top of page
  • Josie Barnes

How Saxenda (liraglutide) Works For Weight Loss

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Saxenda for Weight Loss: How it Works, Side Effects, Benefits, and Risks



Saxenda is a prescription medication weight loss drug used to treat obesity and overweight adults with weight-related medical conditions. It works by mimicking the effects of the GLP-1 hormone. GLP-1 is a naturally occurring hormone that helps to regulate appetite, blood sugar levels, and insulin secretion.


Saxenda is an injectable prescription medication and you can only get it with a visit to your GP or Healthcare Provider. Originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, Saxenda found a new purpose in the realm of weight management due to its observed effects on appetite and metabolism. If you want to lose weight, improve your body mass index whilst not necessarily having to do rigurous physical activity, Saxenda may be suitable for you. However, it can have serious side effects and these type of weight loss medications can only be prescribed by a healthcare provider. In this article, we will cover * How Saxenda and weight-loss injections work * Possible side effects of Saxenda * Benefits of Saxenda * Risks of Saxenda * What to expect when you start using Saxenda * Considerations and Precautions * The Usual Dose of Saxenda * Alternatives to Saxenda * Saxenda injections - how to administer * How do you store it? * How can you make Saxenda more effectve? * The history of Saxenda

How Saxenda Works

Saxenda is a weight loss drug that works in a number of ways to help people lose weight.


Firstly, it helps to suppress appetite and make people feel full longer.


Secondly, it delays gastric emptying, which means that it takes longer for food to leave the stomach. This helps to reduce hunger and cravings.


Thirdly, it increases insulin sensitivity, which helps to improve blood sugar control and reduce fat storage.


For best results in adult patients, always follow a GP or Doctor's advice, drink plenty of fluids, eat fewer calories as part of a low-calorie diet and trust the process (long term results are often impressive). It is also important to stick with the recommended dose of Saxenda to avoid possible side effects of Saxenda.


Saxenda weight loss injection pen
Saxenda is a weight loss injection that you can administer yourself


How Saxenda Works


1. Appetite Regulation:

Saxenda primarily influences the appetite control center in the brain. By mimicking GLP-1, it helps regulate feelings of hunger and satiety. This can lead to reduced food intake, a crucial element in the weight loss journey.


2. Slowing Gastric Emptying:

The medication also affects the rate at which the stomach empties its contents into the intestines. This contributes to a feeling of fullness and satisfaction after meals, promoting better portion control and decreased overall calorie intake.


3. Blood Sugar Control:

Originally designed for diabetes management, Saxenda has secondary benefits related to blood sugar control. By regulating glucose levels, it contributes to an environment conducive to weight loss.


Possible Side Effects of Saxenda




The most common side effects of Saxenda are mild and go away on their own within a few weeks. These side effects can include:


  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal pain

  • Gas

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Change in Heart Rate


Other, less common side effects (rare cases) of Saxenda can include:


  • Allergic reactions

  • Gallbladder problems

  • Pancreatitis

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Injection site reaction

Benefits of Saxenda

Saxenda has been shown to be effective for weight loss in both clinical trials and real-world settings to help patients achieve a healthy weight. In one clinical trial, people who took Saxenda lost an average of 15% of their body weight over a period of 56 weeks.


Saxenda has also been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

The benefits of using Saxenda for weight loss include:


  • Effective weight loss: Saxenda has been shown to be effective for weight loss in both clinical trials and real-world settings. In one clinical trial, people who took Saxenda lost an average of 15% of their body weight over a period of 56 weeks.

  • Improved blood sugar control: Saxenda has also been shown to improve blood sugar control and reduce other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • Reduced risk of other chronic diseases: Saxenda may also help to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

  • Improved quality of life: People who lose weight with Saxenda often report improvements in their quality of life, including increased energy levels, improved mood, and better sleep.


Saxenda is not intended to treat treat type 2 diabetes.

Risks of Saxenda

Saxenda is generally safe for most people, but there are some potential risks to be aware of. These risks include:


  • Allergic reactions

  • Gallbladder problems

  • Pancreatitis

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Suicidal thoughts


Saxenda is not recommended for people with a history of medullary thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. It is also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.


Be careful if you have low blood sugar or kidney problems - talk with your health care provider if you have any medical conditions before taking prescription drugs as some people do have a serious allergic reaction.


Patients with type 2 diabetes should speak to their GP about treatment as Saxenda is not meant to treat type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes (or prediabetes), this supplement may help. --

Other Information


Saxenda is a self-injectable medication that is administered once daily. It is typically injected into the abdomen or thigh. Saxenda is available in a variety of doses, and your doctor will determine the best dose for you based on your individual needs.


Saxenda is most effective when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program. If you are considering taking Saxenda, be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of this medication.


Saxenda in Action: What to Expect when you start using Saxenda for weight loss

1. Gradual Weight Loss:

Saxenda is not a quick fix. Users often experience gradual weight loss over an extended period. The medication is typically prescribed as part of a comprehensive weight management plan that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity.


2. Patient-Centric Approach:

The effectiveness of Saxenda can vary among individuals. Healthcare providers tailor the dosage based on individual responses and needs. Regular check-ins with a healthcare professional are essential to monitor progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

Considerations and Precautions

While Saxenda presents a promising avenue for weight loss, it's not suitable for everyone. Individuals with a history of thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, or those allergic to liraglutide should avoid Saxenda.


As with any medication and drug administration, potential side effects exist, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It's crucial for users to be aware of these potential effects and communicate openly with their healthcare providers. If you are unsure about taking weight-loss or Saxenda injections, then explore other weight loss supplements.

What is the usual dose of Saxenda?

The typical dosage of Saxenda is gradually escalated to minimise side effects and improve tolerability. It usually starts with a low dose and increases over several weeks.


Here's a handy chart that explains the Saxenda dose:



A chart explaining how much Saxenda to use
Saxenda Dose


Initiation Phase:


Week 1: The initial dose is often set at 0.6 mg once daily. This allows the body to acclimate to the medication, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.


Week 2: The dosage is increased to 1.2 mg once daily.


Maintenance Phase:


Week 3 and Beyond: Depending on individual response and tolerance, the maintenance dose is typically 3 mg once daily. This is the standard dose for achieving the desired therapeutic effects in weight management.


It's crucial to adhere to the prescribed dosage as recommended by your healthcare provider. Deviating from the prescribed dosage or attempting to self-adjust can impact the medication's effectiveness and may lead to an increased risk of side effects.

Regular communication with your healthcare provider is essential to monitor progress, discuss any concerns or side effects, and make adjustments to the treatment plan if necessary.


Dosage adjustments are personalised based on individual responses, and healthcare providers may tailor the plan to optimise both effectiveness and safety for each patient. Note, these doses are an indication only and you should always use what dose your Doctor or GP has prescribed.

Weight loss injections may not work for everyone for a number of reasons, including:


  • Individual response: Not everyone responds to weight loss injections the same way. Some people may experience significant weight loss, while others may see little or no results.

  • Underlying medical conditions: Some underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid problems, and Cushing's syndrome, can make it difficult to lose weight with weight loss injections.

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as steroids and some antidepressants, can interact with weight loss injections and reduce their effectiveness.

  • Lifestyle factors: Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, also play a role in weight loss. If you are not making healthy lifestyle changes, weight loss injections may not be effective for you.

Here are some specific examples of why weight loss injections may not work for everyone:


  • People with type 2 diabetes: Patients with type 2 diabetes may not lose as much weight with weight loss injections as people who do not have diabetes. This is because people with type 2 diabetes often have insulin resistance, which makes it difficult for their bodies to use insulin to process glucose. Weight loss injections can help to improve insulin sensitivity, but they may not be enough to overcome the effects of insulin resistance in some people with type 2 diabetes.

  • People with thyroid problems: People with thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism, may not lose weight with weight loss injections. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is essential for metabolism, the process by which the body converts food into energy. Without enough thyroid hormone, metabolism slows down and weight loss can be difficult.

  • People with Cushing's syndrome: Cushing's syndrome is a condition in which the body produces too much cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol can cause weight gain, especially around the middle of the body. Weight loss injections may not be effective for people with Cushing's syndrome until the underlying condition is treated.

  • People taking steroids: Steroids are medications that can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, arthritis, and cancer. Steroids can cause weight gain, and they can also make it difficult to lose weight with weight loss injections.

  • People taking certain antidepressants: Certain antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants and some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can cause weight gain. This weight gain can make it difficult to lose weight with weight loss injections.


If you are concerned about injections for weight loss, there are many other effective alternatives out there.


Additional Information about Saxenda


Saxenda is a relatively new medication, and more research is needed to fully understand its long-term safety and effectiveness. However, studies so far have shown that Saxenda is a safe and effective medication for weight loss (and in most cases significant weight loss) , especially in people with weight-related medical conditions.


If you are considering taking Saxenda, be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of this medication. Your doctor can help you determine if Saxenda is right for you and can develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. If you use Saxenda to achieve healthy weight (always note your starting weight!) use it as part of a reduced calorie diet for maximum effectiveness. Saxenda Injections:

Saxenda is administered through subcutaneous injections. This means the medication is delivered just beneath the skin, providing a controlled and targeted approach to its therapeutic effects.


Administered through a pre-filled pen, Saxenda injections are designed to be convenient, allowing users to self-administer the medication in the comfort of their homes. It's perfect for chronic weight management and can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Saxenda is given via a subcutaneous injection (which simply means under the skin). It is often given in the upper leg or stomach area but seek medical advice for the best places to inject.


How to inject Saxenda:






1. Preparing for the Injection:

Before initiating the injection process, gather all necessary supplies, including the Saxenda pen, alcohol swabs, and a sharps disposal container. Check the expiration date on the pen to ensure it's suitable for use.


2. Selecting the Injection Site:

Choose an appropriate injection site, typically the abdomen (excluding the area around the navel), the front of the thigh, or the upper arm. It's advisable to rotate injection sites to prevent irritation or changes in the fatty tissue under the skin.


3. Cleaning the Injection Site:

Using an alcohol swab, thoroughly clean the chosen injection site. Allow the site to air dry before proceeding to ensure a sterile environment for the injection.


4. Preparing the Saxenda Pen:

Remove the cap from the Saxenda pen without shaking it. Gently roll the pen between your palms to evenly mix the solution.


5. Attaching the Needle:

Attach a new, sterile needle to the pen, removing both the protective outer and inner needle caps. Securely screw the needle onto the pen.

6. Priming the Pen:

Dial the pen to the recommended dose and hold it with the needle pointing up. Tap the cartridge holder gently to eliminate any air bubbles. Press the dose button until the display shows "0," and Saxenda is visible from the needle tip, priming the pen for the full dose.


7. Selecting the Dose:

Dial the pen to the prescribed dose, as directed by your healthcare provider.


8. Administering the Medication:

Pinch the cleaned skin at the injection site, insert the needle at a 90-degree angle, and push the dose button to inject Saxenda. Keep the button pressed for about 5 seconds to ensure the complete delivery of the dose.


9. Removing the Needle:

Remove the needle at the same angle it was inserted. Release the pinched skin without rubbing the injection site.

10. Disposing of the Needle:

Dispose of the used needle in a sharps disposal container. Do not attempt to recap the needle.

11. Recording the Injection:

Maintain a record of your injections, documenting the date, time, and injection site. This log provides valuable information for discussions with your healthcare provider.

Proper administration of Saxenda injections is integral to its effectiveness as a tool in weight management. Always adhere to your healthcare provider's instructions and seek guidance if you have any concerns or queries about the injection process. If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with self-administering Saxenda injections, consulting your healthcare provider or a healthcare professional can provide the necessary training and support.

How do you store Saxenda?

Saxenda should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). It is crucial to keep the medication refrigerated to maintain its stability and efficacy.


When you are ready to use Saxenda, you can take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before injecting. Do not expose Saxenda to excessive heat or freezing temperatures, as this can affect its quality.


It's important to follow the storage instructions provided with your Saxenda prescription and consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any specific concerns or questions about the storage of this medication. Always check the expiration date before using Saxenda and do not use it if it has expired.


Other ways to make Saxenda more effective:


Optimising the effectiveness of Saxenda and weight loss injections involves a holistic approach that encompasses lifestyle modifications, adherence to prescribed guidelines, and ongoing communication with your healthcare provider.


Here are key strategies to enhance the efficacy of Saxenda for weight loss:

1. Maintain a Consistent Schedule:

Adhering to a regular dosing schedule ensures a steady presence of Saxenda in your system, promoting consistent effects on appetite control and metabolism. Set a daily routine to help integrate injections seamlessly into your lifestyle.


2. Healthy Eating Habits:

Combine Saxenda with a balanced and nutritious diet. Emphasise whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Be mindful of portion sizes, and avoid excessive consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.


3. Stay Hydrated:

Adequate hydration supports overall health and can aid in weight loss. Drinking water before meals may also help control appetite. Aim for the recommended daily water intake to promote hydration and well-being.


4. Regular Physical Activity:

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine. Physical activity complements the effects of Saxenda by supporting overall health, enhancing metabolism, and contributing to a caloric deficit for weight loss.


5. Mindful Eating Practices:

Cultivate mindful eating habits to develop a better awareness of hunger and fullness cues. Avoid distractions while eating, savor each bite, and listen to your body's signals to prevent overeating.


6. Monitor Side Effects:

Be vigilant about any potential side effects and report them to your healthcare provider promptly. Open communication allows for timely adjustments to your treatment plan, ensuring both safety and efficacy.


7. Regular Check-Ins with Healthcare Provider:

Schedule regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to discuss progress, address concerns, and make any necessary adjustments to your Saxenda dosage or overall weight management plan.


8. Set Realistic Goals:

Establish achievable and realistic weight loss goals. Celebrate small victories along the way, and recognise that sustainable weight loss is a gradual process. Patience and persistence are key.


9. Educate Yourself:

Take the time to understand how Saxenda works and its role in weight management. This knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions about your health and fosters a sense of ownership in your weight loss journey.


10. Lifestyle Modifications:

Beyond medication, consider other lifestyle changes such as getting adequate sleep, managing stress, and avoiding excessive alcohol intake. These factors can impact weight and overall well-being.

Saxenda is most effective when used in conjunction with lifestyle modifications. Embracing a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and adopting sustainable lifestyle changes are integral components of a successful weight management strategy.


Saxenda is a tool that, when combined with a holistic approach, can enhance the journey toward achieving and maintaining a healthier weight. A reduced-calorie diet is good to help shift excess weight.

Effectively integrating Saxenda into your weight loss strategy involves a multifaceted approach that extends beyond medication. By combining the benefits of Saxenda with healthy lifestyle choices, mindful eating, and regular communication with your healthcare provider, you create a comprehensive foundation for successful and sustainable weight loss.


Remember, individual responses to treatment may vary, so personalized guidance from healthcare professionals is invaluable in optimising outcomes. It is recommended that patients are 18 years of age or older although it has been known to have been prescribed for younger patients (12+) -- Other information that may be useful about Saxenda and weight loss injections:

History of Saxenda


The discovery and development of Saxenda trace back to the exploration of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and its potential therapeutic applications. GLP-1 is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body that plays a crucial role in regulating glucose metabolism and appetite.


The initial groundwork for Saxenda can be linked to the broader research on GLP-1 agonists, which began as scientists sought innovative approaches to managing type 2 diabetes.


The idea was to harness the physiological effects of GLP-1 to enhance insulin secretion, suppress glucagon release, and slow down gastric emptying—all key factors in diabetes management.


As researchers delved deeper into understanding GLP-1's impact on metabolism, appetite, and insulin sensitivity, they recognized its potential applications beyond diabetes. The journey to Saxenda's discovery involved modifications to the original GLP-1 molecule to extend its half-life, allowing for a once-daily injection.


The breakthrough came with the development of liraglutide, the active ingredient in Saxenda. Liraglutide is a long-acting GLP-1 receptor agonist, meaning it mimics the effects of GLP-1 and stays active in the body for an extended duration.


Crucial clinical trials followed, exploring the safety and efficacy of liraglutide in various therapeutic contexts. These trials (including a placebo group) not only validated its effectiveness in managing diabetes but also unveiled its potential in weight management.


Saxenda emerged as a distinct formulation specifically designed and approved for chronic weight management in individuals with obesity.


The journey from the discovery of GLP-1's potential to the development of Saxenda represents a paradigm shift in the medical approach to weight management. It showcases the intricate interplay between scientific curiosity, targeted drug development, and a commitment to addressing the complex challenges associated with obesity and related metabolic conditions.


Saxenda, with its roots in diabetes research, has become a beacon of innovation in the pursuit of comprehensive solutions for individuals on the path to healthier weights.

Saxenda and breast feeding: It is not known is Saxenda is passed through the body into breast milk and there is no medical history to prove otherwise. As this is a grey area, women who are breast feeding who have weight-related conditions are advised not to take weight loss injections.


A calorie-controlled diet (or other weight loss medications) would be more suitable for pregnant women and those who are breast feeding to help with body weight.

Brand names:

Saxenda is primarily known by its generic name, liraglutide. However, when it comes to brand names, Saxenda stands out as the distinctive and well-recognised designation for this particular formulation.


Unlike some medications that may have multiple brand names due to different manufacturers producing generic versions, Saxenda maintains its unique identity across the pharmaceutical landscape. This singular brand name simplifies recognition for both healthcare providers and individuals seeking weight management solutions.


It's important to note that while Saxenda is the brand name for liraglutide in the context of weight management, liraglutide itself may be prescribed under different brand names when used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and is part of important diabetes medications. For instance, Victoza is a brand name for liraglutide specifically indicated for diabetes management.


In summary, Saxenda stands as a distinctive and singular brand name for chronic weight management. Its clear nomenclature aids in minimising confusion and ensures that individuals receiving this medication can easily identify it within the realm of weight loss solutions. In Australia, Saxenda is supplied by Novo Nordisk, a company headquartered in Denmark.


bottom of page