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For anyone experiencing PCOS symptoms, chances are life can sometimes feel like a frustrating drag. If it’s not hormonal acne you’re dealing with, it’s getting to grips with facial hair removal, irregular periods and Googling the sh*t out of PCOS weight loss. Because, to make matters worse, you’re eating cleaner than Deliciously Ella and working out harder than Bodyrock’s Lisa but nothing is changing.
How To Approach PCOS Weight Loss
Shall we let you into a little secret? It might actually be your diet and exercise routine that’s exacerbating the problem.
“There is a genetic component to developing PCOS,” says nutritionist Clare Goodwin (thepcosnutritionist.com). “However, genes can be turned on and off by environmental factors. By removing the environmental factors that trigger your PCOS gene to switch on, PCOS symptoms can be reversed.”
And what are these so-called environmental factors? Well, stress is pretty high up on the list, and can be the result of overtraining and eating the wrong – or insufficient of the right – foods. “When excess stress hormones are produced over prolonged periods of time, it can really take its toll on the body,” Goodwin says. In short, stress hormones such as cortisol draw glucose into the blood stream – they’re prepping the body flight – which, when elevated for too long, can cause insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms. So, regulate blood sugar and avoid PCOS? Well, with 70% of women with PCOS also having insulin-resistance, and science on its side, the chances are, most likely, yes.
The first way in which blood sugar can be regulated is through nutrition on a PCOS Diet – obvs. Nutritional therapist Angelique Panagos stresses that, although the best plan really should be tailored to the individual, cutting out the CRAP – caffeinated drinks, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and processed foods – from mealtimes is a good place to start when it comes to combating insulin resistance.
But, one of the easiest ways to alleviate your PCOS symptoms is, according to four separate studies (and numerous fitness professionals), swapping HIIT for regular, progressive strength training. Think lifting weights around three times per week. That’s it. The reason?
“Interval training is often misused and overused in our training routines,” says Katelyn Fasion, senior trainer at The Dan Roberts Group (danroberts.com). “This is particularly bad when done by women managing PCOS because of the impact it can have of their hormones. Women with PCOS have a harder time managing sugar levels because their body doesn’t use the hormone insulin as efficiently as it should. Strength training reduces insulin resistance and improves insulin efficiency by increasing glucose uptake into the muscle cells. After a workout, there are more receptors on the muscle cell that help with the uptake of sugar.”
And the argument for ditching the sweat, gets better. You’ll likely shift that excess fat, too – thanks to strength training’s ability to regulate your hormonal cycle. So, as well as improving your skin, hair and fertility, you could slash your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Just one hour twice a week is all you need. Researchers from The University of Pennsylvania found that that amount was sufficient to reduce belly fat by nearly 4%.
Best fitness for PCOS
Now we know what you’re thinking. If two sessions a week reduces fat by 4% then four sessions – or more – will up the benefits. Not quite. “Overtraining can lead to stress – both physical and psychological,” Goodwin says. And we all know how bad that can be. “Cortisol can lead to increased weight (fat) around the mid-section,” Fasion says. “Lack of proper recovery, rest and nutrition after exercise can result in the inability to achieve your weight-loss goals and lead to hormone imbalance.”
“Plus, sacrificing sleep to cram in another workout can increase your risk of insulin resistance in itself,” Goodwin adds. “Less than six hours of sleep per night over the course of a week can reduce insulin sensitivity by 30%.”
THE PCOS WORKOUT
As with diet, the best workout for you depends on your body composition but try Fasion’s six top PCOS-friendly exercises, for starters:
1. Kettlebell plie squat
2. Barbell hack squat
3. Turkish get up
4. Swiss ball overhead extension
5. Lunge with shoulder press
6. Weighted step up
Now you have your PCOS weight loss plan sorted, do read up on what causes a bloated tummy and the best lean protein to fill up on.