Understanding GLP-1: A 101 Guide

Glucagon-like peptide-1, commonly known as GLP-1, is a hormone that plays a critical role in the regulation of blood glucose levels and overall metabolism. It’s more likely than not that you’ve heard rumblings of GLP-1 drugs as they’ve grown in popularity for their ability to help people lose a drastic amount of weight in a short amount of time.

Originally used as a type 2 diabetes medication, GLP-1 drugs offer a quick remedy for weight loss regardless of the user’s current health patterns including exercise, nutrition, and overall health. This article aims to provide a foundational understanding of GLP-1, its functions,  its therapeutic applications, and things to consider for long term success in a weight loss journey. 

What is GLP-1?

GLP-1 is an incretin hormone, which means it is released after eating and enhances the secretion of insulin. It is produced in the gut, specifically in the L-cells of the small intestine, in response to food intake. Once released, GLP-1 acts through the GLP-1 receptor, which is present in various tissues, including the pancreas, brain, and gastrointestinal tract.

Functions of GLP-1

GLP-1 has several important physiological functions:

  1. Stimulation of Insulin Secretion: One of the primary roles of GLP-1 is to stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin in response to high blood glucose levels. This helps lower blood glucose levels post-meal.
  2. Inhibition of Glucagon Release: GLP-1 inhibits the secretion of glucagon, a hormone that raises blood glucose levels by promoting the release of glucose from the liver.
  3. Slowing Gastric Emptying: GLP-1 slows down the rate at which food leaves the stomach, which helps reduce the rate of glucose absorption into the bloodstream. This can contribute to a feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.
  4. Promoting Satiety: GLP-1 acts on the brain to increase the feeling of satiety or fullness, which can help in reducing food intake and managing body weight.

Therapeutic Applications

Given its role in glucose regulation and appetite control, GLP-1 has become a target for therapeutic interventions, particularly in type 2 diabetes and obesity management. The following are key therapeutic applications of GLP-1:

GLP-1 Receptor Agonists

GLP-1 receptor agonists are a class of medications designed to mimic the action of natural GLP-1. These drugs are used primarily to treat type 2 diabetes and, more recently, obesity. Some commonly prescribed GLP-1 receptor agonists include:

  • Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon)
  • Liraglutide (Victoza, Saxenda)
  • Dulaglutide (Trulicity)
  • Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy)

These medications help manage blood sugar levels by making the body release more insulin, reducing the release of a hormone called glucagon (which raises blood sugar), slows down how quickly the stomach empties, and helps with the feeling of being satiated for a longer period of time. They are usually given as injections under the skin, with different schedules depending on the medication and needs of the individual. 

Long term weight loss with GLP-1 Use

GLP-1 can be a helpful tool for weight loss, but that isn’t the only factor to consider when looking at the long term health and wellness of your clients. Eric Durak, an industry expert and founder of of MedHealthFit, expresses the importance of recognizing GLP-1 drugs as only part of the solution to the obesity problem America is facing. 

He equates the use of the GLP-1 drug as a crutch, and that only with proper progressive training, consistent assessments and body composition analysis, and keeping record of health outcomes for each individual, will there be a real and significant change in the overall success of not only the initial weight loss from the drug, but long term success in keeping the weight off. 

Eric has created a GLP-1 Exercise Specialist Course ‘Working With Weightloss Clients To Ensure Lifelong Health’ which is the bible for fitness professionals to provide specific (and effective) exercise and wellness programs to their clients who utilize GLP-1 and other diabetes and weight loss medications. Of his course he states, “This course should serve as a bridge between the medical side of GLP-1, and the integration of the best-fit exercise program to help patients maintain the weight loss that they have been working towards with their trainers, and their health clubs’.


While GLP-1 drugs offer significant benefits in regulating blood glucose and promoting satiety, they are most effective when utilized as part of a broader, holistic approach to long-term health. Integrating these medications with tailored exercise programs and ongoing health assessments, as advocated by experts like Eric Durak, is essential for achieving sustainable weight loss and overall wellness. By combining medical interventions with lifestyle modifications, individuals can optimize their health outcomes and maintain their weight loss achievements over time.

Elisa is a curious and versatile writer, carving her niche in the health and wellness industry since 2015. Her lens is rooted in real world experience as a personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder and extended out of the gym and on to the page as a writer where she is able to combine her passions for empowering others, promoting wellness, and the power of the written word.

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