I know you have heard performing high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best way to burn fat and it is all the rage. Although, I agree and I believe in the results you can get from doing a HIIT workout a few times a week.
There is one population that needs to rethink how they are training and high intensity isn’t always the best option. I am referring to women who have PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) it is a hormonal disorder that not only affects fertility but also the ability to lose body fat. Many women with the disorder have higher levels of cortisol (also referred to as the stress hormone) which adds into the difficult task of losing weight.
I was diagnosed with PCOS over 13 years ago and I have done it all to lose weight. I tried endless hours of cardio, I tried going Paleo, I tried very low calorie diets, I tried working out for hours a day seven days a week, and when it all failed, I got smarter. I started to experiment on myself and journal what was working and what wasn’t and once I found something that worked I stuck with it and started putting my PCOS clients on the same type of plan.
Your hormones are directly affected by acute and chronic stress which can fundamentally alter the body’s hormone balance. Your body doesn’t know the difference between good stress and bad stress and I think we all consider exercise as good stress, right? If you are overdoing it or performing high intensity training all the time, then your body senses stress and the scale starts to rise.
When I started changing my workouts from big circuits to spilt body heavy training 5x a week followed by 20-25 minutes of walking on an incline- my body changed weekly. I take one full rest day off a week (I still walk on my rest day but I don’t care about calorie burning, just focusing on getting my steps in for the day). I set aside one day a week when I don’t lift and that day I do a 20-30 minute HIIT session which usually consists of hill sprint intervals, battle rope intervals, or elliptical A.M.R.A.P circuits (if you don’t know what that is, check out my IG highlights).
This is when I noticed positive changes weekly in my body along with focusing on a clean diet. With nutrition I focus on my macros and carb cycling. All I ever heard was follow Paleo, KETO, or low carb. That advice, always made it too difficult to push through my workouts. I simply would run out of energy so it didn’t make sense to me. When I started researching diabetic diets and they are recommended to eat a moderate carbohydrate allowance so why would PCOS be even different?
The days I don’t lift, I follow lower carbs which are still around 80-100 grams. Days I lift heavy legs or back I consume higher carbs 150-200 grams and days where I am doing arms or shoulders I go more moderate 100-120. This has worked for me as well as my clients with PCOS. You have to experiment and journal everything to see what little tweaks work best for you. Everyone is a little different, just don’t get caught up in all the extremes.
The goal is to keep your body in a calm state a majority of the time and by lifting heavy with longer rest periods your body doesn’t react as negatively. I am always working towards a better me and new ways to help women with PCOS. It’s a tough disorder BUT women are tougher and when you put your mind to something you will always find a way to conquer it.