PCOS and Weight Loss

I’ve talked a little about my weight in the post My Story, but I wanted to talk a little more in-depth here about what I’ve found to work and not work.

This is not meant to be a weight loss blog, but being overweight is one of the hallmarks of PCOS.  Many of us need to eat far fewer calories than a BMR calculator will tell us, and sometimes that can drop into the unhealthy range.  It’s difficult to get the nutrients your body needs if you’re eating less than 1,200 calories a day.  If you’re a smaller person looking to lose a bit of weight with PCOS, the real number of calories you need to lose weight by dietary intake along might dip below 1,200 calories a day.

Powerlifting and PCOS

That lower BMR means it’s harder to gain muscle without gaining fat very quickly.  I gain fat quickly eating around 1,500 calories a day, which is enough for me to gain muscle at a pace I’m happy with, but also enough to make me gain 15lbs of fat in a month.  I was not able to lose that fat while maintaining my newfound strength.

The difficult issue here is finding that balance of enough calories to gain muscle, but not gain massive amounts of fat.  I have been unable to do this on my own.  I tried everything I could find, and I gave it a solid try for 5 years.  I’ve been unhappy with my progress, and didn’t realize why until a friend of mine referred to women with PCOS as hardgainers.  Yes, yes we are.  That’s exactly the problem, here.

Hardgainer is a term used to refer to a person who has difficulty building muscle.  People called hardgainers are usually slim men that don’t eat enough calories to build muscle at the rate they’d like, or at all.  Before that conversation, I’d never heard the term applied to a female, much less myself.  I’m a hardgainer because if I eat enough calories to be as strong as some of my female lifter friends, I’d end up morbidly obese.  While it is a stereotype that powerlifters can be very obese, not all of the strong powerlifters are.  It’s not my goal to be strong at all costs, I’d also like to be reasonably healthy.  Note here the difficulty, all the articles and blog posts by women who have slimmed down and improved their bodies through heavy lifting talk about eating over 1,800 calories a day, often over 2,000 calories a day.  That spells disaster when my maintenance BMR hovers around 1,200.  Again, I COULD do that.  I just wouldn’t be happy with myself or very healthy if I did so.

Losing the Weight

I’ve done a LOT of research on weight loss.  Intermittent fasting, carb cycling, carb backloading, low-carb, keto, gluten free, I’ve even tried two of Lyle McDonald’s diets.  I get tiny, tiny amounts of fat loss for vast amounts of work and depriving myself.

I don’t have it all figured out yet.  What I finally did recognize is that I needed help, which is why I’ve gone on Metformin.  It’s been two months now, and I’ve finally dropped below 200lbs again.  Unfortunately I’ve become weak and I haven’t been able to eat enough.  I get dizzy when I squat, to the point that I can only do 2 or 3 heavy squats at 135lbs and then I have to sit down and pop a glucose tab.  I don’t know the cause of this, but will be talking to my doctor about it when I go in next month.  I can’t compete like this, I can barely work out like this.  Anyway, enough about current frustrations.

The best results I’ve had so far while unmedicated were with workout based carb cycling.  I’d keep my carbs in the 30-100g/day range on off days.  On workout days, I’d eat some carbs about an hour before my workout, usually some fruit or hot cereal (I hate cold cereal) in addition to a protein shake with creatine and beta alanine in it.  If it wasn’t after 3pm, I’d have some caffeine and possibly a Bronkaid.  About halfway through the workout, I’d start sipping my post workout shake – alternating every other sip with water, usually finishing it off after the workout.  I felt healthy and strong during the workout, and then would have a nice filling meal shortly after, but very few carbs after that meal.  I gained strength slowly and steadily on this plan, without gaining fat.  Most of this was newb gains, but it worked reasonably well for a couple of years.

Plain keto used to work for fat loss, but it was very slow and I couldn’t lift without getting sick.  My body simply couldn’t handle it, though it’s possible yours could.  Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss worked, but my lifts again went down.  16 hour intermittent fasting is a lifestyle for me.  I tend to be nauseated in the mornings, so I only eat breakfast when I need to work out in the morning.  I tried alternate day fasting last winter with mixed results.  I didn’t lose any weight on it, but found it to have positive effects on my appetite, self control, and cravings.  I’d suggest a 16-24 hour fast to anyone that can’t seem to get their hunger and cravings under control, just be sure to drink lots of water.  (Not a juice fast, an actual fast.)  Do NOT try to lift while fasted for more than 16 hours.  For goodness sake, do it on a rest day.

Ultimate Diet 2.0 was a huge amount of effort for very little fat loss.  I believe this is related to the way my body handles sugar.  Cheat mode doesn’t make me gain weight, but I also don’t lose any on it.

Cardio

I hate most forms of cardio.  I love swimming, but don’t have the ability to do it on a regular basis right now.  Cardio can help you burn fat, no question.  Doing SOMETHING every day or almost every day will help get your calories down while still allowing you to eat within a healthy range.

The easiest answer is walking.  The hardest answer is HIIT.  I’ve done both, and both work, so does the in-between stuff like jogging and biking.

How about you?

Are there any other PCOS lifters out there?  What worked for you?  What didn’t work?  Any kind of heavy lifting experience will do, weightlifting is just as valid to this discussion as powerlifting is.

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UD 2.0: The End

Defcon ruined my cut 🙂

I actually finished out 3 full weeks before I was no longer able to continue. I followed the diet reasonably strictly, my macros were either below or just above where they should be. I followed the workouts exactly.  I stopped because the gym at my hotel wasn’t open at hours that I could get to it – and neither was the pool.  The Gold’s on the strip had shut down, and I didn’t really know of any other good options.  I was also incredibly busy and never really had a couple of hours to spare.

After 3 weeks, I was down 1 pound.

Clearly, there’s something going on in my system that is off. I went to the doctor on Thursday and asked her to put me on metformin. She agreed that this was a logical next step, and ordered the two hour fasting blood glucose test for me on Friday.

I took the test on Friday, went home, and had a very bad sugar crash around noon, about 15 minutes after the end of the test. I had some glucose rescue tabs and ate some normal food. An hour or so later, I went and worked out, but was too weak to do any leg work. I started feeling like myself again around 6-7.

I checked the test results online, and they were within normal range. I figured this was a normal response to the test, so I went about life as usual.

On Saturday morning, my doctor called me to ask if I was ok.  She wanted to know if I’d passed out from the test, my end count was apparently 42 – normal range was something like 90-125 and she’d expected me to be above that range.  Below apparently means I produced a bunch of insulin that used up all the sugar in my blood and made me feel terrible.  She told me to hold off on the metformin until she talks to an endo, she’s not sure it’s the right thing for me now.

So, now I apparently have this thing.  I have no idea what it’s called, I can’t seem to find anything online about a low test, only information about it being high pointing toward type II diabetes.

UD 2.0: Intermission

I’ve gotten behind on my posts.  While I am keeping a record of what I’m doing, I’m beginning to think that a couple of weeks here is sufficient, because I’m doing the same things on the same days of the week 🙂

I’ve been eating the same stuff, therefore staying on track for calories and macros.

Monday workout:

  • Leg Press: 195×15-215×15-235x15x15x15x15
  • Leg Curl: 135×15-150x15x15-135x15x1515
  • Bench Press: 75×15-65×15-60×15-55x15x15x15
  • Cable Row: 60x15x15x15-45x15x15x15
  • Lat Raise: 15x15x15x15
  • Calf Raise: 150×15-155×15 (This hurts my back, switching to one leg)
  • 1 leg Calf Raise: 15x15x15x15
  • Curls: 40x15x15x15-37.5×15
  • Tricep rope pushdown: 30×15-25×15
  • Tricep pushdown: 105×15-90×15
  • Rear Delt Fly: 15×15-45×15
  • Pec Fly: 45×5
  • Elliptical: 8 minutes
  • Walk: 30 minutes

Tuesday Workout:

  • Leg Press: 235×15-255x15x15x15-135x15x15
  • Leg Curl: 150x15x15-135x15x15x15x15
  • Incline Bench: 45x15x15x15x15x15x15
  • Lat Pulldown: 75x15x15x15x15x15x15
  • Lateral Raise: 15×15
  • Rear Delt Fly: 30x15x15
  • Calf Raise (1 leg): 35×15-55×15-35×15
  • Calf Raise: 155x15x15x15
  • Curls: 40×15-35×15-30x15x15
  • Tricep Extension: 40x15x15-30×15-35×15
  • Concept 2: 30:05 4,225m

I’m headed to Defcon for the next few days, so I’m not quite sure if I’ll be able to get in exactly the workouts I need.  Diet should be ok, we’ll see.

UD 2.0 Wednesday: Day 10

Calves stil sore this morning, but not nearly as bad as yesterday.

I sugar crashed really hard today.  This hasn’t happened to me on low carb since my first time, so it must be related to the carb-up.  I ate a few cherries, this helped some.

Morning weight: 199.4 lbs

Today’s Workout:

  • All I managed today was to walk around Safeway.

Today’s Food Intake:

  • 2 protein shakes (6 total scoops)
  • Chicken and broccoli stir-fry
  • Cherries
  • Skim milk
End of day macros (an estimate due to picnic):
  • Calories: 1,542 (target 1,435)
  • Protein: 305 (target 231)
  • Fat: 18 (target <= 25)
  • Carbs: 20 (target <=72)

Supplements/meds:

  • 88mcg Synthroid
  • 1 Claritin (am)
  • Morning mix + 3g l-tyrosine + 5g creatine + 2g glutamine + 2g beta alanine
  • 600mg Calcium (4 hours after Synthroid)
  • Evening mix
  • 1200mg Calcium
  • Iron
  • Daily Multivitamin
  • 5g Glutamine
  • 2 ZMA
  • Potassium
  • 6 Fish oil
  • 8,000 iu Vitamin d

UD 2.0 Tuesday: Day 9

My calves are so sore this morning that I’m having trouble walking.

Morning weight: 202.0 lbs

Today’s Workout:

  • Leg Press: 135x15x15-155×15-115×15-120×15-115×15 (Variety of machines)
  • Laying Leg Curl: 70×15-67x15x15 (Uncomfortable, but someone was on the seated machine)
  • Seated Leg Curl: 135x15x15x15
  • Incline bench press: 45×15-40x15x15x15x15-20×20 (Can you believe someone stole my bar???)
  • Lat Pulldowns (varying grips): 75x15x15-60x15x15x15
  • Lateral Raise: 3/3x15x15-0x15x15x15x15
  • Calf Raises (Standing): 135×15-115×15-95x15x15-75x15x15
  • Machine Preacher Curls: 40×15-30x15x15x15
  • Tricep Pushdown: 105×15-90×15-75x15x15
  • Concept 2: 15 min: 2280m
  • Elliptical stepper machine thingie: 15 min, .63 miles

Today’s Food Intake:

  • 2 protein shakes (3 total scoops)
  • Chinese bbq pork
  • String beans loaded with garlic
  • Spinach with feta
End of day macros (an estimate due to picnic):
  • Calories: 1,278 (target 1,435)
  • Protein: 191 (target 231)
  • Fat: 50 (target <= 25)
  • Carbs: 8 (target <=72)

Supplements/meds:

  • 88mcg Synthroid
  • 1 Claritin (am)
  • Morning mix + 3g l-tyrosine + 5g creatine + 2g glutamine + 2g beta alanine
  • 600mg Calcium (4 hours after Synthroid)
  • Evening mix
  • 1200mg Calcium
  • Iron
  • Daily Multivitamin
  • 5g Glutamine
  • 2 ZMA
  • Potassium
  • 6 Fish oil
  • 8,000 iu Vitamin d

UD 2.0 Monday: Day 8

Hit hard by DOMS this morning.  I’m moving the workout to afternoon to give myself a bit of extra rest.

I don’t know how my calves are going to take tomorrow’s workout, they felt pretty destroyed by the end of today’s.

Morning weight: 204.0 lbs

Today’s Workout:

  • Leg Press: 135x15x15x15-130x15x15-145×15
  • Laying Leg Curl: 80×15 (Uncomfortable, but someone was on the seated machine)
  • Seated Leg Curl: 120x15x15x15-135×15-150×15
  • Chest Press: 45x15x15-30×15 (This is killing my good shoulder.  I’m done with this machine)
  • Bench Press: 65×15-55×15-45×15
  • Row Machine: 45x15x15x15
  • Cable Row: 45x15x15-60×15
  • Lateral Raise: 3/3x15x15x15-0x15
  • Calf Raises (Seated): 135x15x15x15x15
  • Calf Raises (Standing): 135x15x15
  • Machine Preacher Curls: 40x15x15-30×15-35×15
  • Tricep Pushdown: 60×15-90x15x15-105×15
  • Elliptical stepper machine thingie: 30 min, 1.09 miles – gradually cranked the resistance from 40% up to 100%

Today’s Food Intake:

  • 2 protein shakes (3 total scoops)
  • Chinese bbq pork
  • String beans loaded with garlic
  • Spinach with feta
End of day macros (an estimate due to picnic):
  • Calories: 1,278 (target 1,435)
  • Protein: 231 (target 229)
  • Fat: 30 (target <= 25)
  • Carbs: 9 (target <=72)

Supplements/meds:

  • 88mcg Synthroid
  • 1 Claritin (am)
  • Morning mix + 3g l-tyrosine + 5g creatine + 2g glutamine + 2g beta alanine
  • 600mg Calcium (4 hours after Synthroid)
  • Evening mix
  • 1200mg Calcium
  • Iron
  • Daily Multivitamin
  • 5g Glutamine
  • 2 ZMA
  • Potassium
  • 6 Fish oil
  • 8,000 iu Vitamin d

UD 2.0: Day 7

Woke up stiff and sore this morning.

Morning weight: 204.2 lbs

No workout today.  Walked all around Volunteer park, including up the stairs to the top of the water tower and back down.

Today’s Food Intake:

  • 3 protein shakes
  • A sandwich from Jimmy John’s
  • A gyro
  • A few greek fries
  • Some fruit with small pieces of chocolate
End of day macros (an estimate due to picnic):
  • Calories: 2,721 (target 2,440)
  • Protein: 213 (target 205)
  • Fat: 105 (target <= 118)
  • Carbs: 165 (target <=139)

Supplements/meds:

  • 88mcg Synthroid
  • 1 Claritin (am)
  • Morning mix + 3g l-tyrosine + 5g creatine + 2g glutamine + 2g beta alanine
  • 600mg Calcium (4 hours after Synthroid)
  • Evening mix
  • 1200mg Calcium
  • Iron
  • Daily Multivitamin
  • 5g Glutamine
  • 2 ZMA
  • Potassium
  • 6 Fish oil
  • 8,000 iu Vitamin d