Fitness Companies Respond to Weight Loss Drugs With Muscle-building Programs


Fitness and nutrition brands are addressing the Ozempic craze. 

In order to ensure patients on weight loss drugs aren’t losing excessive muscle mass, companies, including Obé, Noom and Equinox, are launching strength-focused programming. 

According to experts, the class of drugs themselves don’t cause muscle loss but weight loss in general does. 

“It’s always good to do some kind of resistance training… to maintain your muscle mass,” said New York City-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sharon Giese, who offers an elective weight loss program with semaglutide. “This isn’t different than any other way that anyone has lost weight in the past because the weight loss with the GLP-1 is not rapid.” 

Dr. Rekha Kumar, chief medical officer of weight loss program Found added: “When someone loses weight — whether through diet, exercise, weight loss surgery or medicine — one-quarter to one-third of that lost weight is typically muscle.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, muscle loss could make it harder to do daily habits like walking or climbing stairs and may cause falls or balance issues over time. Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, is common as muscle mass does decline over time. However, a protein-rich diet and strength training can increase muscle mass, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

With this, many companies find it is imperative to provide education and solutions, as more people are prescribed these medications.

“With five in 10 U.S. adults who have heard of GLP-1s and are interested in trying them, this is enormous demand,” said Dr. Linda Anegawa, chief medical officer of Noom, a weight loss and health app that recently launched its own program. “While there’s so much promise, it’s also critical that we don’t leave people in worse shape than before.”

However, experts agree that these drugs often help people form new, healthier habits.

“Because it’s not rapid weight loss and it’s real weight loss, it’s given people time to effectuate some behavior modification,” said Giese. “I tell people to pay attention to what you change and that’s what’s going to allow you to keep that weight off and get off of the medication.”

Here, a look at three companies launching fitness programming for those on weight loss drugs. 

Obé

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In May 2023, Obé pivoted its model to focus on results-driven personalized fitness programs. The company is now expanding this with its MuscleGuard track created in partnership with Found, a weight loss company that offers common drugs like Ozempic, Zepbound, Wegovy and Mounjaro.

“This one is very structured because it’s [a] specific outcome focus,” said Obé cofounder and co-chief executive officer Ashley Mills. “The first phase of it is six weeks, three days a week, 30 minutes a day.”

According to Mills, each day of the week features slight variations in tempo, overload and weight to promote consistent muscle growth and prevent plateau. After the six weeks, users will be guided to Obé’s general library of strength-focused classes.

Noom

Noom’s GLP-1 companion program dates back to 2018. At the time, the company partnered with Novo Nordisk, manufacturer of Wegovy, on a study of 65,000 patients taking the GLP-1 drugs available at the time in conjunction with Noom’s healthy living program focused on behavior change.

“The critical learnings that we gained from that partnership is that we could supercharge the drug’s effect,” said Anegawa.

As this class of drugs is more mature and widely available now, Noom has officially rolled out its Noom Med program, where users can receive drug prescriptions, and its GLP-1 Companion with Muscle Defense, a protocol specifically for those on the medication. It includes specific nutrition goals centered around protein, educational content on how this class of drugs work, and of course, guided fitness sessions centered around resistance training to prompt muscle growth.

Equinox

In January, Equinox announced that it would launch a fitness program specifically for guests on weight loss drugs. According to the company’s statement, it had received inquiries in recent months for advice on best fitness practices when on a medication like Ozempic. The program, which was developed by a group of Equinox coaches, aims to amplify the results of GLP-1s by increasing fat-burning activities and strength training workouts to avoid muscle loss.

Eligible Equinox members will be able to opt into the program and work with a coach. The luxury gym has recently doubled down on customized programming and one-on-one training, as it announced in May 2023 that it would hire 5,000 new coaches.



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