PCOS and Metabolism

PCOS and Metabolism

When looking through the PCOS forums a while back, I came across a thread talking about how it may affect our calorie burning ability at rest (called our basal metabolic rate or BMR). The idea of this was frustrating to me and others. As if there aren’t enough things that this condition affects!

I decided to do more research on whether PCOS does indeed cause our BMR to be lower than women without it. This post will go into what I found out and as well as how well I think my own metabolism works.

What calories and basal metabolic rate are

Calories are a unit of energy that we our bodies keep as fuel. Pretty simple explanation, right? It is easy for my brain to handle as I am not the sharpest tool in the shed.

The amazing thing about our bodies is that they are burning calories even without us doing much of anything throughout the day. Even if we are to just be in bed the whole day and barely move, the calorie burning is still happening. This is known as our basal metabolic rate.

Our bodies are hard at work no matter what. They are working to keep us alive through various processes that are going on internally. We might not be able to feel these processes, but they are definitely happening.

The estimated number of calories adult females need per day (not BMR)

The number of calories we need can really vary. There are charts out that give estimates on it though. The numbers all seem to be somewhat similar in each one I have seen.

The chart that I found by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) site is a great one. It gives its estimates based on sex, age and activity level. When looking at it, I focused on the 18+ age group in the female section (of course!).

The calorie ranges I saw for adult women on that particular chart was 1600-2400 per day. The younger and/or more active females are results in more calories needed. The older and/or less active females are results in less calories needed.

The estimated and accurate BMR of adult females

The chart I mentioned used how active we are in the determination of the calories needed. Even though one of the activity levels was labeled as “sedentary,” that still means that people are doing something during the day.

From what I found, the estimated calories needed for an adult female’s body to run properly is 1200-1400 calories per day. This is just an estimated range though.

To get an accurate BMR that is unique to you, there are places that offer tests for it. The test involves being in a reclined position and breathing through a tube. You are not to exercise for 12 hours beforehand so that your body is in a truly, well-rested state.

The BMR test is offered at various fitness centers and health clinics. In terms of cost, the range seems to be from $75-250 per session. Getting your BMR tested is said to help with weight related goals because you can be more accurate regarding how many calories you need to consume to lose, maintain, or gain.

What the research states on PCOS and metabolism

In my investigation into whether PCOS causes our metabolism to be lower, I came across a few research articles. I was expecting to find more on it so that right there tells me that it really hasn’t been looked at very much.

The first study I found, was conducted on 91 women in Greece. The results showed that women in the study with PCOS did indeed have lower BMRs than the women without it (control group). It also showed that the women who had PCOS and insulin resistance had an even lower BMR than the ones without insulin resistance.

The second study looked at waist-to-hip-ratio, hormonal levels, BMI and body fat distribution as it relates to the BMR of women with PCOS. The results showed that the women with PCOS in the study who had waist-to-hip ratios higher than .85 had even lower BMRs than the control group.

The third study I found had 200 participants with 64% of them having PCOS. The results showed no significant difference in BMR between the women with PCOS and without it. This was regardless of the women with PCOS having insulin resistance.

Summary of the research

Those three studies were the best ones I could find. Due to the differences in them, it is not possible to come up with a clear answer to whether PCOS has an effect on metabolism. The results in the two studies indicating there being a negative affect on our BMR should not be denounced completely though.

More research studies need to be done on PCOS period. It is important that we understand it better so that better treatments can be figured out.

My metabolism

I have no idea what my BMR is. It would be interesting to find out though. There is a place 1.5 hours away from me that offers the testing and I am thinking about making an appointment someday.

I do not have issues with my weight like a lot of other women with PCOS do. Also, my shape is that of an hourglass rather than an apple. When it comes to calories consumed during the day, I do not watch them at all and I stay lean in appearance.

I am sharing this not to brag- but to show that all women with PCOS are different. I believe that my metabolism is not affected by this condition and I assume that other women with it are like me.


The possibility of us having lower BMRs than women without PCOS really upset some people on the forum and rightfully so. This condition has most of us feeling defeated and this would be another disappointing part of it.

There doesn’t seem to be very many studies on this topic so no definitive answer can be given on it. I think that PCOS just affects us all differently and that we need to work to find out how to conquer our individual struggles with it.

If you love to write things out in journals and planners, consider getting a food journal. There are many to choose from with different covers and logging styles. You can find the one I made on Amazon:

Thanks for reading!









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