- What is Saxenda (Liraglutide)?
- How does Saxenda work?
- How do you lose weight on Saxenda?
- Do you have to diet with Saxenda?
- How many calories should I be eating on Saxenda?
- Foods to avoid while on Saxenda
- Can I drink alcohol while on Saxenda?
- Foods to eat while taking Saxenda
- Are there any other things to avoid while taking Saxenda?
- How to take Saxenda
- Should you take Saxenda with food?
- Best time to take Saxenda
- Why do I still feel hungry on saxenda?
- Any other safety concerns?
- How to reduce the side effects of Saxenda
If you’ve ever set out to lose weight, you’ve probably learned firsthand that it’s not always easy.
Along with eating a healthy diet and being active, other options can assist your weight loss journey, such as prescription weight loss drugs.
Saxenda is an FDA-approved weight loss medication.
If you’ve been prescribed Saxenda for weight loss, you may wonder about the foods you should eat and avoid while you’re on this medication.
Keep reading to find out how to adjust your diet while taking Saxenda.
What is Saxenda (Liraglutide)?
Saxenda is the brand name for liraglutide, an injectable medication used to treat obesity for people aged 12 years and older.
Saxenda is a GLP-1 receptor agonist, a medication that can treat type 2 diabetes. Unlike other brand names of GLP-1 receptor agonists like Victoza, Ozempic, and Trulicity, Saxenda isn’t intended to treat type 2 diabetes.
The FDA approved Saxenda in 2014 as a weight loss medication. Saxenda is approved for adults with a BMI over 27 and children aged 12-17 who are over 132 pounds and considered obese.
Saxenda is for daily use with a maximum dose of 3 milligrams. It’s sold as a prefilled injectable pen and should be injected into subcutaneous tissue such as your abdomen, thigh, or back of your forearm.
You might be wondering about the difference between Saxenda vs Victoza. Like Saxneda, Victoza is the brand name for liraglutide. However, Victoza is not an FDA-approved weight loss medication and is intended to treat type 2 diabetes.
How does Saxenda work?
GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs like Saxenda work by increasing levels of GLP-1, a type of hormone involved in insulin secretion that also helps boost satiety and reduce appetite.
Levels of GLP-1 can be altered in people who are overweight or obese, which can lead to increased appetite and weight gain (1).
Saxenda slows gastric emptying, which means you’ll likely feel fuller for longer after you eat. Your appetite might also be suppressed due to the mechanism of Saxenda or from the side effects that can occur, like nausea and vomiting.
According to a study, three out of five people (60%) taking Saxenda achieved a weight loss of 5% or more, which equates to an average of 12 pounds lost from their baseline.
One out of three people (33%) taking Saxenda experienced significant weight loss of 10% or more, which was around 23 pounds lost on average.
While it is rarer, around 6% of people taking Saxenda lost over 20% of their initial body weight, the equivalent of around 47 pounds on average. All of these results occurred over 56 weeks.
How do you lose weight on Saxenda?
You can lose weight by taking Saxenda because it helps promote satiety and might reduce your appetite.
If you feel more satisfied after eating, you’re more likely to reduce your overall caloric intake, which can result in weight loss.
Weight loss from taking Saxenda can be even more significant if you couple it with lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy eating plan and increasing your physical activity level.
Saxenda offers a program called SaxendaCare, which provides personalized guidance to help you lose weight.
Do you have to diet with Saxenda?
You might lose weight on Saxenda without changing your diet at all. However, for long-term, sustainable weight loss, it’s advantageous to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, including eating a healthy diet.
Avoid fad diets or being overly restrictive with eating (“dieting”), which isn’t a sustainable practice for the long term.
How many calories should I be eating on Saxenda?
Caloric needs vary depending on your age, body composition, activity level, and many other factors.
If you want to get an idea of how many calories might result in weight loss, you might consider tracking how many calories you typically eat for a few days.
A reasonable goal for weight loss is to aim to reduce your daily caloric intake by around 500 calories per day and assess your weight loss after a few weeks.
Avoid eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day, which might not provide enough nutrients for you to be healthy.
Severely restrictive, low-calorie diets can also slow your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight in the long run.
Foods to avoid while on Saxenda
Below we share some foods you may want to avoid while on Saxenda in order to maximize your weight loss and reduce medication side effects.
Saxenda might cause you to feel nauseous or have other stomach issues as you get used to it. Avoid fried, greasy foods when you start taking Saxenda to prevent further stomach upset.
Fatty foods take longer to digest than low-fat foods. Saxenda causes delayed stomach emptying, so fried foods might worsen stomach upset.
Fatty foods are higher in calories compared to carbohydrates and protein. Aiming for a moderate intake of healthy fats can help you achieve a balanced diet without getting a lot of calories from fat, which might slow weight loss in some people.
Refined carbs & added sugar
Refined carbs and added sugar provide excess calories with little nutritional benefit. Cutting back on refined carbs and sugar reduces your caloric intake and can help improve insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is an increasingly common condition that makes weight loss more difficult.
Added sugars are in many processed foods, even those you might not suspect. A few examples of refined carbs and foods with added sugar include:
- Grains made with refined/enriched flours – white bread, bagels, rice, etc.
- Most cold cereals
- Flavored yogurt and milk-based drinks (smoothies, flavored kefir, etc.)
- Sugary beverages (soda, sweetened coffee, sports drinks, fruit-flavored soft drinks, etc.)
- Condiments & salad dressings
- Desserts & sweets
Can I drink alcohol while on Saxenda?
Drinking alcohol while taking Saxenda might increase your risk of low blood sugar. Saxenda shouldn’t cause low blood sugar, but drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause low blood sugar, which might be amplified when you take Saxenda.
Binge drinking increases your risk of hypoglycemia more significantly than drinking lightly. If you choose to drink alcohol while taking Saxenda, aim to drink in moderation. This means no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.
If you drink alcohol and take Saxenda, watch out for signs and symptoms of low blood sugar, such as:
- Fast heartbeat
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Irritability or confusion
Foods to eat while taking Saxenda
Now you know which foods to avoid, what foods should you eat while on Saxenda?
Protein helps make you feel full, which can reduce hunger cravings. Protein-rich diets can assist with weight loss.
Getting around 25-30 grams of protein per meal can be especially helpful for weight loss, according to a study (2).
Red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, soy, nuts, seeds, and unsweetened dairy products like plain Greek yogurt are all great sources of protein.
Bland foods (for nausea)
When starting with Saxenda, you might experience nausea and vomiting. It can be difficult to get enough calories and fluid when experiencing these symptoms, which can lead to dehydration.
If you’re feeling nauseous or have an upset stomach while taking Saxenda, opt for bland foods like crackers, toast, bananas, and applesauce.
Clear liquids like broth, sports drinks, and apple juice can help with fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea.
The days of ultra low-fat fad diets are behind us. While fat is high in calories, the right types of fat provide numerous health benefits and can help you feel satiated. Unsaturated fats are considered “healthy fats” compared to saturated fat.
Saturated fat is found in animal products like meat and full-fat dairy, as well as in coconuts. Unsaturated fats are primarily found in plant-based foods but are also in some types of seafood.
Eating healthy fats can help promote healthy cholesterol levels, help your body absorb certain nutrients, and help with hormone synthesis.
Here are some examples of healthy fats to include as part of a well-rounded diet:
- Vegetable oils (canola, avocado, olive)
- Fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines
- Algae (vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids)
Are there any other things to avoid while taking Saxenda?
Besides some foods, what else should you avoid while on Saxenda? You shouldn’t take Saxenda if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. You shouldn’t use Saxenda when breastfeeding since some of the medication can be passed from your bloodstream to your breast milk.
Avoid taking Saxenda with diabetes medications, especially sulfonylureas or insulin, which may lead to severely low blood sugar.
How to take Saxenda
You’ll need to use disposable ultra-fine needles with your Saxenda weight loss pen. Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Saxenda, recommends their brand’s ultra-fine needles, which help reduce the pain that can be associated with injections.
Inject Saxenda into the subcutaneous tissue, preferably your abdomen (not close to your belly button), thigh, or the back of your upper arm.
Don’t inject Saxenda into your muscles. Your Saxenda pen will come with detailed instructions on how to inject it.
Here is the typical dosing schedule for starting Saxenda:
- Week one. 0.6 milligrams.
- Week two. 1.2 milligrams.
- Week three. 1.8 milligrams.
- Week four. 2.4 milligrams.
- Week five. A full dose of 3 milligrams.
Should you take Saxenda with food?
It doesn’t matter if you take Saxenda with or without food because it stays in your system for several hours.
Taking food with injectable medications isn’t likely to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms because it isn’t absorbed directly into your stomach.
Best time to take Saxenda
There is no right or wrong time to take Saxenda. You should take Saxenda when it can most easily become a routine for you based on your schedule and lifestyle.
Many people prefer to take their medications in the morning. However, if you would be more likely to stick with a regimen of injecting it in the evening, then you should take it every evening.
Why do I still feel hungry on saxenda?
Upon taking Saxenda, know that it will take several weeks to reach the target dose. Everyone responds differently to medications, and no two people will have the same experience taking Saxenda.
If you still feel hungry when taking Saxenda, you might be under-eating or not eating filling foods.
If you’ve drastically reduced your food intake in addition to starting Saxenda, aim to eat enough that you don’t constantly feel hungry and then assess your response to Saxenda.
Any other safety concerns?
Taking medications comes with potential side effects and risks. Many common side effects aren’t serious and usually go away as your body gets used to the medication.
While rarer, there is a chance that you could develop a life-threatening condition from taking Saxenda.
Here are some of the more common Saxenda side effects to be aware of:
- Injection site reaction
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Stomach pain
- Change in enzyme (lipase) levels in your blood
While rarer than the side effects listed above, there are potentially serious complications that can arise from taking Saxenda, including:
Inflammation of your pancreas can occur when taking GLP-1 receptor agonists such as Saxenda.
Be on the lookout for signs of pancreatitis, like severe abdominal pain, with or without vomiting. If you develop these symptoms, you should stop taking Saxenda immediately.
You may develop gallbladder problems when taking Saxenda. Signs of gallbladder issues include middle upper stomach pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, and the yellowing of the whites of your eyes.
Kidney problems (kidney failure)
If you already have kidney problems, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (common side effects from Saxenda) can cause dehydration, which can worsen kidney problems.
Thyroid cancer risk
In animal studies, the active ingredient of Saxenda caused thyroid cancer in some mice and rats. It’s unknown whether taking these medications increases your risk of thyroid cancer.
You should avoid taking Saxenda if you or anyone in your family have had medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), a type of thyroid cancer.
You also shouldn’t take Saxenda if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
Signs of thyroid cancer include a lump or swelling in your neck or throat. Stop taking Saxenda immediately if you experience these symptoms, and notify your healthcare provider.
How to reduce the side effects of Saxenda
The most efficient way to reduce the side effects of Saxenda is to take it as prescribed. If you take more Saxenda than you’re prescribed, you’re more likely to experience unpleasant side effects.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re just starting Saxenda, your healthcare provider will offer guidance on how to start taking it.
Tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about any medications you’re currently taking, especially any blood sugar-lowering drugs, since this can cause low blood sugar.
Saxenda is a prescription weight loss medication. Eating a healthy diet and practicing sustainable lifestyle changes while taking Saxenda might maximize the effectiveness of the medication.
While taking Saxenda, you may want to avoid greasy/fatty foods, refined carbs, and foods and drinks with added sugar.
Aim to include protein-rich foods and healthy fats to help feel satiated while taking Saxenda, and eat bland foods and clear liquids if you’re experiencing stomach upset as a side effect.