How to Prevent Muscle Loss from GLP-1 Drugs

7.6 min read

Great at suppressing appetite and food cravings, GLP-1 drugs help you lose weight – but, they also cause unwanted muscle loss. This puts you at greater risk of illness, decreases quality of life, and makes weight loss harder to maintain. Luckily, experts say there are easy lifestyle habits you can adopt to help prevent muscle loss from GLP-1 drugs, known as Ozempic and Wegovy. And, these simple habits lead to more successful weight loss.

Between 20%-50% of weight lost on GLP-1 drugs is muscle loss.

GLP-1 Causes Muscle Loss: A Scientific Review

Medical professionals are concerned about the muscle loss associated with weight loss during GLP-1 medication use, sharing their review of 18 randomized controlled trials in the journal Current Diabetes Reviews. It’s noted that during GLP-1 medication use, muscle loss makes up 20% to 50% of weight lost.

How Muscle Loss Impacts Your Health: GLP-1 Drugs

Muscle loss from GLP-1 drugs negatively impacts:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Metabolic health
  • Physical function

Given the importance of muscle mass on your health and physical function, it’s important to find and incorporate into your lifestyle, factors that prevent muscle loss during GLP-1 medication use.

How Do GLP-1 Drugs Cause Muscle Loss?

According to endocrinologists, the muscle loss during GLP-1 or semaglutide medication use is not unique to the drug – it’s a consequence commonly seen in caloric restriction.

Often the dramatic weight loss from calorie restriction is a result of loss of both fat and muscle. As GLP-1 drugs suppress appetite and food cravings, you consume fewer calories. GLP-1 drugs effectively lead to drastic caloric restriction – a type of weight loss that negatively impacts muscle mass.

Interestingly, the studies found muscle loss is less when the calorie restriction is less drastic. You can achieve this by adopting healthy lifestyle habits that includes exercise and a eating plan that focuses on water-rich, nutritious, whole-foods (including those rich in protein, while limiting high-fat, -salt and -sugar foods). Learn more about this proven, healthy, long-term weight loss lifestyle.

How to Retain Muscle While Taking Weight Loss (GLP-1) Drugs

  • Healthy eating plan (with higher protein)
  • Resistance training
  • Endurance exercise

Should You Eat Protein to Prevent Muscle Loss When Taking GLP-1 Drugs?

A healthy eating plan with a focus on eating enough protein can help prevent muscle loss when taking GLP-1 drugs.

A study of 207 adults found those who ate a higher protein diet (1 g of protein, per kg of body weight, per day) they were able to retain more muscle than those who ate less protein. Plus, when the adults focused on protein, they also tended to eat more green vegetables, and less refined grains or added-sugar.

In other words, to prevent muscle loss from GLP-1 drugs eat nutritious, whole-foods, and include protein-rich options, while avoiding processed added-sugar foods.

Does this eating plan sound familiar? It should –  it is the nutritious, whole-food-focused eating plan you learn to incorporate into your lifestyle during your stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center. It’s one part of our personalized approach to help you develop the strategies you need to reach your health goals.

Best Exercises to Prevent Muscle Loss from GLP-1 Drugs

Both endurance and resistance-type exercise can prevent muscle loss during weight loss, and improve muscle strength, says research.

1. Endurance Exercise

Move daily – it’s good for you. Add a daily brisk walk of about one hour in length to preserve muscle mass, suggests preliminary evidence. If you keep this up for 3 months, your endurance training program may help you increase your muscle mass by 7% to 11%, according to research.

If you struggle to find space for regular physical activity in your day, you may need help. A shift in mindset, finding pain-free movements that are challenging, and setting small, attainable goals can help. Learn these strategies during expert-led workshops during your stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

2. Resistance-Training

Use resistance training (weights) to help prevent muscle loss. The science shows adding resistance training is helpful during caloric restriction to prevent muscle loss from GLP-1 drug use.

Start your resistance-training right. Motivating and pain-free movements from inspiring, highly-trained fitness experts at the Pritikin Longevity Center will help meet you where you are, and create a science-backed personalized exercise program to help prevent muscle loss.

Why the Success of Your Weight Loss Drugs (GLP-1) Depends on Exercise

The success of your weight loss depends on exercise. Yes, GLP-1 drugs effectively cause quick weight loss: research shows patients achieve weight loss of about 10% over 6 months of use.

However, it’s hard to stay on these medications because of the gastrointestinal side effects of GLP-1 drugs, and the high cost. Once off the drugs, the weight comes back. In fact, 1 year after discontinuing the use of GLP-1 drugs, patients regain two-thirds of their prior weight loss.

Worst of all, the weight gain is mostly fat. Fat is less helpful in your weight loss journey. Lean muscle mass is preferable, as it:

  • Burns more calories
  • Generates strength (movement, lifting items, sport)
  • Prevents injuries or falls

Exercise helps you maintain your weight loss. In fact, evidence shows the only way to maintain weight loss is with regular physical activity.

How to Prevent Muscle Loss from GLP-1 Drugs

With a tailored lifestyle plan you can reach your weight loss goals, and prevent muscle loss with GLP-1 drugs:

  • Personalized Eating Plan
  • Targeted, Achievable Fitness Program
  • Physician Supported Weight Loss
  • Small, Attainable Goals
  • Stress-Reduction Strategies
  • Endocrinologist Consultation
  • One-on-one Fitness Consultations
  • Structured, Small-Group Personalized Training
  • 40+ Fitness Electives (Yoga, Aquatics, Cycling)
  • Pain-free Functional Training
  • Exercise Excursions in Southern Florida

At the Pritikin Longevity Center, you get the personalized support you need. Visit The Pritikin Advantage: Maximize the Efficacy of Weight Loss Medications

Come talk with your entire team of physicians and health experts during your stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida.

With luxury accommodations, tropical gardens, pools and spa services, Pritikin is a wellness retreat that’s truly a life-changing experience.

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