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What is Semaglutide? Benefits and Downsides

Semaglutide is a medication primarily prescribed by healthcare professionals to treat patients with type 2 diabetes, help specific people lose weight, and reduce significant heart problems such as heart attack or stroke.


This medicine belongs to a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, which mimic the action of a naturally occurring glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor hormone. In short, it is the synthetic form of GLP-1.


Currently, only three medications contain active semaglutide: Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus.


The first drug, Ozempic, was developed by Novo Nordisk and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. It is an injectable medication approved for treating type 2 diabetes.


Rybelsus was the second semaglutide medicine developed and approved in 2019 for treating type 2 diabetes. Unlike Ozempic, it was the first-ever oral GLP-1 receptor agonist for this purpose.


In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Wegovy, a more powerful portion of semaglutide. This drug is specifically used for weight loss purposes- help people with obesity or weight-related health problems lose weight. Like the other two forms of semaglutide, it is prescribed with a healthy diet and regular exercise.


How Does Semaglutide Work


Like the GLP-1 hormone, semaglutide works by increasing the secretion of the insulin hormone. When consumed, especially after meals when blood sugar is likely to rise, semaglutide prompts the body to release more insulin. The insulin released reduces blood sugar levels by supporting the entry of glucose into cells, which is used as energy or stored as fat for future use. 


In addition to regulating insulin production, semaglutide blocks the pancreas to reduce the secretion of glucagon hormone, which increases blood sugar levels by allowing the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream. This helps lower blood sugar levels and improve glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. 


Also, when semaglutide is released into the bloodstream, it slows the rate at which food leaves the stomach by slowing down the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract into the bloodstream.


Slow stomach emptying can make you feel full for a long time and reduce appetite, preventing overeating, which might lead to weight loss.


Furthermore, semaglutide interacts with GLP-1 receptors in the brain to regulate appetite and fullness.



Top 3 Semaglutide Benefits


Below are three main benefits of semaglutide.


1. Promote Weight Loss


Semaglutide is the most effective medicine for weight loss when combined with a healthy lifestyle, such as healthy eating and exercising.


First, semaglutide mimics the action of the natural hormone GLP-1, which plays a significant role in controlling appetite.  When consumed, it provokes the pancreas to release insulin hormone, which is vital in facilitating the transportation of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. By promoting the entry of glucose to cells, semaglutide helps regulate blood sugar, which may reduce the likelihood of sudden energy alteration that can trigger cravings for high-calorie foods, leading to weight loss.


Semaglutide also activates GLP-1 receptors in the brain, enhancing the feeling of satiety and fullness and reducing overall food intake. This reduction in appetite helps individuals consume fewer calories, contributing to weight loss over time.


Additionally, it slows gastric emptying, the process by which food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. This slower emptying rate contributes to prolonged satiety after meals, further helping to control appetite. 


Through these combined effects, semaglutide effectively supports weight loss by making individuals feel fuller longer, decreasing their desire to eat, and promoting healthier eating habits.


Researchers conducted a study with over 300 participants to show that semaglutide is effective for weight loss. 78% were female, with an average age of 47,106 kg and an average body mass index of 38.5 kg/m².


The study examined semaglutide’s efficacy using two distinct methodologies. The ‘treatment policy’ estimand approach examined the effects of semaglutide on every participant in the study, irrespective of whether they discontinued the drug or underwent other weight loss interventions.  The second strategy, known as the “trial product,” is to estimate the efficacy of semaglutide when taken as prescribed. The participants were taking once-weekly subcutaneous semaglutide 2.4 mg versus placebo.

According to the treatment policy’ estimand, after 104 weeks, semaglutide substantially decreased body weight compared to the placebo. Individuals on semaglutide dropped a standard of 15.2% of their starting body weight, compared to 2.6% for those on a placebo. Additionally, semaglutide individuals had a higher chance of losing at least 5% of their body weight.


However, you should note that higher amounts of semaglutide are likely to cause more significant weight loss than the small doses given through Rybelsus or Ozempic.


2. Improved Blood Sugar Control


Semaglutide stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas when blood sugar levels are elevated and reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver. This dual action helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.


Stable blood sugar levels are crucial for bodybuilders, as they help maintain consistent energy levels throughout workouts and recovery periods. Fluctuating blood sugar can lead to energy crashes, which can affect performance and endurance.



3. Improves Cardiovascular Health 


Semaglutide has been shown to offer cardiovascular benefits. Clinical studies suggest that it can reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, particularly in individuals with type 2 diabetes who are at high risk for these conditions. It improves lipid profiles, reduces inflammation, and improves systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It also lowers fasting plasma glucose and glycated hemoglobin, reducing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke risk.


Cardiovascular health is vital for bodybuilders, as a strong heart and efficient circulation are crucial for optimal performance and recovery. Improved cardiovascular health means better endurance during workouts, more effective nutrient delivery to muscles, and faster recovery times, all of which support bodybuilders in maintaining peak physical condition.


FDA-approved Semaglutide for Weight Loss


Semaglutide, initially developed for managing type 2 diabetes, has been approved by the FDA for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy. Since its approval, it has shown significant efficacy in promoting weight loss, making it a valuable treatment option for individuals struggling with obesity and related health conditions.


When provided as Ozempic or Rybelsus, its purpose changes to the treatment of type 2 and reduction of the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or death.


Semaglutide Side Effects  


Like any medication, semaglutide may cause side effects. Common side effects include:


1. Nausea and Vomiting


Nausea is one of the most common adverse side effects of semaglutide medicine. According to research, about 20% of people taking it to treat type 2 diabetes experience nausea. Vomiting also occurs but is not as rampant as nausea.


For bodybuilders, nausea can disrupt meal timing and nutrient intake, impacting muscle recovery and growth. Vomiting, on the other hand, can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which are critical concerns for bodybuilders as they can impair performance and recovery.


If you take the semaglutide version for weight loss in large doses, nausea is likely to occur. The higher doses slow gastric emptying, which can cause discomfort as the stomach remains fuller for extended periods, leading to vomiting.


To minimize this, start with a lower dose and gradually increase it, allowing the body to adjust. Eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than large ones can also help.


2. Diarrhea


Diarrhea is also a common side effect of semaglutide, which affects 9% of people taking it for type diabetes and 30% of individuals taking it for weight loss. The symptoms occur as the gastrointestinal system adjusts to the higher dosage of semaglutide medication. If not managed properly, it can lead to dehydration and nutrient loss.


Staying hydrated and avoiding foods that irritate the stomach, such as high-fat and spicy foods, can help prevent diarrhea. Your healthcare provider should also gradually increase your dose with time.


3. Constipation


Constipation can occur, but it is less common than diarrhea. It happens because semaglutide slows down gastric motility, which reduces with time.


However, if constipation stays long, make a few adjustments to your daily routine, such as consuming enough dietary fiber and staying well-hydrated. Regular physical activity also helps promote bowel movements.  


4. Abdominal Pain


Abdominal pain may result from the gastrointestinal effects of semaglutide, such as slowed gastric emptying and increased satiety. Gradual dose escalation and dietary modifications, such as avoiding large meals and high-fat foods, can help minimize this pain. If the pain persists, call your healthcare provider right away


5. Headache


Semaglutide does not directly cause headaches, but there are some specific side effects of semaglutide, like changes in blood sugar levels or dehydration, that might cause headaches.


Maintaining adequate hydration and stable blood sugar levels through regular balanced meals is essential to minimize this.


6. Fatigue

Fatigue may result from the body’s adjustment to new blood sugar levels and the overall metabolic changes induced by semaglutide. It is mainly a side effect of Wegovy, with 11% of individuals consuming it in clinical trials experiencing it. Less than 5% of people taking Ozempic also experienced fatigue.


Ensuring adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and gradual dosage escalation can help mitigate fatigue. Additionally, monitoring blood sugar levels and adjusting the diet to maintain energy levels throughout the day is crucial.


7. Thyroid Tumors


Semaglutide has been linked to an increased risk of thyroid C-cell tumors, including medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), in rodent studies. This risk has not been conclusively established in humas but is considered a potential concern. The exact mechanism is unclear, but it may involve the prolonged activation of GLP-1 receptors in the thyroid.


Individuals with a personal or family history of MTC or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) should avoid using semaglutide. Regularly monitoring thyroid function and symptoms, such as neck swelling or difficulty swallowing, is also crucial.


 8. Allergic Reactions


Allergic reactions to semaglutide can range from mild skin rashes to severe anaphylactic reactions. These occur because the immune system mistakenly identifies the drug as harmful, triggering an allergic response.


Before starting semaglutide, you should inform your healthcare provider about known allergies. If a mild allergic reaction occurs, antihistamines may help. For severe reactions, immediate medical attention and discontinuation of the drug are necessary.


9. Kidney Damage


While research has shown that semaglutide may benefit your kidney if you have Type 2 diabetes, semaglutide can still cause dehydration, particularly due to gastrointestinal side effects like vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration can reduce blood flow to the kidneys, potentially leading to acute kidney injury (AKI).


However, kidney damage primarily occurs in people who are already having kidney problems or those taking diuretic medications that get rid of excess water.


Staying well-hydrated and managing gastrointestinal side effects can help prevent dehydration. Regular monitoring of kidney function through blood tests is recommended.



10. Hair Loss


Hair loss is a less common side effect and may be indirectly related to semaglutide’s effects on nutrient absorption and metabolic changes. Significant weight loss and changes in diet can also contribute to hair loss. 


This side effect commonly affects those taking the Ozembic or Wegov version of semaglutide. According to studies, about 3% of those taking these medications have experienced hair loss. 


Ensuring adequate nutrition, including sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals, can help minimize hair loss. Biotin supplements and proper hair care routines may also be beneficial.






Semaglutide offers several benefits that can be advantageous for bodybuilders, including improved blood sugar control, enhanced weight loss, cardiovascular health benefits, and improved insulin sensitivity. These effects support overall health and contribute to better performance, endurance, and body composition, making semaglutide a valuable addition to your regimen under proper medical guidance.


While semaglutide offers significant benefits for weight loss and blood sugar control, it can have several side effects, including diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, kidney damage, and fatigue.


To minimize most side effects and maximize the benefits of semaglutide, gradual dose escalation, dietary adjustments, and proper hydration are recommended. Also, always consult with a healthcare provider to tailor these strategies to your needs and ensure the safe and effective use of the medication.






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