28th May 2024

3 Things You Need To Know About Exercise And Weight Loss Medications

Whether you are considering weight loss medications, already using them or are simply curious, you may be surprised to learn just how important the amount and type of exercise you do while using such drugs can impact your long-term weight and health results. Read on to find out more from The Fast 800 Exercise Manager, Pascal.

1. Include resistance training if you use weight loss medications

While exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, it has the potential to play a particularly crucial role in minimising one of the least desirable side effects of all GLP-1 weight loss medications – muscle loss. During any period of rapid weight loss, it’s common for a lot of the weight lost to be muscle. This can have significant health impacts particularly as you age, where mobility, fall prevention and strength are increasingly important.

One of the best ways to prevent muscle loss is to incorporate regular resistance training into your lifestyle.

There have been many studies, including a large meta analysis 1, indicating that resistance training mitigates muscle loss that occurs during caloric restriction, such as during periods of weight loss medication use.

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Benefits of resistance training

Regular resistance training will lessen the effects of, and can even prevent, muscle loss by promoting muscle growth, maintaining existing muscle tissue and improving its quality. It is recommended that 2-3 resistance workouts per week is sufficient to maintain or build muscle mass.

If you’re put off by the idea of lifting heavy weights in a gym, rest assured. You can achieve an effective resistance workout in the comfort of your living room, using your body weight alone. In fact, all of the resistance workouts on The Fast 800 Programme are designed to be done without a gym and with no or minimal equipment.

Maintaining muscle mass through resistance exercise is associated with better metabolic health, including improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Improving muscular functionality, increasing bone density and mobility through strength training is also an important factor for long-term health. It’s much easier to maintain muscle than build it back up once it has been lost, so resistance training should be a part of your weekly routine during periods of rapid weight loss, with or without weight loss medications.

2. You don’t need an ‘all or nothing’ approach

While many people on GLP-1 medications may not experience significant limitations in their ability to exercise, unfortunately, this does not apply to everyone. Many people at the beginning of a weight loss journey are also re-introducing themselves to exercise, and even seasoned exercisers may need to take things down a notch when hit with common side effects of weight loss medications, including fatigue and nausea.

Start with low-to-moderate intensity exercise and gradually increase the intensity and duration over time, prioritising resistance and strength building exercises. This approach can help prevent excessive fatigue and allow your body to adapt to increased activity levels.

If exercise is not already part of your routine, I would recommend starting with low impact and gentle exercises, such as the Low Impact Plans on The Fast 800 Programme.

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Focus on activities that you enjoy and look forward to, such as walking, cycling, dancing or group activities. These will boost your motivation, plus the variety and enjoyment will make it much more likely that you’ll keep exercising. The mental benefits of any kind of movement will also counteract the feelings of ‘flatness’ some people experience while taking weight loss medications, and anyway, who doesn’t want to feel good?

3. Consistency is key for long-term results

Consistency and moderation are key principles to follow when exercising during a significant change in calorie intake, such as when using GLP-1 medications; this will help increase your energy levels as time progresses and will prevent early burnout.

It is most important that you prioritise consistency across the week, with a schedule that you can maintain and build on over the long-term. On The Fast 800 Programme, we provide three follow-along resistance workouts per week which are tailored to your level of fitness. This is based on the back of many studies where it has been shown that resistance exercise programmes should consist of at least two full-body exercise sessions per week as a prevention strategy for muscle loss. This is in addition to two short High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions and an extended library of yoga, pilates and stretching videos.

Not only is exercise a great way to support your weight loss journey in the short-term, but for those using weight loss medications, it could have great long-term benefits. The combination of exercise and weight loss medication has been shown to improve healthy weight loss maintenance more than just either treatment alone. In a 2023 study, participants were studied to test the impact of consistent exercise for those using weight loss medications. Those who did consistent exercise during the study maintained their body weight and composition, even after supervised exercise stopped. In contrast, those who used weight loss medication without any consistent exercise gained weight2.

This indicates the importance of regular exercise both during and after weight loss medication to prevent weight gain following treatment.

Exercise isn’t just necessary for maximising weight loss, it is a key factor in building and maintaining a healthy body while losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Incorporating an exercise routine, like that on The Fast 800 Programme, into your weekly routines is very important for glucose control, your metabolism and maintaining muscle mass.

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