Monitoring one’s physical health is extremely important among reproductive-age women — even more so if they’re dealing with a condition that impacts their hormones. For folks with PCOS, monitoring what goes into your body is extremely important, even when it comes to things such as health supplements. For this reason, finding the best protein powders for women with PCOS is essential to managing its symptoms.
PCOS, formally known as polycystic ovary syndrome, is the condition where women produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones, causing hormonal imbalance, metabolic problems, and infertility. Getting the 411 on PCOS and its symptoms might help you find ways to generally manage the symptoms of this condition through physical exercise, prioritizing diet, and taking certain dietary supplements — including protein supplements.
However, many of the products that are recommended on your FYP don’t consider some ingredients that can further disrupt hormone, thyroid, and metabolic function — all of which are directly linked to PCOS. So, I talked to nutritionist Michelle Blum to learn all about what to look for, and what to avoid, when it comes to protein powders — and created a list of the best protein powders for women with PCOS.
Why is protein intake important for PCOS?
Protein intake is important for overall health, but women with PCOS especially benefit from keeping a high-protein diet. “Adding protein to your diet through food or supplementation is likely to help the body cope with the insulin resistance that is common in those who have PCOS,” Blum explains.
Insulin resistance can lead to long-term health struggles: after time, the pancreas may no longer be able to produce enough insulin to overcome the cells’ resistance, resulting in higher blood glucose levels, possibly prediabetes, or even type 2 diabetes.
“Think of insulin like a key, and the key unlocks the cells, and the cells get to eat the glucose or fuel that foods break down to,” Blum says. “Out of all the foods, carbs break down to glucose the quickest, while protein and fat break down slower. When people have insulin resistance, their bodies aren’t able to produce enough ‘keys,’ so glucose sits in the bloodstream.”
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners.
Blum recommends protein powders with “no artificial sweeteners like sucralose or acesulfame potassium.” Some protein powders contain extremely high levels of sucralose, aka “Splenda,” that impact on your blood sugar levels and aggravate PCOS symptoms.
Women with PCOS should, rather, prioritize products made with natural ingredients. Clean ingredients and include essential amino acids and vitamins like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 to help with inflammation and hormonal balance.
“In general, I would avoid endocrine disruptors such as parabens or sulfates in skin care products, and BPA in plastic water bottles or food containers,” Blum says. “Keep ingredients as clean as possible in supplements and foods, but also skin care products and makeup, as they also get absorbed through the skin.”
There are Protein powders With PCOS-friendly ingredients.
If you have PCOS, know that there are tons of supplements out there that are healthy for you to take. When it comes to finding a protein powder that’s right for you, here are some pointers for healthy, PCOS-friendly ingredients.
Collagen provides essential amino acids, while maintaining lower levels of carbohydrates. This powder ($23) can help manage blood sugar levels, potentially reducing insulin resistance, leading to better weight management, regulating menstrual cycles, and more!
- Pea Protein
Plant-based products (such as pea protein) have recently become more popular options, as they are also high in BCAAs. However, the special appeal to this vegan protein powder is that it doesn’t cause rapid insulin spikes, it helps regulate appetite, and it supplements important vitamins like iron. Naked Nutrition’s powder ($20) is a great bet if you’re looking to try pea protein.
- Nut & Seed-Based Protein
Hemp protein ($19) is high in essential minerals (such as iron, zinc, and magnesium), healthy fats, and fibers, and plays an important role in managing PCOS and fertility. Similarly, brown rice protein is another common source of plant-based protein powders that are high in BCAA content. Both of these options are easily digestible, naturally gluten-free, and therefore a great option for women with PCOS.
PCOS is a hormonal condition that can cause many symptoms, including ovarian cysts, weight gain, and inflammation. Correspondingly, one’s diet and dietary supplements should contain the necessary ingredients to help manage these symptoms and improve overall health. Though there are tons of supplements out there that can work for you, these products should give you a basic idea of what to look for and avoid when finding the protein that is right for you.