You might already be taking Saxenda® (liraglutide) or doing all the research you can before dipping your toe into prescription weight-loss medication. But, regardless of where you’re at in your weight-loss journey, you probably have questions about how they function in your body and if there are any lifestyle changes you may have to make when taking them.
With glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) like Saxenda, there aren’t specific diet restrictions or food and medication interactions you must follow. However, there are a few things you can do to help manage side effects and have the best experience while taking Saxenda for weight loss.
Here are a few recommendations about what foods to avoid while on Saxenda, and some helpful tips if you encounter any side effects.
Saxenda is the brand name for the active ingredient, liraglutide, a once-daily injectable med that comes in a prefilled pen. You can inject the Saxenda pen into your upper arm, upper thigh, or abdomen (stomach).
Saxenda is a part of the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (or GLP-1s for short) medication class. Your body naturally makes a GLP-1 incretin hormone to help control hunger and regulate your appetite. Liraglutide mimics the GLP-1 hormone, effectively managing your appetite and blood sugar and delaying gastric emptying—helping you to eat less and feel full longer—and making it easier to lose weight.
Saxenda is manufactured by Novo Nordisk and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 for the treatment of overweight and obesity in adults 18 or older who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or a BMI of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related condition like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or high blood pressure (hypertension).
Six years later, in 2020, the FDA approved Saxenda as a weight-loss med for the treatment of obesity in children ages 12 and older with a BMI comparable to 30 in adults and who weigh at least 132 pounds. For the patients taking it—children and adults—it’s meant to be prescribed concurrently with increased physical activity and a reduced-calorie diet.
There are no foods to avoid while on Saxenda. However, you should plan to combine it with healthy lifestyle changes like getting more exercise and being mindful of eating a healthy, more balanced diet. That said, there are a few foods and drinks to be more cautious of as you go through your Saxenda weight-loss journey. Here’s what to know.
Alcohol isn’t off-limits while taking Saxenda, but being mindful about your intake is super important because it’s working to help lower your blood glucose levels in your body. And guess what? Alcohol does the exact thing when you drink it, so you’ll have two substances in your body lowering your blood sugar. This could lead to super low blood sugar levels, which can be very dangerous. In fact, low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can lead to dizziness and fainting.
Another reason you need to be careful about how much alcohol you drink is that one of the severe side effects of Saxenda is pancreatitis. Alcohol can increase your risk of this disease. So, it’s best to drink in moderation—limiting your intake to two drinks a day for men and one for women—per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Those ultra-processed foods, like deli meats, chips, and other packaged snacks, tend to add a lot of salt and fat. This can cause more gastrointestinal side effects when taking Saxenda. Talk to your health care professional about what’s recommended for you. And listen to your body if you begin to feel sick or experience side effects after eating a certain food.
Liraglutide works to help lower blood sugar levels in your body and eating sugary foods and drinks like cupcakes, ice cream or soda can actually spike your blood glucose levels. That means that Saxenda and sugary foods or drinks work against each other. The key is to practice moderation wit hthese foods and drinks to ensure Saxenda works effectively in your body.
On top of that, excess sugar can lead to other increased side effects like nausea and diarrhea. So, consider how much you’re eating, and if you start to feel sick, you may be able to pinpoint what food or drink was the culprit.
Fried tend to be greasy, oily, and higher in saturated fats. That combination can cause nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems when taking Saxenda. In addition, if you’re taking Saxenda because you have a weight-related condition like high cholesterol, know that saturated fats can increase LDL cholesterol levels in your body. And according to the American Heart Association, high LDL levels can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke..
It’s important to be cautious when eating fast food and look at labels before trying specific foods to check for saturated fat levels when eating fried foods.
Let’s be real; dealing with any side effects isn’t fun. While most patients on Saxenda report the side effects begin to dissipate after the first few weeks, it’s still important to do what you can to make the time while your body gets used to the drug more manageable. Here are a few tips from the manufacturer on how to help:
Eat bland low-fat foods, like crackers, toast, and rice.
Eat foods that contain water, like soups and gelatin.
Don't lie down after you eat.
Go outside to get some fresh air.
As we’ve said, ask your health care professional for medical advice and about a meal plan that helps you meet your goals and is the best for you while taking Saxenda. Healthy eating is one part of weight management when it comes to chronic obesity and can help give you the most sustainable weight care journey. Chat with them about what prescription drugs you’re already taking and any medical conditions you have.
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GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s are effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history, eating behavior, lab work, and insurance coverage. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.