PCOS Weight Loss & Intermediate Strength Training
Learn the basics of how to leverage strength training to help you burn excess PCOS weight gain.
In the Strength Training Basics post I covered a sort of Strength Training 101. In this post I will be diving deeper into strength training strategy that really drives muscle growth and fat burning potential. In this post you're going to learn about, which exercises burn the most calories, breathing & controlling your movements, increasing your workout Intensity, training until muscle failure, how you can avoid muscle loss, and pre & post workout nutrition. If you have any questions, be sure to get the discussion started in the comments section below.
Before we get started I want to reiterate how important your diet is and choosing the right supplements to help you balance your hormones. For example, supplementing your diet with DIM can provide additional weight loss support. I take it myself and notice a HUGE difference in fat loss in my hips and stomach when combined with the diet and strategy. It's pretty inexpensive and you can grab a bottle off of Amazon.
Another new-ish tool that has hit the market is the Livia electronic abdominal treatment for menstrual cramps. It's intriguing because it's a drug-free solution (let's face it sometimes pain-killers don't cut it), and it's low profile so it can conspicuously tuck underneath your shirt and in your pants.
Which Exercises Burn the Most Calories
Compound movements help you burn more calories in less time, and who in their right mind doesn't want that? I know what you're thinking right now. "Ri, what the HECK is a compound movement?" A compound movement is any exercise that requires the effort of multiple muscles simultaneously. The three main compound movements are lunges, deadlifts, and squats. All three incorporate various leg muscles, your core muscles, and back muscles into each movement.
Compound movements like lunges, deadlifts, and squats burn more calories than single muscle workouts because they require effort from multiple muscles at once. Greater effort means greater calories burned.
Breathing & Controlling Your Movements
Always remember... "slow and controlled." Regardless of whether you're using a light or heavy weight, control the motion. Here's a good way to perform your reps: Inhale and hold your breath as you lift the weight in a strong and forceful manner, exhaling only over the top portion of the movement. Then lower the weight under control as you breathe in. Reverse direction smoothly at the bottom position, never bouncing the weight at the bottom.
Controlled breathing ensures that you get ample oxygen to your muscles during your workout and reduces excessive fatigue. Focusing on your breathing can help you push your workouts and see results faster.
Increasing Your Workout Intensity
Increasing your intensity is commonly referred to as "progressive overload." Essentially it means increasing the intensity of your workout as your strength increases.
Your body responds to the stress of strength training by growing bigger and stronger. However, if you do the same weight for the same reps each workout, it doesn't need to respond any further. Therefore, it's crucial to continue progression your training either through adding more weight or increasing your reps. For example, you can challenge yourself to do more reps with a given weight or increase the weight from one workout to the next—that's the progressive stimulus you need to keep making positive improvements. That's where using a training log to write down your exercises, sets, and reps can help. Once you can do more than the target rep listed, add weight.
Training Until Muscle Failure
Unlike most times in life, reaching failure during a strength training workout is an excellent outcome. The reason why is because excessive muscle stress stimulates muscle growth. Remember, it's your muscles that drive your metabolism. So, the more you have, the easier it is to maintain your weight. Training until failure means performing an exercise until your muscles can't complete one more rep. You can push your muscles to failure through increasing the weight you use. Or, you can simply continue performing the exercise at the same intensity until your muscles fail.
How You Can Avoid Muscle Loss
Your muscle is the backbone of your metabolism and more muscle mass means an easier time managing your weight with PCOS.
Here's a starting list of signs that you've lost muscle.
- Loss of strength while performing your usual exercises.
- Weight loss without increased muscle definition.
- Difficulty performing ordinary tasks.
- Urine tests contain high amounts of urea.
In a nutshell, where you were once in great shape, or at least improving drastically, you've now fallen entirely off. However, all is not lost. It's fairly simple to get back on track.
The opposite of muscle loss is muscle growth. So, direct way to combat the condition is through actively performing muscle hypertrophic or muscle growth activities. Therefore, whatever you do, do not reintroduce yourself into a cardio only routine. Cardio is excellent for staying heart healthy, however, for the purpose of rebuilding lost muscle, it can worsen your situation. Instead, jump right back into strength exercises. If necessary, you can take the process slow by performing resistance training exercises with resistance bands and body weight workouts. Both are methods of challenging your muscles without the need of equipment. Your goal is to reacclimate your muscles to excessive stress which translates into muscle growth when combined with an adequate diet. Not only is focusing on resistance and body weight training a good way to ease yourself back into training but they can both be done at home if your schedule is tight.
Here's how to slowly reverse muscle loss at home or in the gym.
- Perform regular resistance or body weight workouts
- Complete 8 to 12 challenging reps of each exercise
- Give each muscle group worked about two recovery days before using them again. For example. If you do a resistance upper body day, don't work arms again for about two days.
If you're not one to go into anything slowly, if you're more of the "dive right back in type," then go for it. Try to pick your exercise routine right back where you left off. Muscle memory is this beautiful phenomenon that's basically like riding a bike but for your muscles. Your muscles retain a memory of each exercise you perform to execute them more effectively over time. What this means for avoiding muscle loss is that reintroducing your body to an old workout means even faster muscle regrowth. My only word of caution is to make sure not to burn yourself out again; it's a marathon, not a race.
Diet is the other crucial piece of this puzzle. In short, eat enough food and eat more protein. I can say with near certainty that you're not eating nearly enough protein to avoid muscle loss because most people don't. Focus on eating .8 to 1 gram of protein for each pound you weigh every day. Eating that much protein can seem daunting at first, so bulk up on protein powders and shakes. Both supplements are convenient and can help you reach your goal number quickly.
Pre & Post Workout Nutrition
Pre & post workout meals are as important as the workouts themselves. There are plenty of benefits to a solid pre-workout meal. The most obvious being more energy for your workouts, but there's also muscle retention and growth benefits as well. Protein and carbohydrates play a crucial role in muscle growth and retention. During an intense workout, your body enters a catabolic state where your muscle fibers are broken down. Consuming protein and carbs before your workout assists with protein synthesis and can even spur muscle growth.
So when you're looking for a good pre-workout meal, remember you need a combination of complex carbs and lean protein sources. You want the meal to be enough to get you through your workout but not so much that you feel tired or sluggish. Also, if you are dieting to lose body fat, remember that your pre-workout meal should be included in your macro diet for the day. It is not a bonus meal. For your convenience, my macronutrient calculator will break your calories and macro goals down into meals, which can make it easier for you to plan for your pre-workout meal.
Pre Workout Meal Options
Great carb options for your pre workout meal include oatmeal and berries, brown rice, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, apples, rice cakes, and bananas. You can combine any of those with egg white, chicken breast, turkey breast, protein powders, or milk for a well rounded pre workout meal.
As always, if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below.
P.S. You can follow the guide below to get caught up on previous posts.
Part No. 1 Proper Fat Burning Diet -- Read Here
Part No. 2 Strength Training Basics -- Read Here
Part No. 3 Strength Training Intermediate -- Complete
Part No. 4 Leveraging Cardio -- Coming Soon
Part No. 5 Measuring Your Progress -- Coming Soon
Part No. 6 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Weight -- Coming Soon