How To Lose Weight Fast With PCOS: 5 Effective Strategies For Weight Loss In 2024


Reviewed by Victor Nguyen, PharmD
how to lose weight with pcos
Managing Weight with PCOS: Some tips can help you! Photo: Shutterstock

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Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may make it difficult to lose weight. PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder for women of childbearing age and is frequently associated with unintended weight gain. Epidemiological data[1] indicates that between 38%–88% of women with PCOS are either overweight or obese.

Although PCOS weight loss can be difficult, intermittent fasting and other lifestyle modifications may help. The goal of these modifications is to regulate the hormonal imbalances that cause weight gain.

How To Lose Weight With PCOS Fast?

Women with PCOS who want to lose weight should consider these 5 techniques:

  • Intermittent fasting forces the body to burn fat as energy.
  • Decreasing refined sugars creates a negative caloric balance.
  • Staying hydrated helps you feel full and eat less.
  • Increasing fiber can serve as an appetite suppressant.
  • Exercising consistently improves insulin resistance.

How To Lose Weight With PCOS

how to lose weight with pcos
Exercise is one of the effective strategies to lose weight with PCOS. Photo: Shutterstock

Use Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting refers to restricting the number of hours per day that you consume food. By restricting the time window of meals, the body produces less insulin. Having less insulin forces the body to use fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrates, resulting in weight loss. Intermittent fasting also helps women with PCOS regulate other hormones that contribute to weight gain. Insulin triggers the production of androgen hormones,[2] which stimulate fat accumulation in the abdomen. Since intermittent fasting decreases insulin production, it also lowers androgen hormone levels.

There are multiple fasting options. The 16/8 method is a common technique. For this diet, people fast for 16 hours per day and eat for 8 hours per day. They can choose a start and stop time that fits their schedule and eat a regular diet during their 8 hours window.

Another method is the 5:2 diet. For this, people limit their calorie intake to 600 calories per day twice a week and eat a regular diet the other 5 days. On the days when they only consume 600 calories, they focus on drinking water or low calorie liquids to help feel full.

Regardless of the fasting method, it’s important to remember that eating a regular diet during non-fasting hours is not a green light to eat a bunch of junk food. Focusing on eating lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats will help get the most out of a fasting regimen.

Decrease Consumption Of Refined Sugars

Limiting consumption of refined sugars decreases insulin resistance and makes it easier to lose weight. Many people trying to cut calories ask, how many calories do I need to cut to lose weight? On average, a daily reduction of 500 calories[3] per day is recommended for safe weight loss.

Key foods to cut for weight loss include sugary drinks like soda, fruit juice or iced tea, bagels, donuts, white rice, and crackers or bread. You don’t need to eliminate these foods from your diet. It’s all about moderation. For example, a single donut can have up to 300 calories. By eliminating a few high sugar foods per day, you can meet your goal of restricting your diet by about 500 calories per day.

Increase Fiber Intake

Fiber[4] helps with weight loss in a multitude of ways. Fiber takes longer to digest than other food sources so you feel full longer and eat less. It also pulls water into the digestive tract and helps move stool through the digestive system. In other words, it’s a natural laxative. Cleaning out the bowel facilitates weight loss by removing waste from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Common foods that are high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, and chia seeds.

Adding fiber to your diet is one of the answers on how to lose weight without exercise. Other weight loss techniques that don’t involve exercise include getting enough sleep, reducing stress, monitoring portion size, and eating nutrient-dense foods.

Stay Hydrated

Staying adequately hydrated is a quick and easy way to lose weight. Many people considering a weight loss regimen wonder “how much water should I drink to lose weight”? The National Academy of Medicine[5] recommends that healthy adults drink between 8 to 12 cups of liquid per day. Consuming this liquid as water, which has zero calories, may contribute to weight loss. Drinking water will help reduce satiety, leading to less eating. It also reduces the possibility of confusing thirst with hunger. There is also evidence that drinking cold water may be more beneficial than drinking warm water. Cold water[6] may speed up metabolism because the body works to warm the water to the core body temperature.

Exercise 5-7 Days Per Week

Consistent exercise can help women with PCOS lose weight. Different types of exercise regimens have been tested and the consensus is 150 minutes[7] of exercise each week facilitates weight loss. High intensity interval training (HIIT)[8] may be more effective than other exercise modalities However, consistency is more important than the type of exercise. Women with PCOS should choose an exercise that they enjoy doing and stick to it. So, if you enjoy yoga or walking more than aerobic exercise, do that. The key is to find an exercise that you like and make it part of your daily routine.

Causes Of PCOS Weight Gain

Hormonal imbalances cause PCOS weight gain. The 2 most important hormones associated with weight gain in PCOS are insulin and thyroid hormone. Diet and lifestyle modifications can help bring these hormone levels back in to check. Through these changes, many women with PCOS are able to lose weight.

Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that helps convert glucose into energy. Women with PCOS have insulin resistance,[9] meaning their cells do not respond to insulin. As a result, their body produces more insulin in an attempt to overcome the resistance. The excess insulin induces weight gain in 2 ways: 

  • Stimulates fat storage.
  • Increases appetite.

You Store Excess Calories As Fat

Many women with PCOS gain weight easily. This phenomenon is likely linked to insulin resistance.[10] Under normal circumstances, insulin helps energy, or glucose, enter your cells. People with insulin resistance develop hyperglycemia, or high glucose levels in the blood. Your body converts this excess of available energy as fat.

A secondary characteristic of insulin is androgen hormone stimulation.[11] Androgen hormones are the sex hormones.  Androgens trigger the body to accumulate fat in the mid section or the abdomen. The excess of circulating androgens explains why many women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.

Your Appetite Is In Overdrive

A common complaint among women with PCOS is having a voracious appetite. They may feel hungry constantly. This is also linked to insulin resistance. As part of the trigger for fat storage, excess insulin drives your appetite. The body thinks it is in starvation mode and needs to eat extra calories to fill its energy needs. Although it is hard to ignore these cravings, limiting sugary snacks will go a long way towards decreasing insulin resistance and help with weight loss.

You May Have A Thyroid Disorder

The incidence of thyroid disorders in females with PCOS is higher than in the general population. Many women with PCOS have hypothyroidism[12] or subclinical thyroid dysfunction. The exact relationship between PCOS and thyroid dysfunction is unknown, but could be related to a general increased risk of autoimmune disorders. Given the high overlap between PCOS and thyroid dysfunction, women with PCOS who are having a hard time losing weight should consider a possible thyroid disorder.

Many people with hypothyroidism ask, how do I lose weight with hypothyroidism? A general rule of thumb is to eat a well-balanced diet,[13] including 3 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, whole grains, and lean proteins. It is also a good idea to add iodine and selenium,[14] two minerals that are needed for thyroid health, into your diet.

How Hard Is It To Lose Weight With PCOS?

Although having PCOS can make it difficult to lose weight, setting realistic goals and having a game plan makes weight loss more achievable. Modifying your diet, making lifestyle changes, and sticking to an exercise plan will all help. Even a modest amount of weight[15] loss, about 5%, can improve insulin resistance. Once insulin resistance improves, weight loss becomes easier. 

Metformin[16] is used to decrease insulin resistance in women with PCOS. Although it is a mainstay of PCOS treatment, many women with PCOS are frustrated by slow weight loss and question how to lose weight faster while on metformin. The answer to this question is to continue the metformin and make diet and lifestyle modifications. Reducing refined carbohydrates, increasing fiber, and exercising more in combination with continuing the metformin will help the pounds come off.

How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight With PCOS?

Many women with PCOS wonder, how long does it take to lose weight? This depends on a variety of factors, and there isn’t always a “fast” option. However, it is important not to get discouraged. Even if you’re not losing weight right away, making healthy lifestyle decisions pays off in the long run. Also, many women feel better before the pounds start to come off.


PCOS affects millions of women in the United States. It can cause multiple health problems including irregular periods, infertility, and unintended weight gain. PCOS associated weight gain is extremely frustrating for women because they gain weight more easily than their peers. It often feels like a typical diet and exercise programs don’t work. The good news is there is a solution. It takes persistence, but the effort will pay off. To lose weight fast with PCOS consider the following tips:

  • Use intermittent fasting
  • Stay hydrated
  • Increase fiber intake
  • Limit refined sugars
  • Exercise consistently

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to lose weight with PCOS?

While weight loss is dependent on age, diet, physical activity, and much more, there is emerging evidence that intermittent fasting[17] helps women with PCOS lose weight. However, intermittent fasting is not recommended for weight loss while pregnant or for people with a history of disordered eating. Talk with a healthcare professional if you have questions about losing weight fast.

What type of exercise is good for PCOS?

High intensity interval training (HIIT)[18] improves PCOS symptoms. A 2022 study indicates that it is better than standard moderate intensity continuous training.

Is fasting good for PCOS?

Yes, fasting decreases insulin resistance which is the primary factor driving weight gain in women with PCOS. However, consult with a healthcare professional before making drastic changes.

What should I avoid with PCOS?

You should avoid sugary drinks and foods with refined carbohydrates. Both of these rapidly raise your blood sugar and contribute to weight gain.

Can I workout everyday with PCOS?

Yes, you can and should work out every day with PCOS. Implementing a consistent exercise routine helps you lose weight, decreases insulin resistance, and is good for your mental health.

How many hours of exercise for PCOS?

Guidelines[19] for PCOS recommend at least 150 hours per week of exercise. Women who exercised 30 minutes per day 5 to 7 days per week would meet this goal.

+ 19 Sources

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Rebecca Brunelle is a nurse practitioner and health writer. Her mission is to provide readers with scientific based information to help them live healthier lives. When not working, Rebecca enjoys traveling and is an amateur photographer. See More