Why Is It Harder to Lose Weight with PCOS?

Why Is It Harder to Lose Weight with PCOS?

Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) tend to have a slower metabolism – making it harder to maintain or lose weight – due to several interconnected factors:

1. Insulin Resistance, Leptin and Ghrelin

Insulin resistance is common in women with PCOS, leading to higher insulin levels in the blood. Higher insulin levels can promote fat storage, particularly around the abdomen, and can reduce the body’s ability to burn fat for energy. This can contribute to a lower Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories the body needs each day at rest, which in-turn reduces the number of calories you can consume each day before you put start to put on weight.

(BMR is the amount of energy, measured in calories, that your body requires to maintain basic physiological functions such as breathing, circulating blood, regulating body temperature, cell production, nutrient processing, and maintaining brain and nerve function. Essentially, BMR represents the number of calories your body needs to perform these essential activities without any additional physical activity.)

Insulin resistance can also interfere with leptin, a hormone that signals fullness. When leptin signalling is impaired, the brain may not receive accurate signals that the body has enough energy stored, leading to increased hunger. Insulin resistance can also impact ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone.” Higher levels of insulin can stimulate the production of ghrelin, increasing appetite and food intake.

2. Hormonal Imbalances

PCOS is associated with an imbalance of reproductive hormones, including elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) and lower levels of progesterone. These hormonal imbalances can affect the way the body metabolises food and stores fat. High androgen levels are linked to increased abdominal fat, which is metabolically less active compared to lean muscle mass.

3. Reduced Muscle Mass

Women with PCOS may have a tendency towards reduced muscle mass quite often due to lifestyle factors associated with PCOS, such as lower physical activity levels. Muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue, so a lower muscle mass can contribute to a slower metabolism.

4. Thyroid Dysfunction

There is a higher prevalence of thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroidism, among women with PCOS. Hypothyroidism can slow down your metabolism, making weight management more challenging. Only a doctor can advise if you have a thyroid disorder or not.

Addressing Metabolic Slowing in PCOS

1. Exercise

Regular physical activity, especially strength training, can help build muscle mass, which in turn can increase metabolic rate. Cardiovascular exercise can also improve insulin sensitivity and aid in weight management as well.

2. Diet

A balanced diet that emphasises fibre, low-glycemic index foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help manage insulin levels and support metabolic health. Eating smaller, more frequent meals may also help maintain steady blood sugar levels and reduce hunger pangs. However, check with a medically qualified or other suitable diet related professional before changing your diet.

Drinking plenty of water can help reduce hunger and prevent overeating.

3. Medications and Supplements

Some medications and supplements can help. These should only be prescribed by a doctor and or another medically qualified professional. So. I won’t list these here, but speak to your doctor about this and go from there.

4. Lifestyle Modifications

  • Sleep: Ensuring adequate and quality sleep can help regulate hormones that control metabolism and appetite.
  • Stress Management: Reducing stress through practices like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help lower cortisol levels, which can positively influence metabolic rate.

I can help you…

I am a Weight Loss Coach, successfully helping people just like you to lose weight and keep it off:

Want to get stronger, fitter or gain muscle?