Athletes with PCOS
As the school year begins again, many teenagers are getting back into sports after summer break. Sports teams or clubs can be a great way to make friends and stay healthy. For girls with PCOS, sports teams can also be a good way to maintain or lose weight, which is often helpful in improving symptoms.
However, sometimes it can be tough to know what type of nutrition advice to follow: should an athlete with PCOS listen to the coach and eat lots of carbs the night before a big race or game? Should she listen to the media and have sports drinks or energy drinks when she exercises? Or should she continue following general healthy eating for PCOS, eating several small meals throughout the day made up of whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables?
The answer, of course, is not as simple as any one of these solutions. Athletes need carbohydrates in order to have as much energy as possible when they are practicing or competing. There are a couple of different places that this carbohydrate can come from. One is the carbohydrate we have stored in our body called glycogen. The other is carbohydrate we eat in the few hours prior to or during exercise. The key is to have the right amount we need for activity without having too much, which can affect insulin levels.
Here are some tips for being a healthy athlete with PCOS:
- Don’t restrict carbohydrates. This might be tempting to do if you are trying to lose weight, but your body needs these carbohydrates for energy in order to exercise.
- Focus on whole grain and vegetable-based carbohydrates. These include: brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potato, whole wheat pasta, etc. Try not to eat too much refined carbohydrate such as products made from white flour and sugar.
- Trust your body. If you are feeling low energy during a long practice or game, you may need a drink or snack that will give you carbohydrates quickly. This might be a small sports-drink, piece of fruit, granola bar, or ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Recover and refuel after exercise. Exercise is hard work! You’ve put your muscles through a lot and used up some energy stores. After your workout make sure to have a snack or meal that has some protein and carbohydrate such as plain greek yogurt with blueberries, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, or carrots and pepper strips with hummus.