In general, I advise readers to steer clear of fad diets and supplements. They usually promise much and deliver little in terms of meaningful weight-loss. With that said, I’ve noticed a supplement that keeps popping up in research circles that’s worth investigating.
Let’s unpack the findings on the popular supplement calcium pyruvate.
Calcium pyruvate is a natural substance made in our bodies. It contributes to healthy metabolism and the digestion of carbohydrates.1Most important, it’s the compound that initiates the Kreb’s Cycle, which in turn generates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the cell’s vital source of energy.
Because pyruvate is involved in producing energy in your body, it stands to reason that taking it as a supplement might increase your rate of energy and fat burning.
What Does the Research Say?
In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave a group of 14 obese women a diet of 1,000 calories per day that consisted of 68 percent carbohydrates and 22 percent protein for 21 days.2 This is a lean diet, well below the intake recommended for even a sedentary woman, much less someone who is active.
Half of the women in this study took 30 grams of pyruvate each day. The other half took a placebo. The women in the pyruvate group lost nine pounds of fat while the women in the control group lost six.
Statistically, the group who took calcium pyruvate had a 48 percent higher weight loss or about an extra 3.2 pounds. The results are promising, until you dig into the details.
You see, the women taking pyruvate consumed a whopping 30 grams (six teaspoons) per day of the calcium pyruvate supplement. Besides surpassing the common five grams per day recommendation, the cost of buying so much pyruvate would be very high. Not to mention, there could be side effects.
Besides that, a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet is simply not sustainable for most people and frankly, isn’t even healthy over the long term. The USDA recommends that active adult women consume double that, between 1800 to 2400 calories each day. For adult men, the recommendation is 2400 to 2800 calories per day. For sedentary people, the recommendations are about half those figures, but still higher than a thousand calories.
Plus, there’s another gap in the study, because it’s unclear whether the supplement has any effect when paired with the recommended daily calorie diet. And that’s the key question, after all – not how it works on a spartan diet.
Pyruvate and Exercise
Other research has investigated the potential weight loss benefits of pairing calcium pyruvate with exercise.
A study published in the journal Nutrition suggests that calcium pyruvate can help with weight loss when starting an exercise program.3
Researchers divided 23 non-exercising women into two groups: one that took five grams of pyruvate twice a day and the other that took a placebo twice a day.
They all exercised for 30 days, engaging in a 45-minute walking test at 70 percent of VO2 pre-training maximum.
VO2 maximum is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise. It is a common measurement used to establish the aerobic endurance of an athlete prior to or during the course of training.4
So, did the group who were supplementing lose more fat or up their exercise performance levels? Not really.
The study concludes that no significant differences were observed between the two groups. The authors wrote, “Supplementation during training does not significantly affect body composition or exercise performance and may negatively affect some blood lipid levels.”
In a larger review, researchers stated that limited evidence exists about the safety of pyruvate.
To that point, in a study published in the Critical Review Food Science and Nutrition Journal, researchers concluded that “the magnitude of the effect (of pyruvate) is small, and its clinical relevance is uncertain. Adverse events included gas, bloating, diarrhea, and increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.”5
My loyal readers can attest to my aversion to lose-weight-quick schemes. But that’s not to say many people can’t benefit from shedding a few pounds. Research shows that even a weight loss of five percent can have significant health benefits, including reduced joint pain, lower risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, lower levels of dangerous inflammation that’s linked to Alzheimer’s and other health problems, and the list goes on and on.6
However, I don’t think calcium pyruvate is the answer.
We offer plenty of evidence-based weight-loss tips on these pages, ranging from how to feel full on less food, to the importance of keeping down stress, and the value of a daily weigh-in.
When in doubt, cut out sugar and processed foods, minimize carbs, and instead, eat a diet rich in whole foods such as lean meats, beans, more fruit and vegetables—and for good measure throw in daily exercise and a regular sleep schedule. Those steps will go a long way to helping you reach your weight loss goals.
I’m also going to add that, if you don’t have a weight problem now, jump through any hoops you can to stay that way. It’s infinitely harder to lose weight than it is to keep it off in the first place. The latter means following good eating habits for life – all the time, forever, until your body goes to room temperature.
By the way, if you do that, you’ll be able to indulge yourself without a care on a holiday or other special occasions without gaining weight. That’s a heck of a lot better than being overweight, feeling guilty about every bite, all the time, and STILL never getting down to the weight you want.
- Crit Rev Food SciNutr. 2014;54(1):17-23. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.565890