GLP-1 medications are very effective at helping you to shed excess pounds with or without exercise. However, that doesn’t mean you can eat an unbalanced diet or avoid exercise. These medications suppress your appetite, causing you to eat less; this calorie deficit results in weight loss.
Consuming less food means it is vital that you eat foods that have the most nutritional benefits. If you are wondering what diet to follow while using GLP-1 medications, in this blog, you will learn about GLP-1 medications, side effects, and foods that can create healthy habits while offsetting side effects.
What Are GLP-1 Medications and How Do They Work?
GLP-1 medications include Zepbound (tirzepatide), Mounjaro (tirzepatide), Wegovy (semaglutide), and Ozempic (semaglutide). Zepbound and Wegovy are FDA-approved for Obesity, and Mounjaro and Ozempic are FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
This class of drugs works by slowing down the emptying of the stomach, causing you to feel fuller longer. This occurs because GLP-1s are hormones that affect the brain's hunger signals and work on the stomach lining to signal fullness.
What Happens When Digestion Slows Down?
Because these medications slow digestion, there can be side effects. The most common side effects include nausea, constipation, bloating, and heartburn.
To lessen nausea, bloating, and heartburn, it is best to avoid eating large meals. Eating large meals and eating particularly close to bedtime can cause you to experience heartburn or reflux symptoms. You may also feel bloated and uncomfortable. Eating small, more frequent meals is best to avoid these side effects.
Slowing down digestion can also result in constipation. To avoid constipation, it is essential to eat a well-balanced fiber-based diet.
What foods are good for GLP-1 weight loss?
The best foods to eat when taking a GLP-1 medication include a plate with protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.
Eat small, well-balanced meals and try to avoid eating and drinking liquids at the same time. This can increase feelings of fullness, which can be uncomfortable, but worse, liquids will fill you with empty calories.
Protein Helps You Build and Maintain Muscle While Dropping Pounds
During weight loss, you will lose both muscle and fat; you can protect yourself from muscle loss by increasing your protein intake while taking GLP-1 medications. Maintaining muscle mass can also improve your appearance during weight loss.
Top high protein foods:
Lean meat: This includes chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef (sparingly).
Fish and seafood: Non-fried seafood is an excellent option to consume.
Meatless sources of protein: Consider cottage cheese, eggs, and tofu.
Liquid protein shakes or supplements: These can be helpful meal replacements and a great way to increase daily protein intake.
Fiber is Your Friend
Consuming less food and fluids while taking a GLP-1 drug can impact your bowels. While constipation is more common, diarrhea is also a side effect. The USDA recommends consuming 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories of food per day. Fiber-rich foods can help to keep you regular and prevent constipation. Try increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber.
Top High-fiber foods:
Whole grains: Brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat.
Beans: Black beans, white beans, and kidney beans are all high in protein and fiber.
Steel-cut oats: besides being a great breakfast option, oats are low in fat and high in both protein and fiber.
Vegetables Provide Key Nutrients and Hydration
The USDA MyPlate recommends 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily for women and 3 to 4 cups for men. Vegetables remain a great source of fiber, and they have hydrating benefits. Some vegetables are made up of 95% water!
It is common for people who eat less to drink less liquids. Drinking less can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance or abnormalities. Dehydration can negatively impact your weight loss.
While taking GLP-1 medications, drinking at least 1-2 L of water daily is essential, but this can vary per person and can be impacted by specific medical conditions.
If you are a snacker or just looking for a little something, you may be looking for some healthy snack options.
Here are the best snacks to eat when taking a GLP-1:
Yogurt: Pick a low-fat, high-protein yogurt option
Fruit: Apples, bananas, pears, and berries are all good options if you desire something sweet; fruit also contains fiber and water, which can help with hydration.
Nuts: Provides a good balance of unsaturated fat, protein, and fiber and is a great way to satisfy hunger.
Foods to Avoid When Taking a GLP-1 Medication
There are no prohibited foods while taking GLP-1s, but some foods are more likely to cause side effects. The most common side effects of GLP-1 medications are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and dry mouth.
Nausea. Prevent this by avoiding high-fat foods on injection day and the day after because of the slowed stomach emptying.
Heartburn/Reflux. Prevent this by avoiding fatty foods and acidic foods (coffee, citrus products, chocolate, red meat, wine, etc.) and avoid eating and reclining immediately. Remain upright for at least 4 hours after a meal.
Foods should you avoid while taking a GLP-1 include high-fat foods such as:
Red meats higher in saturated fat: Fatty cuts of red meat, processed meats, and bacon. Consume sparingly or avoid these products altogether.
Cheese: Cheese often goes unnoticed, but it is high in fat and should be limited or avoided.
Highly processed foods and sugary drinks should be avoided and are never recommended, regardless of taking a GLP-1 medication. This food group includes fried foods (fried chicken or French fries) and ultra-processed packaged foods.
Pastries, donuts, cookies, and sugary drinks (including alcohol, soda, or any juices): These should also be limited or avoided due to high calories and low nutritional value.
Are you ready to start your GLP-1 weight loss journey?
Gorgojo-Martinez JJ, Mezquita-Raya P, Carretero-Gómez J, et al. Clinical Recommendations to Manage Gastrointestinal Adverse Events in Patients Treated With GLP-1 Receptor Agonists: A Multidisciplinary Expert Consensus. Journal of Clinical Medicine. December 24, 2022.
How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily? More About the Vegetable Group https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables Retrieved January 26, 2024.
How Much Dietary Fiber Should I Eat? U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA). November 14, 2023.