Sometimes losing weight is not just a priority, it’s the only priority. Whether it’s for medical reasons, an upcoming wedding, a New Year’s resolution—sometimes a strong motivator is a great way to kickstart your weight-loss program.
Jumping in at the deep end with lots of exercise and a drastic diet could help you lose some weight quickly, but it can also make your body vulnerable to injury, fatigue and even long-term consequences for your health. For sustained weight loss—a healthier body and not just a smaller pants size—“stronger” is at least as important as “slimmer.” It’s critical to make sure that you’re getting the full complement of essential vitamins and minerals—something that can be easily overlooked with our current focus on fat, carbs and calorie counting.
Weight-loss programs that focus on macronutrients can lead to deficiencies in micronutrients. A 2010 study found a high risk of mineral deficiencies in women following the low-carb Atkins diet or low-fat LEARN or Ornish diets.1
|DIET*||NUTRIENTS AT HIGH RISK OF DEFICIENCY|
|Atkins||thiamine, folic acid, vitamin C, iron and magnesium|
|LEARN||vitamin E, thiamine, and magnesium|
|Ornish||vitamins E and B-12 and zinc|
These nutrients have a wide range of functions, but just to name a few: thiamine (vitamin B1) is especially important for the brain and blood vessels, B12 regulates metabolism and DNA, and folic acid (B9) is necessary for building and repairing DNA and producing new red blood cells. Magnesium is crucial for the muscles and brain, while iron transports oxygen to every cell in the body. Zinc is a major regulator of the immune system, and the second most common metal in the body after iron, and vitamin C is everywhere, as I wrote about last week.
Calcium is another micronutrient we’re at risk of losing during weight loss. Over a long term, regular exercise is good for bone strength. But we may be more prone to lose bone density while slimming down. In a study of overweight and obese women on an exercise- and diet-based weight-loss program, those who had the highest levels of calcium and protein in their diet lost more fat and gained more muscle. Those with the lowest calcium levels actually lost muscle mass.2
In both of these studies, all the participants lost comparable amounts of weight, so, just by looking at a scale, their diets might appear to be equally successful. It’s only when we dig deeper that we see the nutritional gaps.
Not only will the right nutrient balance help maintain your energy and keep your immune system strong, it ensures that your body has the tools it needs to become fitter and—not just next month but next year and for decades to come. Whatever your strategy for weight loss, supplements can be an effective way to balance out the effects of dietary changes and meet the growing nutrient demands of a fitter, healthier you.
Gardner CD, Kim S, Bersamin A, Dopler-Nelson M, Otten J, Oelrich B, Cherin R. Micronutrient quality of weight-loss diets that focus on macronutrients: results from the A TO Z study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(2):304-12. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29468. PMID:20573800
Josse AR, Atkinson SA, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Diets higher in dairy foods and dietary protein support bone health during diet- and exercise-induced weight loss in overweight and obese premenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012;97(1):251-60. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-2165. PMID:22049177
About the Author
Emilie Croisier is a writer and editor based in Austin, TX. She has a PhD in Neuroscience from Imperial College London, and bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, with a minor in Brain and Cognitive Science, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When she’s not counting cars at the intersection of science and natural health, you can find her in her garden or at emilieilime.com.