This paper presents a study of losses in substrate-integrated waveguides (SIWs) and cavities. Three mechanisms of losses are considered and separately investigated, namely radiation leakage, ohmic loss, and dielectric loss. A systematic comparison of waveguides with different geometry, operating at different frequencies, is reported. This study permits to give a physical interpretation of the loss mechanisms and to identify design criteria to minimize losses. A similar analysis is also developed in this work for the case of SIW resonant cavities. For these structures, a different variation of losses with respect to frequency is found, which reduces the effectiveness of the design criteria established for SIWs.