Get our FREE IIFYM Weight Loss Starter Guide
The PCOS Playbook: Tracking Macros for Weight Loss
If you find yourself diagnosed with PCOS, you are not alone.
Close to 12% of our female clients have PCOS and need dietary and nutrition changes. This means that over 250 women diagnosed with PCOS come to IIFYM every month looking to have their macros dialed in by an expert macro coach so that they can lose fat without the bloating, hunger and irritability that comes with regular dieting.
If you are one of the millions of women living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, there’s a good chance that you struggle to lose weight and keep it off. There are several PCOS related hormonal imbalances and symptoms that can make shedding fat a serious challenge. In spite of the difficulty, losing weight is one of the best ways for women to manage their condition and take charge of their health.
Be sure to discuss these issues with your IIFYM coach so that the two of you can come up with a program that improves your waistline and your PCOS.
The IIFYM system can help you lose weight and get your symptoms under control, but you’ll need to approach the program with your PCOS in mind. Below is a PCOS Playbook for making progress with IIFYM.
IIFYM and PCOS
Losing just 5% of your body weight can reduce PCOS symptoms and complications. If you like working with numbers and appreciate a flexible diet, IIFYM could be a great fit for you. Women living with PCOS tend to get better results when they take a well-rounded approach to their nutrition instead of just cutting out calories.
This is because getting the proper balance of macronutrients can improve hormones involved in PCOS like insulin and sex hormones.
Your exact IIFYM breakdown will depend on your unique health factors and goals but reducing carbs to 40% or less of your total calories and getting at least .8 grams of protein per a pound of body weight is a good place to start.
Choose Carbs that Balance Hormones
Insulin resistance is one of the root causes of PCOS symptoms. When a woman is insulin resistant, her body must make abnormally high amounts of insulin to digest carbohydrates and keep her blood sugar at a safe level.
High levels of insulin cause an increase in testosterone production which in turn cause several troubling symptoms like acne and missed periods. To minimize the effects of insulin resistance, a PCOS IIFYM diet plan will reduce your daily percentage of carbohydrates.
Cutting carbs is a good first step. However, only cutting carbs might not be sufficient for women living with PCOS. To get the best results from IIFYM, women should select slow-digesting carbohydrates.
Slow carbs cause your blood sugar to rise gently which will ensure that your body does not overproduce insulin. If your insulin levels rise slowly and don’t spike, your testosterone levels will be better controlled.
Slow-digesting carbohydrates are whole foods and are high in fiber. For example, old-fashioned oats are a slow carb, and sugary breakfast cereals are not. You can stack your IIFYM diet with slow carbs by simply selecting whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding added sugars. If you’re more of a numbers person, you should look at using the Glycemic Index to evaluate your carb sources.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement used to describe how quickly your blood sugars will rise after eating a specific food. A GI of 55 or less raise blood sugar slightly, those in the 55 to 70 range raise it a little higher, and carbohydrates with a GI over 70 will raise blood sugar significantly.
Use Protein to Ease Hunger Pangs
One of the strengths of IIFYM for PCOS is that it encourages women to eat plenty of protein. Women living with PCOS report experiencing frequent and strong sensations of hunger even after they’ve had a full meal.
Studies also suggest that PCOS women might have a lower metabolic rate than women of the same age and activity level. This confluence of issues makes weight loss a challenge. One way to combat it is to increase protein intake since it encourages feelings of satiety.
At the end of 6 months, the high-protein diet was more successful at reducing body fat, waist circumference and improving insulin resistance.
According to a study published in the American Society for Nutrition (1), PCOS patients who followed a high-protein diet for six months lost on average 9.5 pounds more fat than patients who followed a low-protein diet.
During the study, both the high-protein and low-protein dieters received a month of nutritional counseling. They were not required to restrict calories but were told to avoid simple sugars.
At the end of 6 months, the high-protein diet plan was more successful at reducing body fat, waist circumference and improving insulin resistance.
The researchers concluded that the women lost weight despite the lack of calorie restriction because the high-protein was more satiating. Thus, women felt less hungry and consumed fewer calories naturally.
Some natural health experts have raised concerns about animal proteins, like dairy or meat, and PCOS. There is an ongoing question as to whether or not the hormones used to treat livestock might be a factor in the development of hormonal imbalances.
There hasn’t been much medical research on the issue, but if you are concerned about potential risk, consider buying organic products that are not treated with hormones.
Eat the Right Types of Fats
PCOS IIFYM includes plenty of fats, but not all fats are created equally. This is especially true for those of us who have PCOS.
Having PCOS puts you at a much greater risk of developing heart disease because we tend to have lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol).
A recent study (2) found Omega 3 lowered free testosterone levels in women with PCOS. Omega 3’s have also been shown to play a role in improving insulin resistance, anxiety, and depression.
What types of fats you include in your IIFYM diet plan can help correct this issues and reduce testosterone levels, a win-win for women with PCOS!
Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, which could amplify the heart health risks associated with PCOS.
One of the most common sources of trans fat is partially hydrogenated oils which are found in margarine, some fast foods, and commercially made baked goods. By choosing a healthy alternative to margarine and skipping the drive-thru you can easily minimize your consumption of trans fats.
Get in Omega 3’s
Omega 3 fats are an excellent source of cholesterol – plus, they can improve other PCOS symptoms! A recent study (2) found Omega 3 lowered free testosterone levels in women with PCOS. Omega 3’s have also been shown to play a role in improving insulin resistance, anxiety, and depression.
Fatty fish, sea vegetables/algae, flaxseeds and grass-fed meat are all good sources of Omega 3’s. If you find it hard to include this food in your IIFYM plan, consider taking a fish oil supplement. Just remember that fish oil capsules contain calories and fats so they should be factored into your daily macro totals.
There aren’t any supplements that directly address weight loss in PCOS women, but supplementation should still be part of your PCOS IIFYM playbook. Symptoms like fatigue, cravings, dysregulated blood sugar, low vitamin D, and low B12 can make sticking to a diet difficult for women living with PCOS. Fortunately, supplementation can correct these issues.
Inositol supplementation has been shown to improve many aspects of PCOS including insulin sensitivity, anovulation, anxiety, and infertility (3). Although it has never been studied, many women also report reduced sugar cravings after consistently using inositol for several weeks.
Two of the most common drugs prescribed for treating PCOS, Metformin, and the Birth Control Pill, can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. Low B12 can make you feel sluggish which makes following a new diet and exercise plan challenging, to say the least!
If you’ve been prescribed one of these drugs, talk to your doctor about B12 supplementation. This is a particularly important issue for vegans and vegetarians since B12 is found mostly in animal products.
67-85% of women living with PCOS have vitamin D deficiency (4). Vitamin D deficiency can make PCOS symptoms like insulin resistance, menstrual irregularities, hirsutism, hyperandrogenism, and obesity worse. Ask your doctor to monitor your vitamin D levels with a blood test and supplement if it is necessary.
Lifting Weights Will Strengthen Your Results
First of all, strength training is really good for most people. It prevents many of the side effects of aging like heart disease, osteoporosis, and age-related weight gain. Plus, it’s great at mitigating the effects of common chronic diseases like diabetes.
For PCOS women who want to lose weight, strength training can be a game changer. The muscle you build in the weight room will stimulate your metabolism and help you keep fat off for good.
Strength training reduces insulin resistance by increasing the size of skeletal muscle and enhances that muscles’ ability to manage glucose. That extra muscle will also raise your metabolic rate so that you burn more calories throughout the day.
Losing weight with PCOS is a challenging, but worthwhile journey. With some knowledge about how symptoms affect weight loss and a good IIFMY diet plan, you can see progress both on the scale, at the gym, and in your overall health.
PCOS Macro Calculator
Also, we want to provide PCOS Macros for you that are closer to your optimal intake without dropping calories too low. Our PCOS Calculator is a rather handy tool, but should you want a customized macro weight loss program created for you by an IIFYM expert macro coach, consider buying a Custom Macro Blueprint. Our expert level macro coaches will create a customized macro strategy for you based on close to 25 bits of data including your specific PCOS needs.
Our PCOS Macro Calculator will get you notably close to your correct weight loss macros, but remember, that this calculator is only a tool and cannot account for your metabolism health, dieting history and other unique circumstances that can greatly affect your weight loss macros. Our Custom Macro Blueprint is built for you and you only, and guaranteed to work.
(Although we have geared this macro calculator to your dietary macro needs, we encourage referring to your physician before starting any new diet.)