No supplement, vitamin or food can actually burn fat from your body. Fat loss happens when you have an energy deficit caused by eating fewer calories than you burn. In some cases, a vitamin deficiency can make you feel sluggish and cause an uptick in hunger-causing hormones, making you gain weight. Correcting these deficiencies may gradually help you return to a healthier weight, but don't expect miraculous results -- especially if you leave exercise out of the equation. To determine if you are vitamin deficient, have your doctor perform a blood test and advise you on how to raise your levels if necessary.
How Fat Loss Occurs
When you eat fewer calories than you burn, your body senses the energy deficit and dips into its fat cells to release glycerol and free fatty acids into the blood stream. Once these fuel sources are available, your body can then use them for energy. Certain vitamins play a role in this process, but taking them in excess -- unless you're deficient -- isn't going to make fat burning happen more expediently.
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A safe and sustainable calorie deficit is 500 to 1,000 calories per day, achieved by combining exercise and dietary modifications. Cutting this number of calories from your maintenance calorie needs without adding exercise can mean you're consuming fewer than 1,200 calories per day. This low of a level causes your metabolism to stall, reduces muscle mass and deprives you of essential nutrients.
If you can't exercise as part of your weight-loss plan, settle for a slower rate of loss, such as 1/2 pound per week, which requires you to trim just 250 calories per day. Whatever rate you settle on as safe and sustainable, achieve it with a whole-foods diet that includes lean proteins, low-fat dairy, whole grains and colorful fruits and vegetables so you naturally get all the vitamins and other nutrients you need daily.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Your Weight
Low vitamin D levels may cause your body to set a higher weight set point and increase the release of hunger-stimulating hormones. A 2013 study published in Nutrition Journal determined that 12 weeks of supplementing a low-calorie diet with calcium and vitamin D3 enhanced weight loss compared to a low-calorie diet alone. The college-age people living with overweight and obesity reported low levels of calcium intake prior to beginning the study. It's unclear if the vitamin D, calcium, a combination or another factor altogether was the catalyst for enhancing weight loss.
If you have limited exposure to sunlight and your intake of fortified milks and fatty fish is minimal, consider having your vitamin D levels tested. If you are deficient, your doctor can recommend a supplement that may offer improvements in your energy, immunity and perhaps, your weight.
Vitamin B Supplements
Energy drinks contain the B complex of vitamins claiming that they boost your stamina and reduce fatigue. Some weight-loss supplements also contain B vitamins. While these vitamins do help in energy metabolism, you only get a boost from a supplement if you're deficient in one or more B-complex vitamins. If you are deficient and take a supplement, the benefits you get are a boost in energy and well-being, rather than a sudden drop in weight. The consequent increased energy makes you feel better and can perhaps make you more open to including physical activity as part of your weight-loss plan.
Adequate intake of B vitamins could help you stave off weight gain, though. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that people who consistently took supplements of multivitamins, vitamins B6 and B12 and chromium experienced less weight gain over 10 years compared to people who did not take the supplements. More research is needed before any recommendations about B-vitamin supplementation can be made though.
Vitamin C and Fat Metabolism
Vitamin C -- found in abundance in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit and red bell peppers -- acts as an antioxidant and supports tissue development, immunity and protein metabolism. Severe deficiency of vitamin C, such as in scurvy, can leave you feeling fatigued.
People living with overweight and obesity tend to have lower levels of vitamin C, but supplementation didn't substantially increase weight loss, showed a study in the Journal of Nutrition in 2007. People who took vitamin C in addition to following a low-calorie diet or just followed a low-calorie diet lost similar amounts of weight after eight weeks. Getting adequate amounts of the vitamin is essential to health and energy, but it doesn't improve weight loss.
Physical activity and vitamin C may be a winning combination though. A paper published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2005 suggested that getting enough vitamin C on a daily basis can help you burn more fat during moderate exercise.
Exercise and Weight Loss
You may want to pop a vitamin pill and not have to worry about exercise to lose weight, but that approach isn't practical. The American Council on Exercise points out that among people who participated in the National Weight Control Registry, a group who successfully lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for a minimum of one year, 89 percent used a combination of diet and exercise to achieve and maintain weight loss.
Exercise doesn't mean you have to hit the gym for hours at a time. A brisk walk, gardening and dancing all count toward the 150 minutes per week minimum recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know that spending more than 150 minutes per week being physically active may enhance weight loss.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Strategies for Healthy Weight Loss: From Vitamin C to the Glycemic Response
- Shape: Ask the Diet Doctor: Vitamin D and Weight Loss
- Yale Scientific: Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?
- Nutrition Journal: Calcium Plus Vitamin D3 Supplementation Facilitated Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese College Students with Very-Low Calcium Consumption: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- Go Ask Alice: Ideal Caloric Intake
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Dietary Supplements and Weight Control in a Middle-Age Population
- Athletic Therapy Today: B-Complex Vitamins' Role in Energy Release
- Journal of Nutrition: Plasma Vitamin C Is Inversely Related to Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference But Not to Plasma Adiponectin in Nonsmoking Adults
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- American Council on Exercise: Weight Loss: Diet vs. Exercise
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?