Weight gain can creep up on you. A pound here, a pound there — then suddenly you look in the mirror and you aren’t happy with what you see. And if you’re like most guys, you want it gone, fast. No frou-frou lettuce or grapefruit diets for you, thanks. Just results. It’s no wonder so many men turn to weight loss accelerators, such as Hydroxycut, Betalean and meal replacement bars, shakes and cookies. For the most part, accelerants work, and they work fast. However, weight loss should always be primarily about health. If the way in which you lose weight compromises your health, then you’ve already defeated your own purpose. And there are dangers to these accelerators that shouldn’t be ignored.
The main danger common to all weight loss accelerators is weight loss that’s too rapid. Many weight accelerators cause significant weight loss in the first couple of weeks. Unfortunately, much of the pounds you will shed may well be from water and muscle loss rather than actual fat loss, as, once thrown into starvation mode, your body begins consuming your muscles for energy. Rapid weight loss is very hard on your nervous system, and can cause gall stones and potentially fatal heart arrhythmias. In addition, the moment you stop using the weight loss accelerator, all of the weight you lost is likely to pile back on – sometimes with a vengeance.
The Mayo Clinic recommends a weight loss rate of one to two lbs. a week. It’s not exactly warp speed, but this pace allows your body to acclimate slowly to the dietary and activity changes you’re making, and makes it more likely that you’ll keep off any weight you lose.
There are real dangers specific to weight loss supplement pills and powders. In 1994, the FDA declared that, unlike food or medication, weight loss products sold under the “herbal supplement” umbrella didn’t require regulation, weren’t subject to approval by the FDA, didn’t have to list all of their ingredients, and didn’t have to back up any product claims, including those about safety. When the FDA conducted a large-scale FDA investigation of accelerated weight loss supplements, they found that 72 over-the-counter products tested contained potentially harmful ingredients, including prescription appetite suppressants and anti-seizure, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, none of which were listed as supplement ingredients. Someone with a specific health condition or someone taking medication contraindicated with ingredients in these weight loss supplements may unknowingly put himself at serious risk of endangering his health.
Meal replacement bars, cookies and shakes come with their own set of risks. Meal replacements are only marginally better for you than a crash diet, and can even contribute to dietary imbalances. The excess liquid from shakes can throw off your electrolyte balance, and the alcohol-based sugar found in some shake varieties can cause stomach pain and bloating. To make them palatable, meal replacement bars, shakes and cookies are often loaded with sugar. Over time, excess dietary sugar can lead to weight gain, and even contribute to metabolic disorders. Meal replacement supplements often claim to contain all of the daily nutrients you need. However they lack the fiber and bulk that promotes digestion and helps you feel full, the variety of flavors and textures that satisfies your palate, and the natural vitamin and mineral combinations that are most beneficial for your body.
The bottom line: consult your doctor before beginning a weight loss program or taking any weight loss accelerators. And while it may require patience, your best bet for healthy, sustained weight loss is a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats, combined with regular exercise.