Just over the weekend I had a conversation with one of my members about her struggle to lose weight .. it was when she mentioned PCOS that the penny dropped for me as to why she was struggling .. and in turn prompted me to scribble this today .
You see for women diagnosed with PCOS (POLYCYSTIC OVARIES ) Weight loss is a very different ball game to those without.
For this group of women our normal weight loss protocol just doesn't work. No matter how perfect their diet may be or how hard they workout , they just struggle to lose weight.
PCOS is a unique hormonal condition that affects your body in unique ways. It definitely requires a specific PCOS approach to weight loss.
Firstly lets look at what PCOS is ..
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition where the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance.
The world ‘Polycystic’ means ‘many cysts’. PCOS can run in your family but can also be caused by lifestyle factors, such as being overweight. 70% of women with PCOS will also have insulin resistance- A condition where the cells in your body become resistant to the hormone insulin .(This is why a different approach to weight loss is needed)
In your ovaries, you store your lifetime supply of eggs. What happens in your ovaries is controlled by parts of your brain called the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. It does this via hormones. Your brain releases a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which causes hundreds of your immature eggs to start to grow and mature. These follicles in which your eggs are, release estrogen. When estrogen levels reach a certain point, your brain then sends luteinizing hormone (LH) to your ovaries, causing the most mature follicle to release it’s egg. This is what ovulation is. All your unused follicles & eggs simply dissolve. Now with PCOS, you release abnormally high amounts of this LH causing your follicles to not mature, and may even cause you to miss ovulation. Some of those follicles don’t dissolve and can remain as cysts.
You may also find you have insulin resistance. Insulin’s main role is to regulate blood sugar levels, but also plays a role in the ovaries in producing testosterone. Insulin is a fat storing hormone, and being insulin resistant will cause you to have a much harder time losing weight as your body will be in fat storing mode - not fat burning mode. Combining high levels of LH with high insulin levels will cause you to create high levels of testosterone and this is the cause of things like acne & hair growth.
So that's the scientific bit to PCOS ... Now on to that weight loss with PCOS ,
Most people with PCOS will have a lower BMR than women without. (basal metabolic rate )
Your BMR is the number of calories your body will burn everyday to keep you alive .
BMR of women without PCOS: 1,868 calories a day
BMR of women with PCOS (without insulin resistance): 1,590 calories a day
BMR of women with PCOS (with insulin resistance): 1,116 calories a day
As you can see, women with PCOS have quite a lower BMR than women without.
For women with PCOS, it will be much easier to overeat, and therefore, gain weight as they require fewer calories per day .
This is HUGE FACTOR IN THE BATTLE WITH WEIGHT LOSS AND GAIN
TRACKING YOUR FOOD INTAKE IS CRITICIAL .. I mean its critical for everyone but for these group of women its MUST .. there are a lot of FREE apps available for tracking food and macros .. my fitness pal, Nutricheck and lose it ..are just a few .
YOU SIMPLY CANNOT GUESS CALORIE INTAKE IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT LET ALONE WITH PCOS
Now on to that insulin resistance I mentioned....
Insulin is a hormone. It’s main role is to regulate your blood sugar level. If you drink a can of coke and scoff down a doughnut, the sugar from that meal will quickly find itself in your bloodstream. This will spike your blood sugar levels. Your brain will sense this spike and then release insulin into your bloodstream to lower your blood sugar levels back to normal. It does this by pushing the sugar that is in your bloodstream into the cells of your body, muscle cells, liver cells . If you are resistant that insulin stays in your bloodstream
Now that your bloodstream is filled with blood sugar and insulin, your body will have no other option but to store all of this blood sugar in your fat cells
This is why insulin resistance makes it so easy to gain weight - whatever you’re eating will be broken down and pushed straight into your fat cells.
What also happens with Insulin resistance is those cells that are now resistant to insulin’s effects are starving because they’re not getting the nutrients they need. So, they are now sending signals to your brain saying “Hey, we’re starving down here. Feed us”, resulting in you feeling hungry.
SO HOW DO WE COMBAT ALL OF THIS ????????????? WE USE QUANTITY, QUALITY ..MOVE
FIRSTLY .. As I said , we track our food and its important we are eating the right foods due to the issues those with PCOS have with insulin.
It is SO IMPORTANT for those with PCOS to LIMIT CARBOHYDRATE INTAKE !!!
You must keep your blood sugar levels as even as possible throughout the day.
You can do this by limiting your intake of carbohydrates, especially in the form of simple sugars.
Simple sugar foods are things like soft drinks, ice creams, white bread, adding sugar to your coffee, dried fruit, fruit juice and white pastas and rices.
These foods should be occasional foods not every day staples.
I don't believe any food should be totally off-limits if you really enjoy it, but some foods must only be eaten in moderation. This is my normal and PCOS approach to weight loss . Calling a food a no food only makes you want it more and we really shouldn't be denying ourselves things all the time.
The same rule goes for those with PCOS as it does with my normal weight loss guide.. DO NOT CUT CARBS TOTALLY !!!!!!! WE NEED THEM
Just stick to good carbs such as green leafy vegetables, oats, sweet potato, and fruits such as apples, pears, oranges, and berries.
You should be aiming for 20 -30g of carbs per day MAXIMUM !! But PCOS peoples .. remember to TRACK THOSE CALORIES TOO .
The low GI diet has been seen to successfully work with PCOS as this works on the principle of sugar release to the bloodstream .. stabilising bloody sugars to mininmise insulin release.
SECONDLY .. IS EXERCISE
Due to having a lowered BMR you need to be burning as many calories as you can throughout the day. I know it sucks right !!
But you CAN INCREASE YOUR CALORIE BURN BY EXERCISE .. THE RIGHT EXERCISE !!!
For women with PCOS ditch the long slog .. your workouts are more effective if not over 45 minutes .. and should include resistance training and HIIT training which lucky for you we do at bootcamp.
REMEMBER FOR SUCCESFUL WEIGHT LOSS WITH PCOS .. QUANTITY .. QUALITY .. MOVE
Quantity of Calories : Keep a food diary to track how many calories you are actually eating. Remember that women with PCOS have a lower BMR than women without. Also remember that most people are probably consuming a lot more calories than they actually believe
Quality of Calories : Limit your intake of sugars and starches . Your goal is to keep your blood sugar levels as even as possible throughout your day.
Move : Exercise is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for you insulin resistance.
I Hope this has helped anyone out there with PCOS