Understanding Peptides: The Building Blocks of Life and Future Directions

Understanding Peptides: The Building Blocks of Life and Future Directions

Have you ever wondered how your body heals wounds, fights off bacteria, or grows muscle? The answer lies in peptides, which are microscopic molecules that are fundamental to living. They are tiny chains of amino acids that are vital in medical and pharmaceutical research, making them indispensable in fields like neuroscience, cancer therapies, immunology, drug delivery systems, and tissue repair. [1]

What are peptides?

Peptides are chains of amino acids, known as the building blocks of proteins. Some of the roles peptides play in bodily functions include cell signaling, hormone regulation, metabolic processes, and wound and tissue healing.

To classify the different types of peptides, each chain contains a specific amount of amino acids in a certain order to determine their function and structure. They consist of 2 or more amino acids linked together in a linear sequence by amide bonds. [2] The bonds are formed between amino and carboxyl groups of adjacent amino acids, giving them their specific and unique properties for different functions. [2,6]

Supplemented and Pharmaceutical Peptides

Exogenous peptides are frequently used as dietary supplements because they are more easily absorbed by the body compared to proteins. Due to the fact that proteins are larger and more difficult to break down and absorb. Exogenous peptides can also be naturally found in foods such as dairy, grains, meat, and seafood. Some can have anti-inflammatory effects, work as antioxidants, and properties to lower blood pressure.

In addition to being supplemented into one's diet, peptides have become a big part of modern medicine. Therapeutic peptides are specifically formulated for use in pharmaceuticals, they act as hormones, growth factors, and neurotransmitters to treat various health conditions. Sources suggest, with the rapidly growing world of pharmaceuticals there are over 170 peptides that are active in clinical development. [4] It is important for the consumers to do their research and work with their healthcare practitioner to determine which ones are safe and will be most effective.


Peptides have the ability to precisely interact with specific processes of the body. Supplemented and pharmaceutical peptides are useful to aiding hormone growth, weight management and muscle growth, healing, skin care, supporting the reproductive system, immune system, as well as having many other benefits. Peptides may be very small molecules but act mighty in aiding the body’s functions. They are the heart of many biological processes and hold promising results in future medicine. As they continue to be researched and modified, we will continue to see new peptides that assist in a variety of health conditions. Whether they occur naturally or are synthetically produced, peptides are the landscape of modern healthcare. 


Common Peptides Used for Body Composition

As the pharmaceutical industry is rapidly growing and changing, understanding what peptides are is important to consider before using them. I am going to briefly break down a few of the most common types of peptides that are being supplemented to people who are looking to improve their body composition by losing weight, increasing muscle, and improving their energy expenditure and metabolism. 


Body Composition Peptides

GLP-1 Agonists: 

Known as Glucagon- like Peptide-1 it is a medication used to treat diabetes and obesity. In recent years it has been altered to not only treat diabetes and obesity but osteoarthritis and optimizing metabolism. GLP-1 is a hormone that has a significant role in regulating blood sugar levels and appetite. These hormones help tell your body how to handle food that was ingested by releasing insulin into your cells to use as energy and lowering your blood glucose levels. It also works to reduce glucagon which raises your blood sugar and slows the digestion of food, making you feel full for longer, which will reduce your appetite. 


Many people looking to lose weight have been taking doses of different types of GLP-1. The common types of synthetic GLP-1 are Semaglutide and Tirzepatide. Semaglutide comes in different forms and are marketed as Ozempic and Wegovy, while Tirzepatide is marketed as Mounjaro. When taking these forms of GLP-1 medications, it is crucial to understand whether the weight loss is from fat mass or muscle mass. The distinction is important because the loss of muscle mass can lead to a slower metabolism and other health issues. Patients taking these medications are typically on them for long periods of time to achieve and maintain their weight loss goals. But there are risks of regaining the weight if the medications are stopped, especially for those who have slower resting metabolic rates (RMR) and energy expenditure. It is also important to monitor your body composition to see if there are any changes in muscle mass. 

If patients are looking to come off the drug it is important to consider pivoting their treatments by slowly decreasing the dose and utilizing metabolism and body composition tests. These tests can help identify the patients who are at higher risk of regaining the weight that was lost. The best way to pivot the treatments is by slowly decreasing the dose of the drug, increasing muscle mass which will work to increase their energy expenditure and metabolism. Which involves understanding the proper nutrition of protein intake, balancing macronutrients, and having effective workout routines. Other ways to safely pivot GLP-1 treatments is by utilizing supplements and hormone therapies which help to increase the natural production of growth hormones. Growth hormones work to break down fat and build up muscle, supporting long-term weight management and overall health.


Ozempic is a once-weekly injectable medication that contains semaglutide, a GLP-1 agonist. It works by mimicking the action of naturally produced GLP-1 hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion, inhibiting glucagon release, slowing down stomach emptying, therefore reducing your appetite. When taken for weight loss, ozempic promotes the feeling of fullness, reducing the amount of calories you are consuming on a daily basis. 



Wegovy is another brand of semaglutide approved for weight management. It works like Ozempic, being administered once-weekly by injection but at a higher dose. It involves the same mechanisms of action by enhancing insulin secretion, slows stomach emptying and reducing appetite, resulting in significant weight loss. Clinical trials have shown that patients using Wegovy have achieved and sustained weight loss.


Tirzepatide (Mounjaro)

Tirzepatide is under the brand name Mounjaro, it has shown significant advancements in weight loss therapies. It offers a more comprehensive approach to managing obesity and diabetes by targeting GLP-1 and GIP receptors. The dual action enhances the effects of traditional GLP-1 agonists due to the additional GIP receptor. Utilization of both receptors improves insulin secretion, suppression of glucagon, delayed emptying of the stomach, and increased feelings of fullness. 


Future GLP-1; Triple Agonist

The future form of a triple agonist GLP-1 named Retatrutide is an investigational medication aiding in weight management, diabetes, metabolic optimization and osteoarthritis. It is a multi-receptor agonist, meaning it targets three hormone receptors simultaneously. Retatrutide specifically acts on GLP-1 (glucagon- like peptide-1), GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) and glucagon receptors. By engaging with these pathways, Retatrutide has a significant role in alternating substrate utilization in lipid oxidation. Providing a comprehensive look at weight loss and metabolic regulation by measuring respiratory exchange ratio (RER). 


Retartrutide works by mimicking and enhancing the action of natural hormones involved in secreting insulin, regulating appetite, and glucose metabolism. By stimulating GLP-1 receptors using Retratrutide it will enhance insulin sensitivity and promote satiety. Leading to a reduction of carbohydrate intake, shifting the body’s energy source towards using fats. The activation of GIP receptors stimulates secretion of insulin in response to food intake and having better control over glucose. This will help balance and reduce the dependency on glucose. By including the glucagon receptor, which plays a crucial role in lipid metabolism, it will promote the breakdown of stored fats and increase lipid oxidation. This works to make fat the primary energy source during fasting or low carbohydrate intake. 

Retratutide is showing promising advancements to weight loss and metabolic therapies. Being a triple agonist medication, by targeting a third receptor will allow for more effective results. With ongoing research that aims to understand more about the long-term efficiency and safety concerns, the benefits are promising. 


Other Known Forms of Peptides and Supplements

  • Growth Hormone Secretagogue
        • Sermorelin, Ipamorelin/CJC
        • Increases fatty acid and oxidation, muscle production, recovery, and cellular efficiency
  • Mitochondrial Peptides
        • MOTS-C, SS-31
        • Has effects on AMPK, glucose disposal, and the electron transport chain
  • Amlexanox
        • Helps increase energy expenditure
  • Methylene Blue 
        • Increases activity in the electron transport chain, improving ATP production
        • Red light therapy
  • iCell Water
        • Has specific amino acids and creatine to improve muscle abilities
        • Improves cell volume, intracellular water, protects from loss of performance and protein synthesis
  • Alpha Keto GLutrate
        • TCA intermediate
        • Improves function of how we produce ATP
  • LeuSynergy, Sytrinol LNA
        • Mimics benefits of exercise
  • NAD precursors
  • 1-Methyl Nicotinamide 
      • The future of NAD
      • Will improve the body’s ability to produce its own NAD


  • Semaglutide Peptides: What to Know Before Trying Them | Invigor Medical
  • Biochemistry, Peptide - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
  • IJMS | Free Full-Text | Bioactive Peptides: Synthesis, Sources, Applications, and Proposed Mechanisms of Action (mdpi.com)
  • Therapeutic peptides: current applications and future directions | Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy (nature.com)
  • Signal Peptides - Promising Ingredients in Cosmetics | Bentham Science (eurekaselect.com)
  • Complex structural and regulatory evolution of the pro-opiomelanocortin gene family - PubMed (nih.gov)

    What Are Peptides and What Are They Used For? (health.com)

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