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Does PCOS Slow Down Your Metabolism

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of childbearing age. It is the most common endocrine disorder in women, affecting up to 10% of all women. PCOS can cause weight gain, infertility, and other health problems. It is often speculated that one of the reasons for the weight gain is how PCOS may be affecting your metabolism but is this true and if so, what can you do about it?

1. Does PCOS effect your metabolism

It is often thought that women with PCOS have a lower resting metabolic rate making it more difficult to lose weight. However, we're still not 100% sure if this is true. Some research has shown that patients with PCOS have lower resting metabolic rate (RMR)/metabolism even when controlled for BMI. This may be due to the lower muscle mass which can lead to a lower RMR. Another study also showed how women with PCOS had significantly decreased RMR.

However, other studies that have adjusted the results based on age and BMI, show that there was no difference in RMR between women with PCOS women and the control group.

Anecdotally, from RMR tests that I have carried out, I do see a trend that women with PCOS do have lower resting metabolic rates but there are many reasons why they could be lower outside of PCOS.

So although we can't say that PCOS itself leads to a drop in your metabolism, other factors exacerbated by PCOS such as low muscle mass and high visceral fat may contribute to a lower resting metabolic rate, making weight loss harder.

2. So why does PCOS lead to weight gain?

Due to the complexity of PCOS, it is difficult to pinpoint one specific reason for weight gain. However, some of the main reasons include insulin resistance, inflammation of fat cells and sex hormone imbalances. There are also indirect mechanisms (depression, perceived lack of self-control and increased stress and anxiety) that may hamper ongoing attempts to aid weight-loss. This process can make it incredibly difficult to break the cycle.

Research shows that women with PCOS also tend to have a higher levels of visceral fat. Visceral fat is fat that lies deep in the abdomen and surrounds the organs and is linked to a lot of health conditions. What's worse, is that studies have shown that higher levels of visceral fat can impact satiety or keeping you full, and make you feel more hunger more often. This can make it far harder to stay within your calories. If you can't control your hunger, weight loss is going to be incredibly difficult!

3. What can you do?

There are several different types of medication that can be used to treat PCOS, and each one has its own set of risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor about which treatment option is right for you.

One other treatment option is weight loss.

Losing weight can help improve insulin resistance, visceral fat, improve your mood regulate periods and improve fertility in women with PCOS (1, 2). And although weight loss maybe more challenging, it is still possible. This study also showed that women with PCOS following a strict diet lose comparative weight with women who didn't have PCOS. So you can still lose weight.

Your PCOS weight loss guide

  1. Eat the right amount - To lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit this means you burn more calories than you eat through food. RMR testing is the best way to set your calories if you suffer from PCOS because of the risk of having a lower resting metabolic rate. This eliminates any guesswork about how much you should be eating, as well as ensuring you eat the most amount possible and still see results (helps keep you full). To find out more about how RMR testing can help your weight loss check out this page

  2. Eat voluminous foods - Foods high in fibre and water take up more space in the stomach but contain fewer calories. This means they help you to feel fuller for longer and are excellent weight loss foods. Foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils) are all great options.

  3. Cut down on simple carbohydrates - Simple carbs are quickly broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels which can trigger cravings. These types of foods are also easy to over consume. Try to limit simple carbs such as sweets where possible.

  4. Increase your activity levels - Exercise helps to improve insulin resistance, inflammation and weight loss. Exercise can also help reduce visceral fat independently of exercise making it even more important. Even moderate exercise such as walking can be beneficial. Try to aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days

  5. Work with an expert - At Box Nutrition, we provide a combination of metabolism testing and nutrition coaching enabling us to tailor a diet and exercise plan to you as an individual. Get in contact at and ask how we can help, or find out more about our signature weight loss programme Ignite here.


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