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What is PCOS?

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a hormonal condition that can happen to women in child bearing years that can affect the ability to have children.  PCOS can stop your periods or mak them irregular due to the lower levels of progesterone these women have.  Because of the higher levels of androgens (often called male hormones) it can also cause acne, facial hair and increase the risk of diabetes and hypertension.  It also contributes to weight gain in women.

Some signs and symptoms include: hair loss, facial hair, acne, darkened skin, skin tags, mood changes, pelvic pain and weight gain.  There may be a genetic component to this syndrome

Treatment: May be prescribed glucophage or metformin (used in Type II diabetes) to lower insulin resistance, regulate ovulation and  help with weight loss.  Orlistat or xenical may be prescribe to keep your body from digesting fats to help lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss.  For women having trouble getting pregnant, they may be prescribed Clomid which encourages the steps in the process that triggers ovulation.  IVF may be another alternative for these women.

Why does PCOS cause weight gain?

PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use insulin which normally converts sugars and starches into energy.  Insulin resistance causes insulin and sugar/glucose to build up in the blood stream. High levels of insulin increase the production of androgens which can cause weight gain typically in the abdomen.  Abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind because it is associated with increased heart disease and other health problems.  Losing weight with PCOS reduces your risk of many diseases.  Just shedding 10% of your body weight can help bring your periods back to normal and help relieve some of the other symptoms.

I highly recommend in investing in a nice scale.  One that will preferably monitor not only body weight but also body fat %, lean body weight, etc.

Ways to lose weight with PCOS

1. Reduce carb intake due to its impact on insulin levels.  In one study, women who ate lower carbs, higher fat with 15% protein had a 30% reduction in insulin levels.  So eating a low glycemic index carb diet may decrease insulin levels and improve weight loss.

2. Eat lots of fiber.  Fiber helps you stay full after a meal.

3. Eat enough protein.  Protein stabilizes your blood sugar and increases feelings of fullness after a meal.  It may also reduce cravings, help burn more fat and manage your hunger hormones.

4. Eat healthy fats.  These will help you feel more satisfied after meals and help decrease overeating.  In one study, a higher fat diet resulted in more fat loss including belly fat.  Examples of healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and nut butters.

5. Eat fermented foods.  Healthy gut bacteria plays a role in metablolism and weight maintenance.  Studies suggest that women with PCOS have fewer healthy gut bacteria than normal.  Try to eat foods high in probiotics such as yogurt, sauekraut and Kefir or you can even take a probiotic supplement.

6. Practice mindful eating to produce more awareness of internal eating cues.

7. Limit process foods and sugars.  All of these are linked to obesity, espcially more dramatic in women with PCOS.

Find some low carb meal ideas here

8. Reduce inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is common with PCOS and is linked to obesity.  A diet like the mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, veggies, whole grains, olive oil and omega 3 rich foods protect against inflammation.

9. Don’t undereat.  Calorie restriciton may actually slow your metabolism.  It can also negatively impact the hormones that control the appetite.

10. Exercise regularly.  Women with PCOS will probably lose less fat than women without it.  However, exercise is still important and you will lose body fat.  Just stick with it.  Weight training has also been shown to improve weight loss in women with PCOS.

11. Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the activity of hormones that drive your hunger.  These hormones are ghrelin and cortisol which may cause you to eat more throughout the day.  A study demonstrated that every hour of additional sleep per night was associated with a slightly lower BMI.

12. Manage stress.  Stress increases cortisol which is linked to insulin resistance and weight gain.  Chronic stress also increases belly fat.  Belly fat increases inflammation which triggers an increase in cortisol thereby creating a viscious cycle.

13. Consider supplements.  Myo-inositol may lead to weight loss in women with PCOS.  It is a compound related to Vitamin B that improves insulin sensitivity.  Carnitine (an amino acid found in meats) may also aid in weight loss.  You can get these supplements here