Metformin Weight Loss – How It Works, Benefits, And Side Effects

by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

Do you find it extremely difficult to refrain from eating all the time? Have you gained too much weight? Or did your doctor just tell you that you have polycystic ovaries? If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, chances are your body is resistant to insulin. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, insulin resistance can lead to diabetes type 2, prediabetes, and infertility. This can take a toll on your physical and emotional health (1). To counteract these health problems, doctors often prescribe the drug Metformin. This drug has helped many to lose weight and improve insulin sensitivity, and it can definitely help you too.

So, read on to find out how Metformin can help you lose weight, the dosage, side effects, and much more.

What Is Metformin?

Image: iStock

Metformin is a drug that helps to control the blood glucose levels. It is a derivative of biguanide (a group of drugs that prevent the production of glucose by the liver) that helps to improve insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing the sugar levels in the blood and the risk of diabetes type 2. It also helps regulate the amount of sugar absorbed in the intestine.

Metformin was first synthesized in the 1920s. But only in 1957, it was made available in the market as an effective antidiabetic drug. It is generally sold under the brand name Glucophage and is taken orally. It is taken by people who are obese and at the risk of developing diabetes type 2 and by women who have irregular periods and are at a risk of PCOs and infertility (2). So, how does Metformin aid weight loss? Find out next.

Metformin And Weight Loss – How It Works ?

Image: iStock

In obese individuals, metformin acts by suppressing the production of sugar by the liver. It reduces the rate of gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis to a certain extent. Metformin also increases insulin secretion, thereby making the body more sensitive to insulin and lowering the blood glucose levels.

Metformin is also found to activate adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK), which inhibits the key enzymes involved in glycogen synthesis in the liver, gluconeogenesis, insulin transport in the muscles, and insulin signaling (3). The bottom line? Metformin helps your cells take up glucose by making them insulin sensitive, thereby helping you feel hungry less frequently. This, in turn, makes you eat less, use the calories that you consume as energy, and lose weight. Now, what is the best way to take Metformin? Scroll down to find out.

How To Take Metformin For Weight Loss?

Image: iStock

The best way to take Metformin is to follow your doctor’s instructions. Do not take less or more than what your doctor has prescribed. Also, make sure to take this medicine with your meals unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise. Swallow the tablet with water and refrain from chewing, crushing, or breaking it.

Depending on your response to the medicine, your doctor may try a different dosage for a certain period. Keep fruit juice, hard candy, raisins, or dates ready with you when you take Metformin as this drug may lower your blood sugar levels to such an extent that you may feel nauseous and get a headache. Find out more about Metformin dosage in the next section.

Metformin Dosage For Weight Loss

Image: iStock

Metformin is available in the following forms:

  • 500 mg pills
  • 850 mg pills
  • 500 mg modified-release pills
  • 750 mg modified-release pills
  • 1 g modified-release pills
  • 500 mg oral powder (sugar-free)
  • 1 g oral powder (sugar-free)
  • 5 ml / 500 mg oral solution (sugar-free)
  • For adults, Metformin tablets can be taken 2-3 times a day.
  • For children and teenagers, 1 Metformin tablet per day is recommended.
  • It is not allowed for children under 10 years of age.
  • The maximum daily dose is 1000 – 3000 mg metformin per day (divide the doses into 2 or 3 smaller doses).

Your doctor will start with the lowest dose, and after a week or two, depending on your body’s response to the previous dose, he/she may increase the dose. Do not stop taking it until your doctor tells you to do so. But, what happens if you miss a dose? Find out next.

What If You Miss A Dose?

You should be extra careful when you take Metformin for weight loss. There is nothing to worry about if you miss a dose. However, if you remember it very close to the time for your next dose, do not take the pill. If not, you can safely take the missed dose as soon as possible. Make sure to eat something along.

What If You Overdose Yourself?

Metformin overdose can be fatal. Do not try to take too many pills to lose weight quickly. Overdosing yourself will not lead to weight loss, but you may experience fast breathing, chills, stomach ache, nausea, headache, and lactic acidosis. Make sure to go to your nearest hospital to get help.

Now, the next big question is, how much weight loss can you expect and in how much time. Let’s find out.

How Much Weight Loss Is Expected From Metformin?

There have been many studies regarding Metformin-induced weight loss in type 2 diabetic patients and obese people. Many of these studies lasted from 4 to 7 months. The results concluded that the immediate weight loss experienced due to Metformin ranged from 1 to 4 kg. Experts say that the real weight reduction begins only after taking the medication for 4 to 6 weeks in total. So, is it really safe to take Metformin for such a long period for weight loss? Find out in the next section.

Is It Safe To Take Metformin For Weight Loss?

Yes, it is safe to take Metformin for weight loss, but you should consult your doctor first. If your doctor agrees to put you on Metformin for weight loss, you have nothing to worry about. Remember not to overdose yourself to lose weight quickly. Follow your doctor’s instructions to make the drug do its work without putting your health at risk. However, there are exceptions where you cannot take metformin, be it for weight loss or treating diabetes or PCOs. Take a look at the next section to find out who should avoid taking Metformin.

Who Should Avoid Taking Metformin For Weight Loss?

Avoid metformin if

  • you suffer from kidney disease
  • you had a heart attack in the past or recently
  • you are more than 80 years old
  • your liver is not functioning properly
  • you are in the state of diabetic ketoacidosis
  • you have a medical test scheduled in that needs to inject a dye into your veins
  • you have taken chlorpropamide recently
  • you are below 10 years of age
  • you are pregnant and lactating (consult your doctor)
  • if you are below 18 years (avoid taking extended-release pills)

If you answered “no” to all the points mentioned above, good for you, you can go ahead and take Metformin to lose weight. But, will you lose weight just by taking Metformin and not making any changes in your lifestyle? No. You need to watch what you are eating and make significant changes in your lifestyle to lose weight. For your convenience, here’s  a list of foods that you should eat and avoid to lose weight.

Foods To Eat

Image: iStock

Fruits And Veggies – Kale, spinach, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, carrot, beetroot, onion, spring onions, collard greens, squash, radish, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, apple, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, prune, peach, pear, cucumber, green chili, jalapeno, gooseberries, star fruit, passion fruit, watermelon, and muskmelon.
Protein – Chicken breast, eggs, ground turkey, salmon, tuna, mackerel, mushroom, soya bean, lentils, kidney bean, garbanzo bean, lima bean, and soy chunks.
Fats And Oils – Olive oil, rice bran oil, ghee (clarified butter), flax seed butter, sunflower seed butter, peanut butter, flax seed oil, and hemp seed oil.
Nuts And Seeds – Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
Dairy – Low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, buttermilk, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese.
Beverages – Freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juice, coconut water, detox drinks, green tea, oolong tea, matcha tea, black coffee, herbal tea, and water.
Herbs And Spices – Cumin seeds, coriander seeds, allspice, cardamom, clove, mace, saffron, cinnamon, nigella seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, cayenne pepper powder, black pepper, curry leaves, cilantro, oregano, basil, sage, bay leaf, dill, fennel seeds, etc.

Foods To Avoid 

Fruits And Veggies – Potato, pumpkin, mango, jackfruit, and grapes.
Protein – Beef, pork, sausages, salami, smoked salmon, and canned tuna.
Fats And Oils – Animal fat, margarine, butter, canola oil, and vegetable oil.
Nuts And Seeds – Cashew nuts.
Dairy – Full-fat milk, full-fat yogurt, flavored yogurt, mozzarella cheese, full-fat cream, and ice cream.
Beverages – Alcohol, artificially sweetened, aerated, colored, and flavored beverages, and packaged fruit and vegetable juices.

You also have to make few changes in your lifestyle to make Metformin work for you. Here’s what you should do.

Lifestyle Changes To Lose Weight

  • Consume fresh and organic produce.
  • Eat every 2-3 hours.
  • Have at least one protein source with each meal.
  • Consume fiber-rich foods to lose weight.
  • Do not skip breakfast.
  • Consume not more than 2 whole eggs in a day to get the essential nutrients.
  • Avoid starchy, processed, sugary, and salty foods.
  • Get 3-5 hours of exercise every week to mobilize fat and build lean muscle mass.
  • Play a sport at least 3 hours a week to keep your body flexible and active.
  • Do not skip breakfast.
  • Eat home-cooked food.
  • Drink at least 3-4 liters of water every day.
  • Keep your stress away by mastering a hobby.
  • Enjoy a cheat day every week.
  • Keep your weight loss goals alive by setting a deadline.
  • Build social support by talking to people who are serious about losing weight.
  • Get at least 7 hours sleep every night.
  • Keep your electronic gadgets away when you go to sleep.
  • Avoid midnight snacking.

Before I conclude, let me tell you about a few side effects of taking Metformin.

Metformin Side Effects

Image: iStock

Taking Metformin may have the following side effects:

  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach ache
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Cramping
  • Musculoskeletal pains
  • Lower back pain
  • Seizure
  • Blurred vision
  • Urinary problems
  • Anxiety

If you experience these after effects, you should immediately discuss it with your physician. There are a number of reasons these side effects might occur – lifestyle, medication, other ailments, or because the drug did not suit you. So, consult your doctor without further delay.

Metformin is a very effective drug that can help you lose weight, which, in turn, will reduce your chances of developing diabetes or PCOs. So, consult your doctor and lose weight by consuming Metformin. And, of course, eat healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle to get results. Good luck!

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.

Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.