It took me a long time of reading and experimenting to discover that my body has a love/hate relationship with carbs that is more severe in women with PCOS. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking, ‘yeah! I can eat more carbs because I exercise and lift heavy!’ Then I do, and I instantly regret it. Living with PCOS is about finding that delicate balance between how many carbs your body can process without gaining fat and how few carbs you can get away with before you’re running to the store for cake.
If you don’t exercise, you can probably get away with a no carb diet. Regular exercise is crucial for managing your PCOS symptoms, though, so I wouldn’t recommend going that route. If you do exercise and you go too hard or you don’t find the appropriate carb balance you body needs, you will be eating everything that’s not nailed down by the day’s end. It has nothing to do with your willpower or dedication. It has everything to do with your body’s reaction to what you’re doing.
My body responds best with 1 serving of carbs before and 1 serving after my workouts. I may also have another serving of carbs later in the day if I’m feeling particularly hungry, but under 100g daily seems to work best for my body. I don’t have carbs at breakfast (though I do have protein/fat) because I will feel hungry and crave carbs for the rest of the day. If I indulge in sugar or processed carbs, I need to make sure I can lay down shortly after, because they wreak havoc on my body. As delicious as they taste, they’re usually not worth the aftermath.
My body reacts differently to a variety of “healthy” carbs as well. For example, I feel great when I eat 1 serving (1/2c) of rolled oats or quinoa. If I eat 1 serving of sweet potatoes or rice, however, I am hungry and have cravings for sweets within an hour. I strongly recommend everyone (not just PCOS women) experiment with carbs. Eat 1 serving of carbs and notice how you feel within 1 and 2 hours after that meal. I think you will find that your body has different carb preferences as well.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that everyone’s body is different. I am giving you this example of how my body tolerates carbs so that it may stimulate you to start thinking about your carb intake and how it’s affecting your body. Figuring out the formula for your body’s nutritional needs is key to feeling great with PCOS!
Ashley Brodeur, MS, CPT
Owner, Active Lifestyle Fitness, LLC