- Doctors have warned that people should try to preserve muscle while taking semaglutide for weight loss.
- Strength training is a key component of this, as is fat loss that does not involve medication.
- Gaining more muscle mass has myriad health benefits.
Doctors have warned that people taking weight-loss drugs such as semaglutide should do resistance exercises to prevent muscle loss.
The drug, which was originally created to help people manage type 2 diabetes, is sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy and is intended to be used in conjunction with lifestyle changes, including exercise. Along with similar drugs such as liraglutide, it has been deemed a “change agent” and has become so popular that it has led to shortages.
Just like losing weight without medication, taking steps to help the body preserve muscle is critical to ensuring a person loses fat, not just overall weight.
The goal when losing weight should be to change your body composition—the ratio of fat to muscle—and not just become a smaller version of “skinny fat,” personal trainer Luke Worthington previously told Insider.
Semaglutide is not a ‘magic bullet’
“Only a few studies of muscle loss have been done with semaglutide so far, but Japanese researchers reported that people lost half a kilogram of muscle after three months of taking the drug,” said Dr. Rob Newton, professor of sports medicine at Edith Cowan University. Australia, she told The Sydney Morning Herald. It’s a common problem with fat loss interventions.
“This also makes it necessary to prescribe resistance training to prevent muscle loss. But my concern is that semaglutide is seen as a magic bullet by some people and is not always combined with exercise.”
Having more muscle mass not only creates a “symmetrical” physique, but it’s also associated with lower risks of heart disease, diabetes and dementia, while excess fat and lower muscle mass have been linked to a host of health issues.
Leukopenia (age-related muscle loss) begins around the age of 35, so it’s important to face it.
Eating a high-protein diet and doing resistance exercises can help reduce muscle loss.
“There is little understanding that a healthy balance of muscle and fat is key to warding off chronic disease and long-term weakness,” Newton said. “Most chronic diseases are not caused by fat mass but by decreased muscle mass and inactivity.”
Priya Smithran, MD, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s department of medicine in Australia and chief of obesity medicine at healthcare provider Austin Health, echoed his views. “All medicines registered to manage obesity are intended to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise, and prescribers know this,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Muscle helps maintain weight loss
What’s more, having more muscle aids and losing weight, Newton said.
“Muscle loss caused by frequent dieting without exercise is one reason why it is so difficult to maintain weight loss in the long term,” he said.
Muscle is an active tissue and one of the main energy users in the body, he said, so our muscles use calories even when we’re at rest.