, is a type of fiber that can have an appetite reducing effect and cause a reduction in bodyweight. It also has the added benefit of decreasing blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Konjac flour can be taken in supplement form, but it has also become popular in many food products. You can find a number of different noodles made from konjac flour at many grocery stores. And most only contain around 10 calories per bag. This is a low-calorie food option that has the added benefit of decreasing appetite.
Caralluma Fimbriata is an herb that has been used for thousands of years by Indian cultures for suppressing appetite during long hunts or times of famine.
Combining Caralluma Fimbriata with glucomannan and green tea can decrease appetite and increase fat oxidation. Green tea has the added benefit of containing caffeine, which can also influence fat metabolism and decrease huger.
Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is the active ingredient extracted from the Indian fruit garcinia cambogia. In a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study with 44 subjects, 1000mg of daily HCA supplementation resulted in significantly reduced visceral, subcutaneous, and total fat compared to the placebo group.
In another study done on humans, taking just 300mg three times a day for only 2 weeks reduced 24-hour energy intake - less calories were eaten.
A basic weight/fat loss supplementation routine could look like this:
This is a basic supplement routine, and I am posting it here more as an example of a weight loss/appetite suppressant protocol. There can be contraindications with some medications and supplements, so if you are on any prescribed drug consult with a health practitioner before starting a new supplement.
When I work with clients, I do take a more individualized approach to their nutrition and supplementation routines as each person has different needs, requirements, and tolerability for specific nutrients.
While this protocol can aid in appetite reduction and overall fat metabolism when combined with a concerted effort in exercise and nutrition, it is much more time intensive, and the effort required is obviously more involved than taking a drug once a week. But there is also definitely a different outcome when going about it this way.
Let’s take 2 identical people. Both lose 40 pounds, but one person embarks on a health and fitness program that includes exercise, nutrition and supplementation routines that get the body healthier. The second goes the route of taking a GLP-1, which severely lowers caloric intake. They don’t change much else when it comes to nutrition or exercise but simply rely on the drug to kill their appetite.
The health and fitness person that lost 40lbs will likely have better overall health. Yes, losing 40lbs is amazing whether that be from taking a drug or embarking on a new health and fitness regimen. However, the physical and psychological makeup of the person that did it with a healthy lifestyle overhaul will have a different look and feel at the end.
Eating better foods along with exercise and possible supplementation will have more of a positive impact on things like gut health and hormone function. Also, the health and fitness person will have better body fat levels and more muscle mass. Not only can this be a more aesthetically pleasing look, but it will also lower their risk for illness and disease.
Out of all the health parameters we can look at when it comes to the human body, they found the number one biomarker of longevity is muscle mass. Meaning, people that carry more muscle live longer than people that don’t.
Sarcopenia is a syndrome characterized by a progressive loss in muscle mass and strength. This condition is a common problem as we age and therefore exercise and nutrition become even more important to prevent this from happening. And protein intake is of the utmost importance.
A common problem found with the GLP-1 drugs is a reduction in protein intake. As calories drop, it’s often the chicken, salmon and beef that get the boot instead of the muffins, bagels, and pizza. Many Americans are already on the lower side when it comes to daily protein intake, and unless a concerted effort is made to get adequate daily protein, a loss of muscle mass can become a serious problem.
I am not a doctor, so the content here is for informational purposes only. I am only giving my opinion based on current research and talking to a dozen or so people that have used GLP-1s. But in a perfect world, I would love to see these drugs used as a jumpstart to learning and implementing a healthier overall lifestyle. Start the drug and get the instant results that everyone wants, while learning how to eat right, cook right and shop right. Start drinking .6oz of water per pound of bodyweight and learn how to track your food on one of the many fitness apps on your phone. Once you learn how to do these things and your health becomes more of a priority, then gradually taper off the drug. It would be the best of both worlds. Lose weight instantly but get the body and mind healthy through nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation.
With over 40% of Americans obese and almost 80% overweight, many people need to take some action to mitigate the detrimental health effects of carrying this unnatural extra weight. Doing anything is better than not taking any action at all. So, whether you decide to get help from a medication or embark on a health and fitness regimen with supplements, either way you will be happy you did.
Build muscle mass through research-based strategies. Don’t fall for gimmicks and preposterous claims. There has to be a plan in place to build quality muscle. Follow these five simple tips to start building muscle now so in a month, other people are going to start complimenting you on your gains.
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