The Weight-Loss Drug Dilemma in Cycling: A Closer Look at Ozempic

by Daisy

Ozempic, Mounjaro, and their related drugs have taken the world by storm. Initially developed to manage Type 2 Diabetes, these GLP-1 and GIP/GLP-1 agonists have become notorious for their appetite suppression and weight loss effects. These drugs, including Wegovy (a higher-dose version of Ozempic), have created significant demand, leading to shortages and some countries restricting prescriptions to non-diabetics. This has sparked an underground market, with compounding pharmacies allegedly mass-producing and distributing these medications, sometimes in sub-standard conditions.

Cycling and the Allure of Weight-Loss Drugs

Cycling, like any sport, mirrors societal trends. The Escape Collective team has observed a notable rise in the use of these weight-loss drugs within the non-professional cycling community. The sport’s obsession with weight, especially when climbing, and the lean physiques of top cyclists make Ozempic and similar drugs tempting.


These drugs are administered via injection, much like insulin. While they are not banned substances, organizations like the UCI enforce a No Needle Policy, which requires medical justification for injections. The drugs work by mimicking peptides that lower blood sugar and slow stomach emptying, thus suppressing appetite. However, professional cyclists are unlikely to use them due to their side effects and performance limitations.


The Experience of a Cyclist Using Ozempic

An anonymous member of the Escape Collective shared their experience with Ozempic, ordered from an online pharmacy in Australia. They reported noticeable appetite suppression and minor weight loss, but also significant performance issues. “My legs burned after about five hard pedal strokes,” they said, alongside mood swings and gastrointestinal problems. They ultimately discontinued the drug, valuing their exercise performance and overall well-being more than the minor weight loss achieved.


Side Effects and Risks

Ozempic and its counterparts come with side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially initially. There’s also a risk of more severe issues like acute pancreatitis and depressed mood. For athletes, the suppression of appetite and gastrointestinal discomfort can severely hinder performance. Consuming enough calories to fuel intense training becomes challenging, making these drugs more of a hindrance than a help.

The Cultural Challenge in Cycling

The use of weight-loss drugs highlights deeper issues within the cycling community. Masters cyclists, in particular, seem drawn to these drugs, struggling with body image as they age and juggle responsibilities. The culture of commenting on body size and shape, often casually or even positively, can foster negative body image and disordered eating.

Almost 80% of cyclists surveyed reported attempting weight loss in the past year. Yet, the leanest riders are not always the fittest; they may be silently suffering from eating disorders.

Changing the Narrative

To improve the culture in cycling, it’s crucial to shift focus away from body size and towards performance and skill. Comments on body weight, whether positive or negative, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors. Instead, riders should be praised for their watts, bike-handling skills, and road etiquette.

Ultimately, the cycling community’s interest in weight-loss drugs reflects broader societal issues. Cyclists need to be reminded that their identity and worth are not tied to their physique. A healthier, more supportive community can help mitigate the pressures that drive individuals towards potentially harmful solutions.


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