Saxenda and Alcohol: Can The Combination Sabotage Weight Loss? The image shows cocktails and a glass of rose wine.

Saxenda and Alcohol: Can The Combination Sabotage Weight Loss?

August 24. 2023

Whether it is a glass of wine with dinner, a beer with friends, or a cocktail on a night out, alcohol is part of most people’s lives. When drunk in moderation, alcohol doesn’t significantly threaten your overall health. But what happens when you start taking a prescription medication? Especially a weight loss medication like Saxenda or Phentermine for weight loss? Before mixing Saxenda and alcohol, it is crucial you inform yourself better about this combination’s effects.

As mentioned, when drunk within reasonable limits, alcohol often doesn’t impact our health. Some health experts even affirm that having a glass of red wine every day may reduce the risks of developing heart disease. However, other healthcare providers advise to reduce alcohol consumption to lead a healthier lifestyle. Moreover, if you ever followed a weight loss management program, you probably were advised to quit alcohol altogether.

So what is the consent? Can alcohol sabotage your weight loss efforts? And is it safe to combine with medications such as Saxenda? If those questions are crossing your mind, continue reading this article, where our weight loss clinic in Chicago tells you more about what happens if you combine Saxenda and alcohol.

What is Saxenda for weight loss?

Saxenda is a prescription medication that, in combination with increased physical activity and diet, promotes body weight reduction. Novo Nordisk pharmaceutical manufactures Saxenda as well as other successful weight management drugs, such as Wegovy and Ozempic weight loss. Saxenda became an official anti-obesity drug in 2014 when it got Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

This anti-obesity medication comes as a liquid solution administered through subcutaneous injections. Saxenda is a daily drug; patients must take the medication every day to guarantee full efficacy. You can take it at any time of day as long as you commit to taking it at the same time for each dose. Injectable pens are so easy to handle that you can give yourself the shot, and are relatively painless. Before starting the weight loss treatment, your healthcare provider will tell you how injectable pens work and other specifications, such as the appropriate Saxenda injection sites.

Individuals start taking Saxenda at a low dose of 0.6mg a day; the dosage is increased weekly until reaching the maximum dose of 3mg per day. That titration period gives the body the chance to adapt to the drug without developing too many side effects and turning the medication intolerable. Around week 5, patients reach the maximum allowed dose. While taking the highest dosage, most people experience an average weight loss of 6.4% body weight reduction.

How does Saxenda work?

Saxenda works to support weight loss and insulin resistance belly fat by surprising appetite. Liraglutide, Saxenda’s active ingredient, is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. That means the drug activates GLP-1, an incretin hormone that takes part in gut processes, such as helping lower blood glucose levels after we eat.

Right after we eat, our bodies release the GLP-1, which indicates the pancreas releases insulin to control the increased blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. GLP-1 also signals the liver to decrease glucose (sugar) production. Without Saxenda, GLP-1 has a very short half-life – about 2 minutes. Receptor agonists make GLP-1 last longer in our system; when that happens, the hormone’s prolonged effects cause slow gastric emptying. Food intake travels through the digestive system at a slower rate, remaining in your stomach for longer than usual. That will cause you to feel satisfied faster when eating and remaining full for longer.

Besides working in our digestive system, the GLP1- hormone also has a crucial role in the hunger region of the brain, also known as the hypothalamus. GLP-1 signals the hypothalamus that our bodies are full and we no longer require food; that stops food-seeking behavior.

How long does it take for Saxenda to work? Timing can vary from one person to another, but typically, patients start seeing results 8 weeks into the treatment. Results happen when the person also follows a healthy diet; since the medication reduces appetite, what you eat matters. That’s why it’s worth discussing food choices and Saxenda and alcohol.

Common side effects of Saxenda

Most prescription medications have a list of potential side effects, and Saxenda is no exception. Patients may develop mild side effects when taking this weight loss drug. Saxenda’s symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal-related since this drug’s active ingredient mainly affects our digestive system. These are the most common side effects when taking Saxenda for weight loss:

Those side effects tend to appear when your doctor increases the dosage or right after taking the shot. You can alleviate the gastrointestinal side effects by avoiding foods that are difficult to digest – fast food and greasy and fatty meals – and sticking to a balanced diet plan.

Saxenda can also cause some rare but severe adverse effects, including low blood sugar, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), gallbladder disease, kidney problems, mood changes, and severe allergic reactions. It’s crucial you attend regular doctor’s visits during the program to ensure the medication is safe for your health.

Saxenda interactions

Saxenda may interact with certain foods, beverages, and medications. Regarding medication interactions, patients taking other drugs must consult their primary healthcare provider before taking Saxenda. Some medications may interact with Saxenda, reducing its effectiveness. Besides that, Saxenda can interfere with how your body absorbs oral medications. Experts advise against combining liraglutide – Saxenda’s active ingredient – with other GLP-1 receptor agonists.

Women who are pregnant, seeking pregnancy, or breastfeeding are discouraged from using this anti-obesity medication. There are still not enough studies about Saxenda’s effects on pregnant women. Patients with pancreatitis, a family history of thyroid tumor, or depression also shouldn’t take Saxenda.

While there are no forbidden foods while taking Saxenda, some foods may increase side effects, making the drug intolerable.

Can you mix Saxenda with alcohol?

And what about Saxenda and alcohol? Do they interact? Although the FDA label doesn’t mention any Saxenda and alcohol interactions, mixing this weight management drug with ethanol is not a good idea. Besides potentially sabotaging your weight loss efforts, drinking alcohol while on Saxenda can also lead to dangerous outcomes.

As mentioned, Saxenda’s most common side effects – nausea, vomiting, stomach pain – are gastrointestinal-related. Too much alcohol intake often leads to the exact same symptoms. As a result, drinking alcohol in excess can enhance Saxenda’s side effects until the point the drug is intolerable. The number one reason why patients quit on Saxenda is that their bodies can’t adapt to the adverse effects. In large quantities, alcohol may not give your body a chance to fully adapt to the medication, making you incapable of sticking to the treatment.

Combining Saxenda and alcohol can also lead to more severe outcomes. While drinking alcohol, your liver stops glucose production for a while, which makes blood sugar levels drop. GLP-1 works by lowering glucose levels, which promotes appetite reduction. Therefore, the combination may reduce your blood sugar levels too much, causing hypoglycemia.

Alcohol is definitely on the list of beverages and foods to avoid while on Saxenda. While it doesn’t mean you have to quit alcohol altogether, it is advised to at least reduce alcohol consumption while taking Saxenda.

How alcohol sabotages weight loss

If you are on a weight loss journey, you probably know alcohol is not your friend. Individuals wondering Why am I not losing weight on Saxenda should know that there are many different ways in which alcohol can sabotage your weight loss efforts – even when using a weight management medication.

  • It’s full of empty calories and sugar: To lose weight with Saxenda or any other weight loss program, you must reduce your calorie intake. For that, you’ll need a proper Saxenda meal plan that includes healthy foods and low-calorie meal ideas. Most alcoholic beverages – especially beer and sweet drinks – are high in calories; we are talking about around 7 calories per gram.
  • It increases appetite: Yes, alcohol can increase your appetite. Recent studies showed that alcoholic drinks have an effect on appetite-related hormones like leptin and ghrelin. The worst aspect of this negative effect is that alcohol increases your craving for unhealthy foods.
  • It prevents your liver from working: The liver turns ethanol (alcohol) into a toxin called acetaldehyde. When you drink, your liver gets too busy breaking down alcohol and dealing with acetaldehyde; it has no time to break down fat. That slows down the fat-breaking process and increases fat storage. 
  • It can cause liver impairment: While having liver issues is a problem on its own, it may also affect how your body absorbs Saxenda. Clinical trials found that individuals with liver impairment had a lower liraglutide AUC. The area under the curve (AUC) is related to a drug’s absorption and how much of that drug circulates in the bloodstream.

You don’t have to go sober to lose weight, but reducing your alcohol intake will help your cause. When starting a medical weight loss program, consult your doctor about reducing or quitting alcohol consumption.

Final thoughts

As you can see, Saxenda and alcohol are not the best combination to lose weight. When starting a Saxenda treatment, patients are encouraged to commit to healthier lifestyle choices, such as increased physical activity and better nutritional habits. Besides helping you lose weight, those changes will lead you to a healthier, happier life. Excess alcohol consumption can sabotage weight loss, prevent Saxenda from working, and cause fatty liver disease, among other hazards.

Instead of alcoholic beverages, we advise you to have clear drinks without added sugar, like water or fresh fruit juices. Those drinks won’t affect your weight loss progress and help you manage Saxenda’s side effects. Do you still have questions regarding drinking alcohol while taking Saxenda? Schedule a call with our team; we’ll assess your situation and give you the best medication/lifestyle balance solution!

Nurse Walton


Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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