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Can You Build Muscle While Taking Semaglutide?

Examining the Effects of Semaglutide on Muscle Growth and Body Composition

Semaglutide can cause muscle loss while also helping people lose weight. To keep your hard-earned muscle while taking semaglutide, eat lots of protein, consider regular strength training, and have your doctor monitor your progress.

Semaglutide has become an increasingly popular medication for managing type 2 diabetes and facilitating weight loss. However, some studies suggest it may contribute to muscle loss as part of overall weight reduction. This raises an important question - can you actually build muscle mass while taking semaglutide?

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An Overview to Semaglutide

Semaglutide is an injectable drug that mimics the effects of GLP-1, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar and appetite. It was first approved by the FDA in 2017 for glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes. More recently, a higher dose of semaglutide (Wegovy) was approved specifically for chronic weight management.

While effective for weight loss, semaglutide appears to promote reductions in both fat mass and lean body mass like muscle. According to a 2021 systemic review and meta-analysis, semaglutide treatment was associated with up to 40% decrease in lean mass alongside fat loss. 

Schedule a consultation with our medical experts at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics to learn if semaglutide could be an effective weight management option for your health needs

Does Taking Semaglutide Mean You'll Lose Muscle?

semaglutide muscle growth

The potential muscle loss associated with semaglutide is especially concerning for those trying to maintain or build lean mass through exercise. However, with proper nutrition and training, it may be possible to counteract reductions in muscle while on semaglutide.

Research shows the importance of protein intake and resistance training for preserving muscle during weight loss. One study in Nutrients found that active adults taking semaglutide were able to maintain lean mass and muscle performance with a high protein diet (1.5g/kg) and consistent strength training. Subjects doing strength training while taking semaglutide even gained lean mass regardless of protein intake.

While more research is needed, current evidence suggests muscle loss may be preventable with tailored nutrition and exercise programs. The key is ensuring adequate protein intake to support muscle protein synthesis and doing regular resistance training to stimulate growth.

How Much Protein Do You Need When Taking Semaglutide?

Most experts recommend increased daily protein intake for individuals on semaglutide, especially those looking to build muscle. General protein intake guidelines include:

Recommended Protein Intake on SemaglutideDetails
1.2 - 1.5 g per kg of body weightFor most adults seeking to maintain muscle on semaglutide. Protein intake should be spread evenly throughout the day.
1.5 - 2.0 g per kgFor active individuals or athletes looking to build muscle mass while on semaglutide.
At least 25-30g of protein per mealTo maximize muscle protein synthesis, aim for at least 25-30g of high-quality protein per meal.

Consuming adequate protein while taking semaglutide may help counteract appetite suppression and reduced calorie intake. Protein foods tend to be very satiating as well.

Some examples of high protein foods include:

  • Lean meat, poultry, fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Beans, lentils, legumes
  • Tofu, tempeh
  • Protein powders

Get a customized nutrition plan from our weight loss specialists at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics to ensure you get adequate protein intake with semaglutide for maintaining or building muscle

Why Strength Training Is Critical On Semaglutide

semaglutide muscle growth

Resistance training provides the essential stimulus for building and maintaining muscle. It activates muscular and hormonal pathways that lead to muscle growth and increased strength over time. Strength training is even more critical while taking semaglutide to combat potential muscle breakdown.

Lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats is key for muscle gain and preservation during weight loss. Even 2-3 sessions per week can make a significant difference. Resistance training helps by:

  • Increasing muscle protein synthesis and promoting muscle growth
  • Improving hormone balance and boosting testosterone
  • Enhancing insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation
  • Burning additional calories and body fat

Any program that challenges your muscles with progressively heavier weights or harder bodyweight moves can build muscle effectively. Focus on training all major muscle groups - chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, core. Consider working with a certified trainer to design a tailored regimen based on your fitness level and goals.

Other Tips to Minimize Muscle Loss on Semaglutide

Aside from diet and exercise, other lifestyle factors influence muscle health:

  1. Get adequate sleep - Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Sleep is when your body repairs damaged muscle tissue and builds new muscle. Chronic sleep deprivation can reduce muscle protein synthesis.
  2. Manage stress - High levels of the stress hormone cortisol from chronic stress can negatively impact muscle growth and accelerate muscle breakdown. Utilize stress-relieving practices like meditation, yoga, or mindfulness.
  3. Consider supplements - Speak to a dietitian about supplements that may support muscle gain like creatine or certain amino acids. But whole foods should form the foundation of your diet.
  4. Stay well hydrated - Drink enough water daily to support muscle recovery and function. Dehydration can hinder protein synthesis.
  5. Listen to your body - Increase protein intake and resistance training intensity if you notice declines in strength or muscle mass. See a doctor if you experience significant muscle loss.
  6. Get sufficient vitamin D - Low vitamin D is linked to reduced muscle mass. Exposure to sunlight and food sources can help maintain optimal levels.
  7. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol - These can accelerate muscle loss and impair recovery from exercise.
  8. Optimize protein timing - Consuming protein before and after workouts may be ideal for muscle protein synthesis.
  9. Consider massage and foam rolling - These can alleviate muscle soreness and tension, reducing muscle breakdown.
  10. Prioritize injury prevention - Injuries that sideline your workout routine can result in atrophy. Support joint and muscle health.
  11. Allow for sufficient recovery - Balance strenuous training with rest days for muscles to fully regenerate and grow. Overtraining causes muscle loss.

Is Semaglutide Good For Building Muscle?

Semaglutide may not be the ideal choice if building significant muscle is your primary goal. The potential for unwanted muscle loss means alternative weight loss medications or natural methods like improved nutrition and more activity may be preferable for optimizing muscle gains.

However, with diligent protein intake and strength training, some muscle gain or maintenance is certainly possible on semaglutide. Speak to the experts at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics about your options if you are considering starting semaglutide while actively trying to build muscle mass. Closely monitor your body composition and strength levels.

Speak to our weight loss experts at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics to evaluate if semaglutide fits your muscle building objectives or if other alternatives may be better suited

How to Tell if You're Losing Muscle on Semaglutide

It's important to be aware of common signs that may indicate muscle loss while taking semaglutide:

  • Decreased strength - Having trouble lifting weights that felt easier previously
  • Reduced endurance and stamina during workouts
  • More fatigue during daily activities
  • Frequent muscle soreness with less exercise intensity
  • Changes in physique and muscle tone - Losing muscle definition in certain areas
  • Measurable loss of lean mass via body composition testing

Notify our doctors if you are experiencing any of these effects for a prolonged period while on semaglutide. They may recommend adjusting medication dosage, nutrition plan, or exercise program to help mitigate further muscle loss. 

Can Supplements Help Build Muscle on Semaglutide?

semaglutide muscle growth

Certain supplements may help counteract muscle loss, but should be considered secondary to whole food sources of protein, calories, and nutrients. Two supplements with evidence for muscle strength benefits include:

  1. Creatine

One of the most researched and effective supplements for improving exercise performance and muscle mass. It works by increasing strength output, muscle protein synthesis, and cell volumization. 

Dose5 grams per day is the recommended maintenance dose. Can load with 20 grams per day for the first 5-7 days.
TimingAnytime is fine, but pre- or post- workout may be optimal.
ResponseMost people benefit from creatine, but about 30% are non-responders. Requires adequate protein intake to be effective.
TypesCreatine monohydrate is the most studied. Creatine HCL or citrate may improve solubility.
SafetyConsidered safe for long-term use. Only side effect is water retention. Avoid it if you have kidney disease.
  1. Leucine

One of three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). It's the most potent for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. 

Dose2-5 grams with a meal or workout helps maximize muscle protein synthesis. Up to 10 grams daily.
TimingMost effective when consuming suboptimal protein, as it boosts synthesis. Also good pre/during workouts.
ResponsePeople with low protein intakes tend to benefit more than those already consuming ample protein.
SafetyGenerally safe at recommended doses. Excessive long-term intake may impact bone health or glucose metabolism.

Speak to one of our doctors before taking any new supplements, especially while on semaglutide. Make sure to emphasize muscular health and performance goals. Under a doctor's care, appropriate supplements combined with proper nutrition and training may support muscle gain or retention while taking semaglutide.

The Takeaway - Consult the Experts at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics

Dr. V of Dr. V Medical Aesthetics

Building muscle while taking semaglutide presents challenges but is achievable with proper nutrition, training, and lifestyle strategies. However, muscle loss or suboptimal muscle building may be indications to explore alternative weight loss options better suited to your goals.

The experts at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics can help determine if semaglutide is the right medication for your needs and goals. We offer customized weight management programs incorporating medication, nutrition planning, activity guidance and body composition testing.

Schedule a consultation today to review your health history and aesthetic objectives. Together we'll design an integrated plan to help you lose weight effectively while maintaining or gaining muscle mass.


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