With the new year unfolding, you’re fired up to set new wellness goals to shape your health. While some of us will dedicate extra time to improving diet and exercise, others will opt for weight loss drugs instead. Albeit the latter can be effective, GLP-1 drugs can also cause a loss in muscle mass. So what’s the best way to get in shape?
Improving your fitness and losing weight are among the top five most aspired New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes our hectic work lives make it hard to follow a workout routine.
According to a 2016 survey, more than half of Americans said they’re usually doing more than two things at the same time. Because life is so busy, many people now choose weight loss drugs over traditional routes of losing weight.
However, one of the most profound downsides of these drugs is that you don’t just lose fat. In fact, some research found a link between GLP-1 agonists and muscle mass loss.
What Are GLP-1 Drugs?
GLP-1 medications, formally known as glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists, are a drug classification that has been available for about 20 years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first GLP-1 Exenatide, also called Byetta, in 2005.
These GLP-1 drugs are primarily used to control blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes and can support weight loss if you have obesity. Most of these medications are injectables that are self-administered by the patients at home — whereby the drug is injected into fatty tissue, such as the abdomen. Most GLP-1s are injected only once weekly with some taken up to twice daily.
Weight Loss with GLP-1 Drugs
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 states now have an obesity prevalence in adults that is at or above 35% — a quickly increasing trend that is expected to worsen further. Statistics like these show just how important obesity prevention and weight loss treatments have become in recent years.
GLP-1 medications are certainly an option if you aim to reach your weight loss goal. Depending on the type and dosing of the GLP-1 agonist you’re using, you can lose varying amounts of weight.
A clinical trial conducted in overweight and obese patients taking Semaglutide resulted in a total body weight loss of almost 6% by month 3 and almost 11% by month 6.
GLP-1 and Muscle Mass Loss
While GLP-1 agonists are effective in helping patients lose weight, they don’t stop at body fat. Some research found that patients’ overall muscle mass percentage decreased as well after having initiated weight loss treatment with GLP-1 drugs.
A study that evaluated patients on Semaglutide and compared them to a group taking placebo found that patients on the GLP-1 lost 10.4% of body fat and 6.9% of lean mass.
Tirzepatide is another GLP-1 agonist with great weight loss potential, effective in curbing appetite and reducing body fat in patients. A trial conducted on patients taking Tirzepatide also determined that patients lost both body fat and lean mass on their weight loss journey.
Risks in Aging Patients & Patients with Low T
Rapid weight loss can be especially risky in aging patients as it can constitute accelerated loss of muscle mass. However, in elderly people, a sudden drop in muscle mass percentage can further significantly affect their living situation and threaten their independence.
But there are other groups at risk, including such that suffer from testosterone deficiency. After all, the male hormone testosterone is responsible for many bodily functions, including building muscle.
Patients with low testosterone can, therefore, struggle with the retention of muscle mass due to low production of in-house testosterone. Add in weight loss — which typically impacts adipose tissue and non-fat mass, and you’re doubling up on factors that can trigger an unfavorable loss of muscle mass.
Preserving Muscle Mass with Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
If a testosterone deficiency could lead to a loss in muscle mass, it was suggested that testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) could promote the synthesis of muscle and thus, increase your overall muscle mass percentage.
A small study in hypogonadal men found that after taking TRT for six months, all participants saw a mean increase of 20% in muscle mass. Similarly, further research also determined that TRT could boost the production of fat-free mass and increase muscle size in men with low T.
In addition, if you’re trying to gain muscle mass fast, you can engage in high-intensity workouts and consume foods high in protein, while ensuring you get plenty of sleep along the way.
Know What Drugs are FDA-Approved
Whatever your journey, consult with your healthcare provider about any weight loss goals and schedule regular physicals and in-office evaluations. GLP-1 agonists can effectively aid in achieving your weight loss goals but you should also be aware of potential side effects that could impact your health while on these drugs.
The FDA has approved a multitude of GLP-1 agonists, as well as TRT options — but what exactly does that mean? For a drug to be approved, the “review board,” made up of scientists and statisticians independently determines that a drug’s benefits outweigh its risks — thus making it available for access by the general population.
Nonetheless, you should remain under the supervision of a licensed physician during your weight loss journey. He’ll oversee any interventions and can keep a watchful eye on your metabolic and cardiovascular health while ensuring that no drastic declines in your muscle mass percentage occur.
Your Weight Loss Journey is Shaped by YOU
If you choose a GLP-1-type drug, keep in mind that rapid weight loss can adversely affect your muscle mass — but also that there are ways to gain muscle mass back and stay healthy.
Whether you want to lose weight with or without a GLP-1 medication, the best way to get ahead of your fitness goals is also making changes to your lifestyle, eating healthy foods, exercising, and avoiding excessive alcohol use. You can do it!
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