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Ozempic and muscle loss: Building strength while shedding pounds

1 min Read

Taking Ozempic (semaglutide) for weight loss? You’re already on your way to success. This potent GLP-1 weight-loss medication works wonders by curbing cravings, keeping you fuller for longer, and ultimately supporting sustainable weight loss. It’s a helpful tool for those struggling with overeating or constant hunger. But along with the positive changes, there are also […]

Ozempic and muscle loss

Taking Ozempic (semaglutide) for weight loss? You’re already on your way to success. This potent GLP-1 weight-loss medication works wonders by curbing cravings, keeping you fuller for longer, and ultimately supporting sustainable weight loss. It’s a helpful tool for those struggling with overeating or constant hunger. But along with the positive changes, there are also valid concerns about Ozempic and muscle loss. 

Here’s what you need to know … While it’s true that muscle depletion can occur with GLP-1s like Ozempic, it isn’t inevitable. By understanding the reasons behind potential muscle loss and incorporating some simple yet effective strategies, you can build strength and optimize your journey, achieving the lean, healthy physique you desire while reducing the real health risks of muscle loss.

So, why the Ozempic and muscle-loss murmurings?

Initially used for helping people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels, Ozempic is typically injected once a week. It works by mimicking a gut hormone that signals to your brain that you’re full. This reduces overall calorie intake, which is superb for shedding pounds. 

However, when calorie intake decreases, your body goes into resource-conservation mode, prioritizing energy for vital functions like brain and heart activity. Muscles can be seen as less essential in this scenario, potentially leading to some decrease in mass.

How to protect your muscles while on Ozempic

Muscle loss doesn’t have to happen. Here are three can-do strategies to help you maintain – or even build – muscle while on Ozempic, all within the supportive framework of Noom’s unique approach.

1. Fuel your fitness with protein power

Think of protein as the building blocks of your muscles. When you’re exercising, your body needs even more of this precious resource to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. 

So, how much protein is enough? The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound. But for those who are losing weight, and especially for those on powerful medications like Ozempic, this number is felt to be inadequate. We recommend something more like 1 gram per pound.

Noom makes tracking your protein intake a breeze, and our tools, tips and recipes will help guide you toward protein-rich choices.

Here are some examples of protein-rich foods:

  1. Lean meats: Choose lean meat sources, such as chicken, turkey, lean beef, or pork. Trim visible fat to reduce overall calorie intake.
  2. Fish and seafood: Fish is an excellent source of protein and provides omega-3 fatty acids. Opt for options like salmon, tuna, or cod.
  3. Eggs: Eggs are a versatile and affordable protein source. Enjoy them boiled, scrambled, or whip up an omelet.
  4. Dairy products: Include dairy in your diet, such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and milk. These options are rich in protein and may also provide calcium.
  5. Plant-based proteins: Incorporate plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu into your meals. These are excellent options not only for vegetarians and vegans but for anyone.
  6. Nuts and seeds: Snack on a handful of nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, chia, and pumpkin seeds. They provide protein along with healthy fats.
  7. Quinoa: Quinoa is a tasty, versatile grain and a complete protein containing all essential amino acids – ideal for those who are vegan.
  8. Protein-rich snacks: Opt for protein-rich snacks like Greek yogurt with fruit, cheese with whole-grain crackers, or a protein bar.
  9. Protein supplements: If needed, consider protein supplements like protein bars, powder, or shakes. These can be convenient on-the-go options, especially for those with increased protein needs.

It’s important to include protein in every meal, whether it’s from animal or plant-based sources. This helps distribute protein intake throughout the day.

2. Support yourself with strength training

Cardio (like jogging and cycling) is excellent for burning calories, but it’s strength training that truly builds and preserves muscle mass. Aim for at least two sessions of strength training per week, focusing on the major muscle groups like your legs, chest, back, and arms.

Noom’s personalized workout plans suggest strength-training options for all levels, keeping things challenging and exciting. Remember, lifting weights doesn’t require a gym membership! Resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, and even household items like water bottles can work wonders. Just ensure proper form and gradual progression to avoid injury. Don’t be afraid to switch up your workout routine to keep things fresh and enjoyable. Remember, consistency is key, but so is preventing exercise burnout.

3. A mindset for muscle maintenance

Stress, sleep deprivation, and even boredom can negatively impact muscle growth. This is where Noom’s holistic approach shines. Take advantage of the app’s mindfulness techniques and mood trackers to identify and manage stress. Ensure adequate sleep – aim for 7-8 hours per night – to allow your body to recover, repair and rebuild muscle. And if you find your sleep isn’t restorative, discuss this with your doctor. Hidden conditions like sleep apnea can actually interfere with your weight loss progress. 

Bonus tip: Listen to your body

While Noom, psychology, and science provide valuable guidance, your body is your ultimate source of information. Pay attention to hunger cues, energy levels, and recovery times. If you feel overly fatigued or notice significant muscle loss, consult your clinician for personalized advice.

The takeaway on Ozempic and muscle loss

Ozempic can be a powerful tool for weight loss. With the right strategies while you’re taking it, you can prevent muscle loss and build a strong, healthy body. Your keys to success are: Embrace the protein, move wisely, prioritize your mental well-being, and listen to your body. 

Muscle maintenance while on Ozempic is not only possible, but it’s empowering, setting you on the path to a sustainable, rewarding weight-loss journey. So, keep at it, fuel your muscles, and confidently rock your Ozempic and Noom journey!

Note: Ozempic is not FDA approved for weight loss.


Linda Anegawa, MD is Noom’s Chief Medical Officer where she brings decades of experience in academic primary care, bariatrics, advisory board service, and leadership in digital health. She is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.