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Home » Blog » Fitness » GLP-1 Strength Training – Here’s Why It’s Important

GLP-1 Strength Training – Here’s Why It’s Important

GLP-1 weight loss medications are here to stay, there’s no questioning that. What is in question, though, is how to support those taking these medications so that they can look and feel their best and maintain their health throughout their medical weight loss journey.

As a certified personal trainer and macro nutrition coach, I am always advocating for a high-protein diet and an exercise program that emphasizes weight training, but this is becoming even more important as more and more people are using GLP-1s to gain control over their weight and bodies.

I want to preface this article by saying that I am not a doctor, I don’t have any specific qualifications in the GLP-1 field, but I do have a keen interest in educating myself on the topic and sharing that knowledge and education with others.

Recently, I’ve had many clients sign up for the FHM+ App who are taking GLP-1s and looking for a safe, reliable resource for strength training workouts and high protein recipes, both of which can be found in my app! 

I am beyond excited to help those on a medical weight loss journey to reach their goals and maintain their strength and body composition in the process. Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of education about GLP-1 strength training and its role in the weight loss process due mostly to the fact that these medications are relatively new in the weight loss space, however, we’re learning more every day!

Although research and studies on long-term use are lacking at this point in time, the evidence thus far is abundantly clear that we need to be smart, educated, and careful with GLP-1 usage, and that strength training while taking GLP-1s will play a critical role in this.

GLP-1s Aren’t a Magic Weight Loss Solution: There’s Still Work to Do

GLP-1 medications can help to suppress your appetite, which will lead you to eat fewer calories, which will result in weight loss. But we don’t just want to lose weight, we want to lose body fat. The goal should be to drop extra body fat while preserving the shape and tone of your body. Otherwise, a drastic drop in weight without strength training will leave you looking flat and your body will not be in an optimal state from an overall health perspective.

In order to encourage our bodies to drop fat vs muscle, we have to be sending the right signals. The signals required to maintain muscle tissue and pull extra energy from body fat are given through proper protein intake and consistent resistance training.

If you don’t prioritize changing your lifestyle habits while taking a GLP-1, when you go off the medication, the likelihood of regaining weight is high. The goal while taking a GLP-1 should be not to just lose weight, but to foster a healthy relationship with food, movement, strength, and your body composition so that you can continue to live a healthy, active lifestyle post-GLP-1.

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

It’s important to understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss. For the vast majority of us, when we want to lose weight, what we’re actually referring to is the desire to lose excess body fat. 

For optimal health and body composition, we want to decrease fat mass while maintaining and even increasing our lean muscle tissue. If we approach weight loss without a plan in place to preserve our muscles, what happens is we lose a combination of fat and muscle, which results in the “skinny fat” look.

This is essentially what happens when you drop body weight but still maintain the same body shape. Many people end up looking like a slightly thinner, more deflated version of themselves, which is usually not the desired result.

In order to ensure you’re not just losing weight, but that you’re dropping body fat, you need to consistently eat enough protein and add a strength training routine to your exercise regime to send the strong signal to your body that you need your muscle. This is the key to fat loss and body composition changes.

Here's a recipe that has 31g of protein:

@fithealthymacros High Protein Mexican Tortilla Pizza! 31g of protein Ready in 15 mins Family Friendly Recipe is linked in my bio! #mexicantortillapizza #15minutemeals #highproteinmeals #highproteinrecipes #fithealthymacros #macrofriendlyrecipes ♬ original sound – Fit Healthy Macros| Tami Smith

Strength Training vs. Cardio on GLP-1s

Strength training and cardio each play a role in your health and fitness, regardless of whether or not you’re taking a GLP-1, however, it’s incredibly important to understand these roles if you are on a weight loss medication.

Strength training, when done properly, will help to build your body into the look, shape, and feel that you desire. Muscle tissue is metabolically active which means it takes more energy to preserve it than fat tissue.

When I started strength training, I started with light weights.

@fithealthymacros I still remember back when I first got started with weight training when I gave my set of 10lb dumbbells away bc I was convinced using them was making me bulky 😳🫠 For those of us who grew up in generation “be as skinny as possible” with cardio, Pilates for “long, lean muscles” and lifting weights will turn you into a “body builder”… shifting your mindset, leaning into the truth, and pushing past old fears and insecurities can be incredibly difficult. But here’s what I know: Lifting makes me feel strong and capable I enjoy my workouts, not dread them because they’re so high intensity and exhausting My metabolism is healthy and thriving My body is “toned” and shapely I am setting myself up for aging gracefully Muscle is KEY for weight loss and weight maintenance 🙌🏼 Who else had or still has fears of getting too bulky?! You’re not alone! If there’s one thing I would encourage women 35+ to do, it’s start picking up some weights. Be open to trying something new. Do your research, the evidence & the benefits are irrefutable. & if you need a solid plan that lets you start from exactly where you are, come train with me in the FHM+ App. The link is in my bio. #weightrainingforwomen #strongmom #fitnessforwomenover35 #womenover40 #womenover50 #strongnotskinny #strengthtraining #strengthtrainingforwomen #fithealthymacros ♬ Astronomia(抖音最火版) – 安琪baby

The more muscle you have on your frame, the higher your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is simply the amount of energy your body needs to maintain its weight. More muscle = higher BMR = higher calorie intake. In short, the more muscle you have, the more calories you can consume and still maintain your weight.

While you won’t see a high caloric burn during strength training workouts, the muscle that you are building will pay dividends in the long term when your body begins to burn more calories throughout the day. Cardio, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.

Cardio will net a high-calorie burn during the workout, but the “burn” ends there. This form of exercise is still valuable and important for your overall health and wellness, however, our bodies are extremely adept at adapting to cardio stimuli, meaning we will burn fewer and fewer calories the more we perform the same workout repeatedly. 

Cardio workouts also tend to drive up your hunger, which can lead to overeating and difficulty adhering to your nutrition plan. This is why it’s important to find your personal “sweet spot” of cardio and strength training in your fitness routine. 

GLP Workout Recommendations

If you’re taking a GLP-1 for weight loss, I recommend that you prioritize adding a fitness routine to your plan to ensure overall health, optimal fat loss, and your ability to maintain your weight loss through a healthy lifestyle.

Remember, your goal while taking a GLP-1 shouldn’t be to just drop the weight and then go on about your life – there will be lifestyle habits that will need to be changed and new ones implemented. 

In order to set yourself up for long-term success, I recommend adding a strength training routine to your program of at least 2 days a week, with 3-4 being most optimal. Two to four training days per week that include smart exercise selection and progressive overload principles will be more than enough to send your body the signals it needs to preserve your muscle mass through your GLP-1 journey.

I also recommend a few cardio sessions per week. These sessions can be LISS (low-intensity-steady-state-cardio) HIIT (high-intensity steady-state cardio) or MISS (moderate-intensity steady-state cardio). 

The intensity of your cardio is evaluated based on your heart rate during exercise. LISS cardio will keep your heart rate in zone 1, MISS cardio will keep your heart rate in zone 2, and HIIT cardio will have your heart rate hitting zone 3 for periods.

The cardio you choose will depend on your preferences and abilities. I recommend mostly focusing on LISS cardio and sprinkling in a couple of MISS or HIIT workouts if you’re able and its movement that you enjoy.

Cardio exercises include:

  • Walking 
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Biking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Sports (tennis, pickleball, volleyball, etc.)

FHM+ App Workout Programs That Pair Well With GLP-1 Usage

Inside the FHM+ App, we have several workout programs to choose from that pair well with GLP-1 weight loss programs. All FHM+ App workouts are designed with progressive overload in mind, meaning that we are working on getting stronger week after week, which is the optimal way for muscle growth and maintenance.

Our app includes workout programs with workout frequencies of anywhere from 2-5 days per week and are all programmed to be done from the comfort of your own home and with minimal equipment. Workout times range from 20-60 minutes and are all highly adaptable based on your schedule and needs.

Here is a rundown of our strength training program options:

FHM Active Monthly – This is our monthly training program with 30 or 60-minute workout options. New workouts are released every month. We repeat the same workouts for 4-5 weeks. This is a muscle-group-specific split with 2 upper-body days, 2 lower-body days, and 1 full-body day.

3-Day Per Week Full Body Workouts – There are 3 different Full Body workout programs to choose from. Each program includes 3 full-body workouts per week that range from 30-40 minutes per workout.

8-Week Begin to Lift Program – This program is designed for beginners who are just getting started on their fitness journey. There are 3-4 workouts per week that take 20-30 minutes each, split into upper, lower, and full body workouts, which will progress throughout the 8-week program.

12-Week Menopause Strong Program – This 12-week program is designed for those who are approaching, in, or post-menopause. There are 2 program options to choose from 2 days per week or 3 days per week. Workouts take 15-25 minutes each and will progress over the 12-week program.

*As a member of the FHM+ App, you will have access to all workout programs, which gives you the opportunity to try them all and see where you’re best suited for this stage of life.

Tips for Staying Consistent With Exercise While on a GLP-1

While it’s important to maintain a consistent exercise routine while taking a GLP-1, it’s also important to note that there may be times when your energy is low and you aren’t feeling motivated to get your workout in. 

Below are some tips to help you stay consistent with your strength training routine while taking a GLP-1:

  1. Have a plan. If you’re not following a structured strength training routine, you’re less likely to follow through with consistently getting your workouts in. Instead of doing random Instagram or YouTube workouts, stick to a training schedule that fits your needs, abilities, and time restrictions like the ones found in the FHM+ App.
  2. Grab a friend or family member to be your accountability buddy. Asking a friend or family member to join you in your fitness routine can help keep you accountable for showing up.
  3. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Whether choosing a strength training program or a cardio activity, find the ones that you look forward to. If you’re forcing yourself to show up every day, it’s only a matter of time before you throw in the towel.
  4. Give yourself grace. There will inevitably be days when you just don’t have the energy or time to get your intended workout done, and that’s ok! Give yourself grace and pick back up where you left off when you’re able. Remember, your fitness and health journey has no end date, it’s a life-long pursuit.
  5. Don’t make the mistake of doing too much, too fast. Often, when starting a weight loss journey, we want results like yesterday so we go hard with the best of intentions. However, this approach will only lead to one thing: burnout and eventually giving up. Give yourself the time, grace, and patience to start from where you’re at and work your way into a consistent routine that’s maintainable for the long term – this is where you’ll find the best results.

Concluding Thoughts

Strength training while taking a GLP-1 medication is the best way to ensure a healthy, sustainable weight loss that will leave you looking and feeling your best. A consistent routine will also help you to set your body up for optimal weight management in the future when you have completed your GLP-1 journey.

Strength training helps build muscle that will protect your bones, joints, and muscles as you age. It will also help to raise your metabolic rate so that you can eat plenty of food and enjoy a healthy, balanced life!

Tags:

fat loss / GLP-1 / muscle building / strength training / weight loss / weight loss medication

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