Written by Travis Hansen (resultsbyscience)
If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, then this article should put you at ease when it comes to your weight and fat loss efforts with the condition. There is no doubt PCOS can wreak some havoc in many women, but rest assured it won't be a problem for you when it comes to far loss, contrary to common belief.
As I'm sure you probably know, PCOS causes cysts to develop in the ovaries which can be very painful, and cause hormonal alterations, among many other things. Please keep in mind the focus of this article is to solely assess the effects of PCOS on weight and fat loss, nothing else. Moreover, the condition can alter normal hormonal function in such a way that causes a woman to be more androgenic like men. Thus, having hormone levels more similar to a man when it comes to Testosterone and its derivatives.
Testosterone friend or foe?
Those with PCOS not only carry higher levels of T, but they will take on the same biological fat patterning as men also, meaning they will tend to store more fat subcutaneously, rather than at the hips. Fat may still be stored at the hips, but there should be a rise in the abdomen as well.
However, not to worry. Testosterone affects body fat distribution positively in this case. It has been shown that hypogonadal men store a greater proportion of both dietary fatty acids and free fatty acids (FFA) in lower body subcutaneous fat than eugonadal men. Moreover, weight reduction has been associated with increases in testosterone levels.
Some may look at the above info and say well this is for men. True, but fortunately for you, men naturally produce far more testosterone than women, even in women with PCOS. The research clearly shows that men with higher T have less body fat in and around their abdomen. If the T was the issue, then the men with much higher T would have saggy bellies but they do not. In other words, testosterone has clearly been shown to help reduce body fat in several ways in the human body, or at minimum position you to have a healthier metabolism and burn more fat, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. Women generally secrete far less T than men, so you can view the PCOS slightly working in your favor with this info in mind.
Here is one more study from Archer that addresses PCOS and metabolic effects precisely: “Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is a hyperandrogenic state, are prone to upper body and visceral fat accumulation as well as to insulin resistance according to review.” Please note, that conversely there are studies that show women don't tend to store more visceral fat from the higher T associated with PCOS. Either way, it's a very small issue that can easily be overcome in the end.
If there is any issue with PCOS it's the insulin resistance issue. Fortunately, though, there are so many ways to alleviate this problem and shed body fat for good:
✔ Reduced body fat is #1!
✔ Intense metabolic resistance training (MRT) No you won’t bulk ladies!
✔Omega 3 supplement or intake
✔Food source and condiment selection
✔Deep breathing practice
Furthermore, "It is well established that PCOS women are prone to develop obesity and many of the effects of testosterone on adipose tissue resemble the effect of obesity per se, such as lipolytic catecholamine resistance in subcutaneous adipose tissue and adipocyte insulin resistance as reviewed ." (5)
To be fair and thorough, research clearly shows that testosterone in females with PCOS can block fat loss hormones, but not to worry. Any negative effect will be heavily offset by all the positive T offers indirectly. You will see this shortly. Too often people and media culture loves to ridicule and randomly select one negative effect, and ignore the several positives to confirm their false emotional bias, or they simply just didn't know the whole truth. This pattern leads to a lot of confusion and doesn’t solve peoples struggles.
The effects of T solved with Dieting
So, the good news for you if you are still worried about your PCOS is that after a few weeks of fat-loss dieting your testosterone levels will reduce anyway. This is part of what is called “Metabolic Slowdown.” It happens to literally everyone to some degree. The two things that heavily regulate this effect are your body weight and length of dieting. The lower you are in weight the fewer calories you will burn because of not only your body mass, but how long you’ve been practicing your diet. The more you diet the more slowdown you will experience over time.
But wait. Can T help fat loss?
With testosterone getting such a bad rap in the PCOS discussion, it’s only fair to balance things out and reveal to you right now all of the upside to the hormone as well. You've already seen that dieting will solve your T concerns from the minimal potential effects of PCOS on fat loss. Combine that notion with the several indirect benefits of testosterone and androgens.
According to Lyle Mcdonald who is a world-class physiologist and researcher, testosterone can have strong indirect effects on fat cell metabolism which benefits the dieter.
Second, when you are eating more and in what is called a “Fed State” there is a triangle of hormones that work together to keep your metabolism higher. These are leptin, insulin, and testosterone. Leptin can be viewed as your master metabolic hormone. The higher your leptin is the more calories you burn. Carbohydrates increase leptin through the metabolism of carbohydrates in specific cells of your body. Furthermore, insulin which is raised in response to eating carbohydrates helps transport leptin into the brain. Last but not least, insulin also simultaneously maintains higher testosterone levels by preventing it from binding to Sex Binding Hormone Globulin (SBHG). This is a very underrate and powerful trifecta of hormones for fat loss.
I know this may be a lot to take in, but just read it over a few times and it will all stat to make sense. It’s just how the body works so it’s very important to know this so you can understand how exactly it impacts your fat loss efforts.
In closing, whenever we hear the word testosterone it's normal to think of being bulky or building more muscle. However, the increase in muscle mass raises all aspects of your metabolism and allows you to burn fat faster throughout your entire body including those stubborn areas, which in the case of PCOS is the abdomen.
More specifically, the increase in muscle from testosterone raises your RMR (resting metabolic rate) so you burn more calories around the clock. It’s not a big number, but it adds up in the long run, nonetheless.
Secondly, testosterone improves tissue recovery rates so you can train harder sooner and burn more calories faster overall as the days and weeks fly by. Next, more muscle mass means more of what burns calories inside your cell. In other words, think of your muscle as a calorie-burning furnace. The bigger the furnace the more heat you can generate which is what calories are when it all comes down to it.
Finally, I’ve helped several women who suffered from PCOS, and the approach utilized was no different than any other person looking to lose weight. The reality is that there are specific principles you must follow when it comes to fat loss training and nutrition if you want the body you desire. It’s that simple.