The Perfect Pair: Meal Replacements and Weight Loss Medications
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
While diet and exercise remain the cornerstones of any successful weight loss program, the integration of meal replacements and weight loss medications has emerged as powerful companions.
If you are a health care professional working with patients who are overweight, you are likely experiencing frequent questions about anti-obesity medications. Specifically, FDA approved GLP-1 agonist weight loss medications including semaglutide.
These medications, which were originally developed to manage diabetes, have attained much attention for their ability to induce weight loss. This is due to their ability to regulate appetite, promote satiety, and control glucose metabolism, making them a promising option for individuals struggling with obesity and weight related co-morbidities. These medications have also given new hope to many individuals who struggle with their weight, creating quite a demand.
Thus, it is no surprise that researchers forecast the GLP-1 weight loss medication market will exceed $100 billion by 2030, driven equally by diabetes and obesity usage. In fact, it is predicted that the total GLP-1 users in the U.S. may number 30 million or approximately 9 percent of the overall population by the same date.1
Nonetheless, as you understand, and studies show, a proper diet and lifestyle changes are necessary for long term weight loss success. While to some “the shot” may seem to be the magic solution they have been searching for, optimal outcomes still require doing the right things when it comes to behavior. The role of obesity medicine specialists has never been more important — using evidence-based research and clinical expertise to guide patients and the weight loss industry through these ever-changing times.
Why are Meal Replacements and Weight Loss Medications a Perfect Pair?
The use of quality meal replacements for individuals on weight loss medications — and anyone seeking weight loss — have been shown to be extremely effective.2,3 Overall, meal replacements provide portion-controlled, nutritionally balanced options for meals and snacks — especially for those who desire convenient, quality nutrition that supports their weight loss and/or weight maintenance goals.
Individually, meal replacements and weight loss medications each offer advantages. However, it is their combined effect that truly harnesses the power of this duo. Below are some important reasons why:
- Adequate Nutrition: When your appetite is suppressed by medication, it can be difficult to maintain an adequate intake of essential vitamins and macronutrients. Quality meal replacements are formulated to provide a balanced mix of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, while still supporting weight loss. They enhance satiety and promote portion control while being extremely convenient. Meal replacements also help mitigate the risk of nutrient deficiencies. They support those with suppressed appetites by providing choices that are just the right portions with the essential protein and nutrients they need.
- Maintenance of Lean Body Mass: Avoiding loss of lean body mass for any weight loss plan is important for overall metabolism, physical function, bone health, and even glucose metabolism. Thus, during any plan that results in weight loss, it is essential to take measures to maintain or even increase lean body mass. Resistance training is a great way to do so as well as the intake of adequate protein. High quality, delicious meal replacements include a proper macronutrient balance along with a sufficient amount of protein. Using meal replacements with weight loss medications can help patients achieve their weight loss goals while safeguarding their lean body mass.
- Enhanced Satiety: Weight loss medications, such as GLP-1 agonists, mimic the action of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1, which regulates appetite and satiety. These medications stimulate GLP-1 receptors in the brain, leading to reduced appetite and feelings of fullness. When patients taking such medications integrate meal replacements, they tend to experience prolonged feelings of satiety after meals, yet are able to ingest balanced nutrition with a smaller volume of food.
- More Energy: Weight loss medications — particularly GLP-1 agonists — can pose a challenge by potentially reducing energy levels due to their appetite-suppressing effects, which may result in lower caloric intake. However, when combined with meal replacements, this energy depletion can be minimized or eliminated altogether. This is because despite consuming fewer calories, they are receiving the quality vitamins and balanced macro and micro nutrients they need.
- Education and Support: The use of weight loss medications and meal replacements in weight management provides the opportunity and necessity for ongoing education and support to ensure an optimal outcome. While some patients may not seek education and support, it is important to provide such services and engage them throughout the process. This relates to medication instructions, mechanisms of action, and potential side effects. It also includes education regarding the benefits of meal replacements, their nutritional value, and how to successfully integrate them into their weight loss plan.
The synergistic approach of combining weight loss medications with meal replacements helps your patients achieve their weight loss goals while maintaining optimal nutrition and overall health. They are a dynamic and powerful duo that enhances patient outcomes, particularly when combined with fitness, education and ongoing support.