On Weight Loss Medication? You May Be Lacking in This Essential Nutrient

Updated: Feb. 13, 2024

A lesser-known side effect of popular weight loss medications is the potential for nutrient deficiencies, particularly concerning one major macronutrient that gets a lot of attention.

Weight loss medications like Wegovy and Ozempic have gained prominence for assisting individuals in shedding extra pounds—but with reduced food consumption comes a likely reduction in healthy ingredients you need, too.

Weight loss medications, often prescribed to individuals battling obesity or having difficulty losing weight through diet and exercise alone, may serve as tools to aid the weight-loss journey. According to the National Institutes of Health, weight loss medications function by suppressing appetite, increasing metabolism, or blocking the absorption of fat or calories.

However, as with most any medication, there are potential side effects. A lesser-known side effect of weight-loss medications is the potential for nutrient deficiencies, particularly concerning one of the three main macronutrients.

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Nutrient deficiencies and weight loss medications

Protein is the building block of our muscles and plays an essential role in various bodily functions, from cell repair and energy production to hormone synthesis.

One 2021 study in the highly regarded New England Journal of Medicine revealed that some users of semaglutide drugs such as Ozempic lost a significant amount—almost 40%—of lean body mass, including muscle and bone, as part of their overall weight loss.

However, this resulted in a healthier proportion of muscle to overall body weight.

It’s important to understand that most weight loss methods, not just drugs, can reduce muscle mass. This is one reason keeping an eye on your daily protein recommendation is vital for maintaining healthy muscles and bones.

8 Best High-Protein Lunch Ideas for Weight Loss

How to prevent nutrient deficiencies

Recognizing the importance of protein in your diet while you’re on weight loss medications is the first step. Here are ways to ensure you don’t fall short:

  1. Lean Proteins are Essential: Increase your intake of lean proteins. Think chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, soy and low-fat dairy. These sources are nutrient-dense, ensuring your body gets essential amino acids.
  2. Opt for Protein Drinks: If your weight loss medication leaves you without an appetite or even feeling nauseated, low-calorie protein drinks can be a fantastic way to ensure you get protein without feeling stuffed.
  3. Consistent Protein Intake: Eat protein throughout your meals and snacks, ensuring continuous support for muscle health.
  4. Holistic Approach to Weight Loss: Dr. Lawrence A. Wieger, DO, a medical bariatrician with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, advises that medications alone aren’t the answer. Integrate them with a foundation of behavioral and lifestyle changes: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, prioritize a high-protein breakfast, minimize sugary drinks, focus on whole foods while practicing mindful eating and prioritize sleep by targeting seven hours every night for a rested body and optimal metabolism.
  5. Nutrition and Regular Monitoring: Seek guidance from a registered nutritionist tailored to your protein needs and calorie goals. Also, maintain regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to ensure protein levels remain optimal and identify any potential deficiencies early on.

7 Best High-Protein Dinner Ideas for Weight Loss

The potential for nutrient deficiencies, particularly concerning protein, shouldn’t be overlooked with weight loss medications. By understanding the connection between protein and weight loss drugs, you can take proactive steps to ensure optimal health and success on your weight loss journey.

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