PCOS and your health goals
If you’ve landed here, you’re likely in a space where you’re looking for answers about PCOS. I first want to say, I feel you, and your struggles are not in your head! I understand the confusion and frustration that you’ve been experiencing because I help multiple women every day overcome the obstacles PCOS brings to their metabolism and their fitness goals.
One in 10 women are impacted by polycystic ovary syndrome—an imbalance of reproductive hormones that contributes to irregular cycles, weight gain, acne, hair growth, insulin sensitivity, and more. While I am not a doctor and cannot guarantee any specific results, there’s no question that a healthy, active lifestyle can be so helpful in managing some of the negative symptoms. Weight loss as little as 5% is a key strategy for improved hormone balance by reducing insulin levels, improved ovulation, and reduced testosterone.
PS- Prefer to learn about this in video format? Watch the full YouTube below!
Why does PCOS cause weight gain?
If you’ve been struggling to lose weight no matter what you do with PCOS, it’s not fully your fault! Polycystic ovary syndrome essentially alters the way your body is using insulin—the hormone that transports glucose (sugar) from your food. With PCOS, your body becomes more insulin resistant, meaning it’s not processing the glucose from your food and this signals your pancreas to produce its own. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing (insulin) promotes fat storage.
This process starts to set off a domino effect in your body! Increasing insulin not only leads to more fat storage but also elevates your hunger hormones, causing you to eat more and have strong cravings at times you normally wouldn’t.
Although you may not be able to fully control insulin levels, you CAN control your diet. And this is the key strategy for managing PCOS - diet control - which we will cover below.
It’s confusing and hard to notice the signs on your own. I get it! Luckily, I’ve worked through this with so many women in my Fit by Design coaching program where we get to dig deep and align your mind, body, and soul with your health goals. When you become so in tune with who you are and how your body is operating from the inside out, it becomes easier to manage those sudden hunger cues or mood shifts because you’ve gained so much internal awareness.
How to support your nutrition for PCOS
While there is no specific “diet” for polycystic ovary syndrome, there are a handful of methods and foods that can help support your body. Managing your insulin and blood glucose level is one of the best things you can do. As we talked about prior, PCOS is altering the way your body produces insulin. So if we can find ways to keep those levels at a steady level, it can help you feel a little better.
Low-glycemic foodsFoods that are low glycemic often include things that take more time to digest and do not cause a rapid spike in insulin levels. When eating your meals, opt for slow-digesting carbs such as whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, and oats. Foods with a higher fat content like nuts, olive oil, nut butter, and salmon will take longer to digest due to their fat content and pair well with a low-glycemic carb to manage blood glucose.
Tip: When eating your meal, try to have your protein and fat first, then finish with your carbohydrate. Then can help manage glucose levels as you are ingesting less glucose from fat and protein on an empty stomach, allowing you to digest your carbs at a slower rate.
A diverse plate full of nutrients can include things like:
Lean proteins such as turkey, chicken, and white fish
Unprocessed, whole foods
Beans, lentils, and legumes
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and bok choy
Dark chocolate (70% or higher)
Fibrous fruits like berries and cherries
Nuts and seeds
Fatty fish like salmon
Note: it’s a myth that women with PCOS must cut out gluten, sugar, and/or dairy.
Workouts for PCOS
It’s no secret that movement is good for the mind, body, and soul! But with a tricky hormone condition like polycystic ovary syndrome, you want to make sure you’re doing the right kind of activity to best support your body. In my Fit by Design 1:1 coaching program, I teach you all about exercise basics, how to eat properly, and how to create self-care habits that honor your hormones and cycle.
Depending on your background, we will dig into a variety of training methods to support you wherever you are at in your journey like:
Building muscle is your PCOS best friend! An increase in muscle mass from strength training and lifting weights 3-4 times a week can help combat insulin sensitivity and increase your metabolic rate. Plus, lifting weights can help support your bone density. This study found that women with PCOS often have a lower mineral density from estrogen deficiency and mismanaged insulin levels.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Due to the intense nature of HIIT, plenty of glucose is needed to perform this type of exercise. During high-intensity interval training, your muscles will release more glucose and activate insulin production during recovery. This is great for improving blood sugar in women with PCOS! Instead of storing excess amounts of glucose, you’re able to use it during this type of training and allow your blood glucose levels to improve. But don’t overdo it! Stick to 3-4 session max per week to allow for property recovery.
Daily NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis) If you’re just starting out and are not sure where to begin, tracking your daily activity and adding more movement to your day is a great start! NEAT accounts for things like walking to the mail, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking a little further away, cleaning the house, and any other type of movement outside of traditional workouts. For most people that live a sedentary life, simply increasing your daily activity can make a huge difference in how you feel. Taking a walk after each meal was shown to improve blood sugar metabolism compared to sitting for long periods after eating. Which makes sense! When muscles are contracting and our heart rate is elevated, our body is better able to manage blood sugar and insulin levels which is so important for PCOS!
Wrap Up & Coaching
If you’re still not sure where to begin, that’s ok! It’s a hard, confusing journey but I celebrate you for taking the first step and reading about how you can better care for your body at this time. Overall, focus on a healthy diet consistently, increasing your NEAT, monitoring your physique regularly, and building sustainable healthy habits. You don’t have to go it alone, let’s find what works for you so you can feel your best and truly embody your high self with the energy you’ve been looking for!
Thanks for reading!
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