How to Approach Weight Loss Medications Like Wegovy & Mounjaro
As discussed in a previous article, there is a significant shortage of weight loss medications in the US and worldwide. Some of you reading this article have started or eventually may start an injection-based weight loss regimen. This can reinforce the results of your bariatric procedure or can be pursued as a part of a standalone medical weight loss program. GLP-1 agonists like Semaglutide (Ozempic® & Wegovy®) have shown promising results in helping diabetic and obese patients, respectively, and are FDA approved for those diagnoses. We have previously discussed how these medications are used and sometimes abused by those who do not qualify for treatment and should probably focus on diet and exercise to lose the relatively small amount of weight they desire. However, there are also considerations to follow if you are approved to take these drugs due to obesity or diabetes.
Not A Silver Bullet
First, we can’t see these drugs as a silver bullet or solution to our excess weight issues. Ultimately, as you may know, or have read, you may begin to regain weight when you stop them. Medications do not permanently target the root problem, and you still have to work hard to lose weight longer-term. So, let’s look at precisely what that work entails.
What You Eat
Remember that while you will almost certainly consume fewer calories because you will not be as hungry, these medications do not regulate what you eat. Many patients believe that since they are not experiencing hunger pangs and losing weight, they can liberalize their diet and eat otherwise unhealthy foods. There are two significant concerns associated with this. If you are overweight, you are already at risk for cardiovascular disease. Consuming high saturated fat and high sugar foods only contributes to this risk by increasing cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the risk of atherosclerosis, or the occlusion of arteries. Also, if you eventually stop using the weight loss drug, you will likely regain weight quickly and dramatically if you continue this diet. Instead, you must look at these weight loss medications as a temporary help to allow you to change your diet and lifestyle. Lifestyle changes almost invariably mean reducing your consumption of alcohol and sugar, quitting smoking, and exercising, including cardio and strength training workouts.
Muscle Mass Considerations
Muscle mass is a critical part of continued bone and joint health and helps you lose additional weight by burning calories a rest. When taking these weight loss medications, you will be less hungry and most likely forgo many protein-rich foods, including lean meats, fish, and more. These foods are critical to many bodily functions. However, significant and rapid weight loss can quickly diminish muscle mass. In other words, rather than your body consuming carbohydrates and fats as energy, it may be breaking down muscle to keep you going. Protein is essential whether you are on these medications or not, and taking the time to exercise, especially with strength training, will do wonders for your health now and in the future.
Often, when we don’t feel hungry, we also don’t drink, but our bodies are made up of 60+ percent water, and even a slight deficit in hydration can cause significant physical and psychological adverse effects. It’s vital that even though you’re eating less and you may not feel very thirsty, you drink the recommended amount of water daily, which can be anywhere from 64 to 80 fluid ounces assuming you don’t live in weather extremes. This doesn’t account for workouts, which may require consuming even more. While coffee and tea hydrate you, caffeine is also a diuretic that removes water from the body via urine. Ensure you drink a little extra water if you consume caffeine.
Can They Get You to a Healthy BMI?
If you are morbidly obese, with a BMI of 45, 50, or higher, it’s essential that you speak to a qualified weight loss specialist to understand if it makes sense to take these medications over the long term. For one, while they will allow you to lose a significant amount of weight, it’s unlikely that you will return to a normal BMI. In these cases, bariatric surgery may be more advantageous, ultimately offering more significant long-term potential weight loss. It’s also worth speaking to a bariatric surgeon because, with weight loss, the risks of bariatric surgery are dramatically reduced. Remember that even a five or 10% drop in body weight can change the surgical paradigm significantly.
Lastly, all medications have side effects, which is no different from these weight loss medications. Please read the warning label for your prescription to ensure that you address these potential problems before they become a significant concern.
We encourage you to contact us to learn more about weight loss, medications, and the possibility of bariatric surgery for those with higher BMIs. Most importantly, be sure to ask lots of questions of your doctor when you have been prescribed these medications to ensure that your weight loss is effective and safe.