The New Year is right around the corner, and you know what that means: time for New Year’s resolutions. According to the United States government,1 five of the top ten New Year’s resolutions are:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get a Better Education
  3. Get Fit
  4. Eat Healthy Food
  5. Manage Stress

Of course it’s easy to make resolutions, but hard to keep them. So what can you do to make it easier? While there is no substitute for willpower and commitment, this article will review some nutraceuticals which may actually help you be more effective at adhering to these five resolutions.

LOSE WEIGHT
We all know that diet and exercise are necessary components for a successful weight loss program. In addition there are nutraceuticals which can also help. Two of these are L-carnitine and Garcinia cambogia.

L-carnitine
The amino acid L-carnitine plays an important role in energy production by chaperoning activated fatty acids into the mitochondrial matrix to be metabolized.2 Unfortunately, research suggests that being overweight is associated with carnitine insufficiency, Studies have also shown that supplementation with L-carnitine is capable of promoting greater weight loss than with diet and exercise alone (500 mg-3 g/day),4,5,6 and improving various measures of exercise performance and recovery (2 g/day).7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14

Garcina cambogia
Garcina cambogia is a tropical plant that contains a compound known as (-)-hydroxycitric acid (HCA)—which has some interesting biological properties.15 Specifically, research indicates that HCA may help reduce the conversion of carbohydrates into fatty acids,17,18 which could mean less fat stored in your fat cells. Also, research19,20,21,22,23,24 suggests that HCA may help reduce appetite and food intake. In one study with overweight men and women,25 300 mg HCA (as G. cambogia extract standardized for HCA), three times daily, 60 minutes before lunch and dinner, and 2 hours after dinner (to prevent snacking in the evening) resulted in 15–30 percent reduced calorie intake. Furthermore, human clinical research26 demonstrated that 440 mg HCA three times daily, 30 minutes prior to breakfast, lunch and dinner (as G. cambogia extract standardized for HCA) resulted in 14 lbs weight loss, compared to 8 lbs weight loss with diet and exercise alone (1200 calories/ day low fat diet, exercise 3 times/week). Other research has shown similar results.27,28,29

GET A BETTER EDUCATION
Arguably, getting a better education will take more of a time commitment than any other resolution discussed in this article. Of course it’s also the resolution that is most likely to get you a better job and outlook for the future. Nevertheless, it will involve a great deal of reading and studying, which means that you need to have a good memory and good cognitive function. Phosphatidylserine (PS) may be able to help. PS is an integral component in the structure of the brain and spinal cord, and a significant amount of published clinical research has demonstrated that PS supplementation supports various cognitive parameters in adults and in children.30 This is an important consideration if you’re a middle-aged adult going back to school, because that’s the time that age-related memory impairment can start to rear its ugly head. Luckily, research31,32,33,34 has shown that 100–300 mg of PS daily has helped reduce memory complaints and improve memory difficulties (including learning and remembering written information) in age-related memory impairment. PS can also help young adult students. This was shown in a study35 on 17–18 year old students who received 100 mg of PS daily. Supplementation with PS resulted in significant improvement in memory and improved cognitive performance in students.

GET FIT
Getting fit is primarily a function of a regular exercise program, as well as good nutrition. Naturally, anything that can help you achieve results more quickly or effectively is desirable— assuming that we’re talking about something healthy and legal. In this case, L-arginine, beta-alanine and branched-chain amino acids fit the bill exactly.

L-arginine
The amino acid L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, a vasodilator produced by the body to facilitate circulation.36 Consequently, supplementation with L-arginine has been shown to increase oxygen transport during exercise and improve aerobic exercise (6 g/day)37,38 and increase circulating growth hormone levels in response to exercise (5–9 g/day, 30 minutes before exercise);39 and growth hormone can help support the development of new muscle.

Beta-alanine
Research suggests that during high-intensity exercise and strength training, 2.4 grams to 6.4 grams daily of the amino acid beta-alanine improves some measures of physical performance (e.g. increases ventilatory threshold, time to onset of muscle fatigue, time to exhaustion, and total work). A meta-analysis of 15 studies demonstrated that beta-alanine significantly improved exercise measures compared to placebo.40

Branched-chain amino acids Leucine, isoleucine and valine are collectively referred to as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs have also been shown to significantly reduce the breakdown of skeletal muscle in normal and exercising Volunteers,41,42,43,45,46 decrease muscle soreness and muscle fatigue occurring for a few days after exercise,47,48 and decrease lactic acid levels during exercise.49,50,51,52 Doses of 1.3–5.7 g/day have been used.

EAT HEALTHY FOOD
If you think you need to eat a healthier diet, you’re in good company. According the USDA, only 10 percent of the American population eats a good diet.53 So by all means, take every measure possible to eat healthier food. At the same time it’s important to realize that even when your diet improves, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. In fact, according to the goals of nutrient intake established by the USDA,54 comparing the nutritional goals for Americans to the nutrient content of foods consumed in a 2000 calorie per day diet, there will be insufficient amounts of vitamin D, vitamin E, choline, magnesium (for men only) and potassium. So even if you follow dietary guidelines there is a good chance that you still won’t be reaching 100 percent of your nutrient intake goals.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother eating a healthy diet; it just means that you need a nutrition insurance policy in the form of a good daily multivitamin. Not only will this help assure that you fill in the missing nutrient gaps,55 but research suggests that a good daily multivitamin may offer other benefits as well, which include supporting better cardiovascular health,56,57,58,59,60,61 reducing the risk of certain types of cancer,62 improving stress and energy,63,64,65 and maybe even help you live longer.66

MANAGE STRESS
Given the many adverse effects that stress can have on our lives, it makes very good sense to try and manage it better. While this can and should include attempts to decrease external stressors, it can also include techniques like biofeedback to help you remain calmer in the face of stress. Another complementary approach is the use of L-theanine and lemon balm.

L-theanine
Asian cultures have often used teas for relaxation effects. The relaxing effect is, at least in part, caused by the presence of a neurologically active amino acid, L-theanine. In research, L-theanine was shown to significantly increase brain activity in the alpha frequency band (calming brain waves), and improve mental alertness while promoting relaxation,67,68 L-theanine has also been shown to induce feelings of tranquility in subjects69 and have a direct anti-stress effect via the inhibition of cortical neuron excitation (50–200 mg).70

Lemon balm
The herb lemon balm is often used as a mild mood elevator and calming herb in people with anxiety. It has been shown to improve attention and calmness in healthy volunteers.71 In human clinical research,72 600 mg lemon balm extract improved the negative mood effects of stress, with significantly increased self-ratings of calmness. Also, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (an umbrella organization representing national herbal medicine or phytotherapy [aka, herbal medicine] associations across Europe), lists tenseness, restlessness and irritability among the uses for lemon balm.73 The use of lemon balm as a brewed herb offers the additional benefit of delivering the herb as a warm beverage, adding to its soothing qualities.

Conclusion
The use of the nutraceuticals discussed in this article won’t guarantee that you will stick to your New Year’s resolution. You still need willpower and commitment. That being said, these nutraceuticals will provide you with extra support, and they may help you be more effective at adhering to your resolutions.

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