Weight loss drugs can lead to muscle loss, too. Is that a bad thing?

Melissa Eide

Excess weight decline prescription drugs have soared in popularity in the previous calendar year, helping some reduce remarkable quantities of weight — but not all that weight is body fat. 

Some of that is basically lean mass, which is all the things in the body that is not excess fat, such as your bones, organs and, importantly, muscle. 

“When we seem at body weight reduction from any intervention, about one particular-3rd of the weight we eliminate tends to be lean mass, and that can be problematic,” explained Dr. Jaime Almandoz, an associate professor of inside medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at UT Southwestern Professional medical Centre in Dallas. That lean mass reduction is frequently from muscle mass. “Lean mass is much healthier and associated with greater metabolic rate, so when we get rid of lean mass, we may well get rid of some of that functionality.”

The far more muscle mass mass a individual has, the superior the resting metabolic rate, or the selection of calories a individual burns at relaxation. When a particular person loses muscle mass, the resting metabolic amount decreases, far too.

“If you can keep your muscle mass mass, you could have much more sustained pounds decline since your metabolic charge would not be reduced,” stated Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Complete Weight Regulate Middle at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. 

Two prescription drugs in unique have taken off for body weight decline: semaglutide and tirzepatide. Semaglutide is the drug found in Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy tirzepatide is the drug in Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro. The drugs perform in a bit various methods, but both of those suppress hunger, creating people today to eat much less calories.

Losing bodyweight has advanced effects on the overall body, in particular all through the first phases. The more pounds a individual loses all through a brief time period of time, the much more muscle mass mass they’ll shed in addition to excess fat, Almandoz said.

When the human body is not receiving as a great deal electrical power from food stuff, it pulls from reserves of vitality saved as body fat and muscle mass, beginning mainly with excess fat. When it’s typical for some of this more energy to be pulled from muscle, the body may possibly have to have to pull more electrical power from muscle mass if a man or woman is dropping a significant amount of money of body weight rapidly, these as 5 to 10 kilos a week as an alternative of all-around 2 lbs.

“That’s why we check out to emphasize sluggish, regular pounds loss somewhat than brief excess weight reduction, where you are additional very likely to pull from your vitality stores” in muscle, claimed Dr. Jonathan Purnell, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the Oregon Health and fitness and Science College Knight Cardiovascular Institute in Portland. Purnell has carried out consulting operate for Novo Nordisk, according to the Facilities for Medicare & Medicaid Solutions.

“It’s also a perform of how low you go,” he mentioned. “Once you enter into the nutritious BMI assortment, you’re a lot more likely to be pulling from the lean stores.”

Why muscle mass mass is important 

Despite concerns about muscle mass reduction, at the conclude of the spectacular weight decline period of time, persons may perhaps basically have a more healthy overall body composition, that is, the ratio of lean mass — specifically muscle —compared to fats. 

“While lean mass reduction is regarding, at the conclusion, you may well actually end up with a little extra lean mass in comparison to other parts this kind of as physique body fat,” explained Almandoz, who has worked as a specialist for Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. 

Which is crucial since “the harm from being overweight doesn’t appear from enhanced muscle, it arrives from enhanced fats mass, significantly in the abdomen,” according to Aronne, who is a marketing consultant for Eli Lilly. Figuring out how to drop unwanted fat but not muscle mass would be the “holy grail” of fat decline, he stated.

A 2021 clinical trial that tested the fat loss effects of Wegovy found that even though about 40% of the excess weight people today misplaced tended to be lean mass, such as muscle mass, at the end of 68 months, persons who took the drug had a lower hazard of coronary heart illness and superior bodily operate in contrast to a placebo team.

“Although lean body mass, which includes muscle mass, diminished in complete conditions, the proportion of lean physique mass relative to whole overall body mass elevated,” Allison Schneider, a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, the maker of Wegovy and Ozempic, mentioned in an e-mail.

Studies confirmed identical benefits for the drug tirzepatide, which is offered beneath the brand name title Mounjaro. In a section 3 scientific demo, “a reduction in lean mass was described at a very similar amount as what is found in life style-centered treatments for obesity,” Jessica Thompson, a spokesperson for tirzepatide-maker Eli Lilly, claimed in an emailed statement.

A new investigation of facts from the similar demo found that right after 72 months of having the drug, about 25% of the excess weight members dropped was lean mass. On the other hand, the members experienced an general healthier entire body composition. Aronne, who worked on the demo, presented the conclusions this 7 days at the European Congress on Obesity in Dublin. The examination has not however been published in a peer-reviewed journal. 

How to sustain muscle mass mass when dropping bodyweight

There are ways to mitigate lean mass decline during bodyweight reduction, and folks more mature than 60 who are previously much more inclined to muscle mass reduction require to be specifically mindful of setting up muscle, claimed Dr. Juliana Simonetti, co-director of the In depth Fat Management Method at the University of Utah in Salt Lake Town. 

1 way is to make absolutely sure you are feeding on sufficient protein, which can be challenging to do although utilizing weight loss medications. Protein is the building block of muscle mass with out more than enough of it, muscle tissue aren’t capable to establish and maintenance them selves.  

Folks should purpose to get 60 to 80 grams of protein just about every working day, which can be difficult to do via eating plan by yourself, Purnell claimed. 

Simonetti said she suggests wanting for protein health supplements, this sort of as protein powders, that are small in sugar and have at minimum 20 grams of protein per serving.

Exercise, precisely resistance instruction, is also a crucial component of sustaining muscle mass mass for the duration of body weight decline, she reported. 

Latest information on fat loss prescription drugs

  • States are threatening to crack down on copycat variations of Ozempic and Wegovy
  • Some men and women taking excess weight decline medicine say they are experiencing hair loss
  • Ozempic shortages? Some pharmacists are picking not to stock the drug at all

Complicating matters is that it’s hard to ascertain regardless of whether you are shedding excess weight from fats or muscle without having distinctive equipment. That’s why individuals on these medication should stay in close get hold of with their overall health care team, Simonetti stated. If you are shedding body weight at a quick speed, you are likely getting rid of muscle mass mass, as well. 

“People really should have a healthcare workforce concerned when they use these medicines so they can keep track of not only muscle mass reduction, but also kidney functionality, salt and electrolytes,” all of which can be thrown off by remarkable body weight reduction, she explained. Nausea — a common aspect influence of pounds decline medicines — can also indicate acute kidney failure if a human being is not ingesting ample water, she included.

There are currently no tips for medical professionals counseling sufferers on excess weight loss medication. For now, several health professionals, like Purnell, base their tips on pointers for bariatric surgical procedure clients, given that the fat decline results of surgery are comparable to all those viewed with the new excess weight decline medicine. 

Almandoz reported that due to the fact the medications can cause spectacular body weight decline, medical professionals need investigation-backed recommendations about regardless of whether or not they must inform people today on the medications to choose added vitamins or other vitamins. It is also unclear how these tips may be various for more mature folks. 

“There are a good deal of unknowns with these drugs but we do know that they are powerful and they do convey metabolic benefits and enhancements in top quality of everyday living,” he reported. Follow NBC Wellness on Twitter & Facebook

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