Speed vs. Health: The Alarming Trend of GLP-1 Drugs in Cycling for Weight Loss

Speed vs. Health: The Alarming Trend of GLP-1 Drugs in Cycling for Weight Loss

There’s a concerning trend in the cycling world that’s been picking up speed, and it’s not about the latest gear or training techniques. It’s about how some cyclists are turning to unhealthy weight loss methods, including the use of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic, in a bid to get quicker. Let’s dive into what’s happening and why it’s worrying.

The Drive for Performance

In competitive sports, there’s always a push to be faster, stronger, and better. But at what cost? Recent trends indicate a growing interest in rapid weight loss methods, particularly among cyclists. The goal is to shed pounds quickly to enhance performance, often without considering the long-term health consequences.

In the hunt to improve watts per kilogram at an cost, cyclists who feel they’ve optimized the watts often think they only have one place left to turn. I remember reading about Tyler Hamilton going out on training rides, getting home hungry and taking an Ambien to sleep through the hunger pains. Scary to say the least.

The Rise of GLP-1 Drugs

One new method for weight loss gaining traction is the use of GLP-1 drugs, originally developed for type 2 diabetes treatment. Drugs like Ozempic have caught the attention of the cycling community due to their significant weight loss effects. These drugs mimic the glucagon-like peptide-1, impacting appetite regulation and leading to weight loss.

Concerning Statistics

A study by the University of California, Irvine, published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, revealed a substantial increase in the usage of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic. Between 2014 and 2022, there was a rapid acceleration in their utilization, especially following the introduction of Ozempic. This uptrend is not just confined to the diabetic population but extends to those seeking quick weight loss solutions, including athletes​​.

Health Risks and Side Effects

While GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic offer a promising solution for weight management, their use, especially outside of medically supervised conditions, carries significant risks and potential side effects. It’s crucial for individuals, particularly athletes considering these drugs for weight loss, to be fully aware of these risks.


One of the primary concerns highlighted by the Mayo Clinic is the risk of hypoglycemia, especially when these drugs are combined with other medications known to lower blood sugar, such as sulfonylureas or insulin. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can have serious consequences, including dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, can be life-threatening​​.

Thyroid Tumor Risk

Another serious concern is the potential link to thyroid tumors. Studies conducted on animals have shown a connection between GLP-1 drugs and the development of thyroid tumors. Although the exact risk to humans is not yet fully understood, this link necessitates caution, particularly for individuals with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia​​.


There are also warnings against the use of these drugs if an individual has a history of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, can be exacerbated by these medications, leading to severe complications.

Other Side Effects

Apart from the above, other reported side effects of GLP-1 drugs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite. These side effects can not only affect an individual’s daily activities but also impact their overall health and nutritional status.

Impact on Athletic Performance

For athletes, these side effects can be particularly concerning. Issues like hypoglycemia, gastrointestinal problems, and reduced appetite could significantly impair performance, training effectiveness, and recovery. The pursuit of rapid weight loss through such medications could ironically lead to a decrease in athletic performance.

Long-Term Health Implications

The long-term health implications of using GLP-1 drugs for non-diabetic individuals, especially for weight loss in an athletic context, remain largely unknown. This uncertainty underscores the importance of cautious use and consideration of these medications.

Ethical and Health Concerns in Cycling

The use of GLP-1 drugs in sports like cycling raises both ethical and health concerns. While the drive to improve performance is understandable, the long-term health implications cannot be ignored. Athletes, coaches, and recreational cyclists must be aware of the risks associated with such quick-fix solutions.

A Call for Caution

It’s crucial to balance the desire for enhanced performance with overall health and well-being. Athletes should approach weight management and performance enhancement with caution, prioritizing long-term health over short-term gains.

In Conclusion

The cycling community needs to be vigilant about such trends and prioritize health over speed. Unhealthy weight loss methods, especially the use of GLP-1 drugs, pose significant health risks that can outweigh the benefits of enhanced performance. It’s essential to have open discussions about these issues and encourage safe, healthy practices in the sport.

For more insights on this topic, check out the comprehensive study from UC Irvine here and the Mayo Clinic’s detailed overview of GLP-1 drugs here.