Metformin and Weight Loss

Metformin treatment can lower blood glucose levels and save the lives of diabetics. Does it have a role to play in anti aging, and even in bodybuilding?

Insulin sensitivity – you’ve heard of it, but you’re not sure if it belongs in bodybuilders’ literature or the LGBTQI ranks…

Insulin resistance is simply a term used to describe how your body will react to insulin, and carbohydrates, and can even influence other factors such as muscle protein synthesis.

Metformin treatment is a treatment for diabetic patients but is also used by professional athletes for glucose control – what?

This is a very niche compound and most people would benefit from it, but very few will invest.

Should you?

Key Takeaways

  • Managing insulin sensitivity can prolong your life as well as delay the development of cardiovascular disease
  • Insulin resistance can lower the amount of muscle you can build, while increasing the amount of fat you build
  • Metformin is an effective drug used to treat those who suffer from insulin resistance, with negligiable side effects
  • Metformin is also used by Bodybuilders to increase the amount of muscle they can build without getting fat

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What is Metformin?

As you may or may not know, Diabetes is a chronic illness that is described as the body not producing enough insulin or the body does not react to insulin in the way that it should.

Insulin secretion increases after carbohydrates are ingested and aims to regulate glucose homeostasis in the body. It is a vital component of the human body and failing to achieve glycemic control will result in catastrophe.

Metformin or Glucophage as it is commonly known was designed as a method to treat diabetes. Metformin will improve the way the body reacts to insulin [1] and decreases the amount of blood in the sugar – glucose control. It acts against glucagon and stops the release of glycogen into the blood from the liver [2].

Metformin has been around since the 1920s, however, only recently started gaining popularity when a study found the Metformin group did not see an increased risk of lactic acidosis [1].

How does Metformin work?

Glucose levels and insulin levels in the body are very strongly related to one another. As you have higher levels of glucose (or sugar) in the blood, you will see an increase in insulin.

This is a natural response and most people are fine with this. However, if you suffer from diabetes, this can be dangerous, and diabetes drugs have been designed to help these patients.

Glycaemic control is important to diabetics because it could save their lives.

Metformin’s Mechanism of Action is slightly complicated. Number one, it will lower the release of glycogen into the blood from the liver via glucagon [2]. After this, there will be greater uptake of glycogen by the cells and amelioration of insulin resistance [3].

Metformin and Weight Loss
Figure 3: Metformin’s mechanism of Action

Due to this, it even can inhibit the growth of cancer cells [4].

Overall, Metformin will lower the glucose levels in the body which can lead to a better environment for those who suffer from diabetes, It holds other potential benefits for athletes who are looking to increase insulin sensitivity for greater muscle gains.

It will also massively reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in most people, which is one of the biggest health issues the world population is facing currently [5].

Health Benefits of Metformin

The thing you need to remember is that Metformin alone will have fewer benefits compared to if you were to do a healthy lifestyle intervention.

  • Reduced body fat in those who also practice healthy eating
  • Reduced inflammatory response from the body
  • Greater cell metabolism of glucose
  • Reduced blood pressure could reduce the risk of chronic Kidney disease
  • Improvement of skeletal muscles and their reaction to glucose
  • Reduced risk of cancer (such as breast cancer)

There will be other health benefits as well, but because the drug has such a great impact on human physiology, it depends on a myriad of other factors.

Metformin – Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Now that we know that Metformin might save the lives of a diabetic person, or might even help a pre-diabetic person from going full diabetic, let’s look at the effects Metformin will have on obese people and those who use Metformin for bodybuilding.

Metformin and Weight Loss
Figure 4: A study of Diabetes and Endocrinology found that Metformin drastically lowered the amount of insulin needed in the body, and can also lower bodyweight compared to a placebo.

When someone is obese, they usually are eating way too much, move way too little, and are on their way to heart failure. This also usually means they are ridiculously insulin resistant, which is one of the symptoms of the early stages of diabetes development.

Body weight has directly been linked to health [6], and so, these people should do everything they can to lose weight. A healthy diet and resistance training would help tremendously, and an introduction of Metformin might also help regulate glucose levels. Studies have found Metformin to be a viable anti-obesity drug [7].

Bodybuilders will also use Metformin to help them manage their blood glucose levels – especially in the off-season. The Metformin action could keep them from gaining too much fat and is a viable treatment against inflammation.

How to use Metformin for Weight Gain?

There are various prolific people in the fitness world like John Jewett from J3 University and Jordan Peters from TrainedbyJP who are big fans of Metformin treatment.

Metformin can be used in the off-season to help you manage glucose transport, glucose production, and glycemic control when bulking. This becomes even more important when using other PEDs.

PEDs like Insulin and Human Growth Hormone are known for driving down your insulin sensitivity, and thus Metformin can oppose that. You could not only delay insulin resistance, but because the Metformin treatment can also reduce inflammation, you have less blood pressure.

It is also one of the best low cost options you have to allow for better control of blood sugar levels. There hasn’t been a systematic review of Metformin for muscle growth, however, we know that the more insulin sensitive you are the greater chance you stand of building muscle.

The dosage of Metformin for bulking would be 500 – 1000mg depending on how much you need when looking at training, diet, etc.

How to use Metformin for Weight Loss?

When losing weight you will probably be eating fewer carbs, so, you will have better insulin regulation already. That said, you can still use Metformin to lose weight.

You still need to follow a calorie deficit and train incredibly hard to make sure you retain muscle mass while losing body fat.

That said, the dosage for Metformin monotherapy for weight loss might be 500mg per day, again, depending on other factors such as age, weight, diet, etc.

How to use Metformin for Bodybuilding?

We know that the endogenous production of Inulin will begin to fall behind at some point – especially if you get big and use PEDs like Growth Hormone. This gets even worse when you eat a ton of carbs – which most of us do.

Metformin can be used by bodybuilders to reduce fat gain and might improve the gut microbiome, and of course, allow for improving insulin resistance resulting in better weight gain.

The health benefits Metformin has does make it seem like it has a bigger role to play in a bulking phase, however.

Metformin – Bulking

Individuals who are bulking might use Metformin at 500 – 1000mg per day. If the dose is 1000mg they might need to split the dosage up into two.

The more Growth Hormone, Insulin, and food you take in the more you will need. It is also used by powerlifters, strongmen, and other strength athletes to improve carbohydrate upregulation before a contest.

Metformin – Cutting

Metformin monotherapy can be used when cutting, and will probably be used more in the beginning phase of the cut. The reason for this is that the leaner you get the more your blood sugar will already be manageable, and introducing another drug will seem pointless.

Metformin – HGH

Those who use HGH will know that the Glucagon that is secreted after HGH is injected can eventually lead to insulin resistance – exactly how it is for those who suffer from diabetes.

The efficacy of Metformin shines here as it will stop that side effect of HGH, vastly improving your response to both compounds. Again, there is no controlled trial or study on this, but it has been done by various pro bodybuilders.

Side Effects of Metformin

By now we know that it can help regulate blood sugar and even help reduce fat stores, but are there any adverse effects?

  • The biggest known side effect is feeling nauseous
  • Stomach ache and Diarrhoea
  • A loss of appetite
  • Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in those who are already prone to it [8]

Other than these factors there are very few to report on. The effects Metformin exerts are usually novel and hard to notice, but they make a huge difference.

Signs Metformin is Working

The best way to see if Metformin is working is to test resting blood sugar levels – but not acutely. This needs to be measured over some time (like a few weeks) and you can then see a trend of change.

Those that suffer from either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes will do this all the time, and it isn’t that difficult.

To improve the effects, you can look at combination therapy with other compounds that’ll improve insulin levels even more.

Berberine, Chromium, and even Cinnamon can help slightly, and all are found in multivitamins for Diabetics.

Is Metformin Safe?

Absolutely. You have to talk with a doctor to get it, and thus you will discuss all the other factors that might influence your treatment. Metformin has been used by tons of people who have insulin resistance or Diabetes.

It has also been used in weight loss clinics to reduce fat stores, and even by bodybuilders to improve muscle gain. The American Diabetes Association describes Metformin as

“Metformin (Glucophage) is a biguanide. Biguanides lower blood sugar levels primarily by decreasing the amount of glucose produced by the liver. Metformin also helps to lower blood glucose levels by making muscle tissue more sensitive to insulin so glucose can be absorbed. It is usually taken two times a day. A side effect of metformin may be diarrhea, but this is improved when the drug is taken with food.”

If the American Diabetes Association supports it, it is safe.

Conclusion: Metformin

Metformin may be one of the drugs that most people will benefit from. Metabolic syndrome is catching up with most of us, and Diabetes care show that this drug is great.

Potential benefits include weight loss, better blood sugar levels, (possibly) cognitive performance improvement, and better glucose production, and combined with a lifestyle intervention it is a simple decision. Hell, it might even improve gut microbiota!

When it comes to body weight and weight gain management, Metformin may be the best treatment we have at hand due to the few side effects. It has various other health benefits, and if you simply change your lifestyle a bit, this drug may change your life.

What is Metformin used for?

Treatment of both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. It can also be used as lifestyle intervention for weight loss. It will do this by lowering blood sugar levels in the body and the overarching effects Metformin exerts will be on par with other obesity treatment medications.

How long can you stay on Metformin?

As long as you manage your blood sugar levels and Vitamin B12 levels, you should be fine. There are patients who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes who take Metformin daily.

What can I take instead of Metformin?

There are other options such as Berberine and Chromium – which are both over the counter supplements. Here are some other drug options: Avandia (rosiglitazone), Nesina (alogliptin), Tanzeum (albiglutide), Jardiance (empagliflozin), Invokana (canagliflozin), and Farxiga (dapagliflozin).

1) Nasri H, Rafieian-Kopaei M. Metformin: Current knowledge. J Res Med Sci. 2014 Jul;19(7):658-64. PMID: 25364368; PMCID: PMC4214027.

2) Pernicova I, Korbonits M. Metformin--a mode of action and clinical implications for diabetes and cancer. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 Mar;10(3):143-56. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.256. Epub 2014 Jan 7. PMID: 24393785.

3) Rena G, Hardie DG, Pearson ER. The mechanisms of action of metformin. Diabetologia. 2017 Sep;60(9):1577-1585. doi: 10.1007/s00125-017-4342-z. Epub 2017 Aug 3. PMID: 28776086; PMCID: PMC5552828.

4) Viollet B, Guigas B, Sanz Garcia N, Leclerc J, Foretz M, Andreelli F. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of metformin: an overview. Clin Sci (Lond). 2012 Mar;122(6):253-70. doi: 10.1042/CS20110386. PMID: 22117616; PMCID: PMC3398862.

5) Barbaresko J, Rienks J, Nöthlings U. Lifestyle Indices and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: A Meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2018 Oct;55(4):555-564. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.04.046. PMID: 30241617.

6) Ma LZ, Sun FR, Wang ZT, Tan L, Hou XH, Ou YN, Dong Q, Yu JT, Tan L. Metabolically healthy obesity and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Ann Transl Med. 2021 Feb;9(3):197. doi: 10.21037/atm-20-4387. PMID: 33708824; PMCID: PMC7940916.

7) Yerevanian A, Soukas AA. Metformin: Mechanisms in Human Obesity and Weight Loss. Curr Obes Rep. 2019 Jun;8(2):156-164. doi: 10.1007/s13679-019-00335-3. PMID: 30874963; PMCID: PMC6520185.

8) Chin-Hsiao T. Metformin and the Risk of Dementia in Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Aging Dis. 2019 Feb 1;10(1):37-48. doi: 10.14336/AD.2017.1202. PMID: 30705766; PMCID: PMC6345339.

Daniel Louwrens CPT

Hi there! My name is Daniel Louwrens, and I have more than 10 years of experience in the bodybuilding & fitness world. I have graduated with a degree in Chemistry, and my aim with helping people is to educate people who have questions about anything and everything fitness: Training, Nutrition, Recovery, and PED's.

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