What I've noticed as a fitness coach is that when it comes to health, women tend to focus on exercise and diet while neglecting other factors like birth control pills, supplements, and how the combination of the two affects the body.
So, let's see if and how fat burners affect contraceptives!
About Hormonal Contraceptives
Many women take birth control pills without giving the idea much thought or researching what effects the pill may have on them.
For the most part, women usually take oral contraceptives their doctor recommends without asking any questions.
So, I'll give you the answers you weren't aware you needed.
Taking control of your reproductive health is a fantastic thing to do, but here's some information you may want to know.
Almost all hormonal contraceptives work in the same way (for the most part). No matter if you're taking a pill that contains only progestin or a pill that includes a combination of progestin and estrogen, all birth control contains human-made hormones.
These hormones are supposed to mimic the hormones a female body would make to direct the menstrual cycle. Taking them regularly restricts the cycle and prevents unwanted pregnancy.
Types of Birth Control Pills
There are two main types and both are effective — the "real world" effectiveness of both pills is over 90%, but which pill you'll take depends on factors such as:
- your cardiovascular health
- whether you are breastfeeding
- your menstrual symptoms
- other chronic health conditions you may have
- other medications you may take
Please, always be honest with your doctor to prescribe the best birth control pill, and remember to use only registered brands.
An estrogen-based pill or a combination pill is typically a combination of estrogen and progestin. There are active and inactive pills for one cycle, which means that most of them contain hormones while a small number is hormone-free.
One of the worst side effects of this type of birth control is fat gain. Researchers have discovered that taking estrogen in high dosages can potentially lead to weight gain and water retention .
Progestin-only birth control pill, which is also known as the mini-pill, contains only progestin. This type of birth control is best for women who should avoid estrogen. All of the progestin-only pills are active, so you may not get your period while you’re on this birth control.
There’s good and bad news with progestin-based birth control. The good is that it could cause your breasts to grow a bit , but the bad is that it can also cause whole-body fat retention. It can affect your metabolism and diet, causing you to gain weight.
But why does this happen? What does birth control affect you, and can you lose weight increased by the pill? Let's break this down.
How Birth Control Pills Work
The estrogen-based pill works in two ways. First, it prevents your ovaries from ovulating, which means they won’t release an egg each month. Second, this type of birth control causes your reproductive system to thicken your cervical mucus.
Thick mucus is a good sign when you want to avoid a pregnancy, as it prevents sperm from reaching the uterus.
Progestin-based pills work similarly. They also thicken your cervical music, but they thin your endometrium — the lining of the uterus where the egg implants after it's fertilized.
So, how is this connected to fat increase, weight gain, and water retention? How do hormone pills affect your weight and fat retention?
The main reason for taking birth control is preventing pregnancy, so your organism reacts accordingly to the content of the pill. Either your ovaries stop ovulating, or your uterus becomes unfit to implant the egg.
Either way, your body thinks you're pregnant, so as a response, it starts incubating. This means that it starts retaining extra fat for your "baby's" proper development.
But there’s even more! Estrogen and progesterone also affect how carbs are used during exercise. Their levels are highest when you’re ovulating — which should be on the fourteenth day of your menstrual cycle.
Then, they fall over the following fourteen days and reach the lowest point when you start menstruating. Estrogen reduces the rate at which you use carbs during exercise. But, on the other hand, it increases the rate at which you burn fat!
Researchers have also discovered that high estrogen levels also increase your body’s ability to store glycerin in the muscles.
Here's great advice from a fellow athlete, J. Kiefer, I like to give my clients:
"If you're using estrogen-based contraceptives, you should focus on high-volume training sessions taken to failure. Since elevated estrogen levels are anti-catabolic, they preserve muscle tissue and cause a shift to a predominantly fat-burning metabolism, so you need to really push in the gym to force the use of glycogen reserves during your training sessions."
— John Kiefer, physicist and the author of The Carb Nite®
Kiefer recommends focusing on intense HIIT cycles. Think about using a 1-minute-easy:30-second-sprint cycle for 6-10 cycles. He says that this will help you to increase fatty-acid mobilization and mobilize glycogen stores.
Back-loads on estrogen-based birth control need to be very controlled, so you can say goodbye to eating carbs every night. What you should do is cycle them to after every other training session.
As far as the progesterone-based birth control goes, Kiefer says:
"You'll want to perform lower-volume training. Progesterone is actually catabolic, so you need to be very cognizant of your training loads and rest. Also, progesterone allows carbs to be utilized more effectively, so this is when you'd want to add HIIT in cycles of 4 min:30 sec or 4 min:1 min at the end of your resistance training. Back-loads while on these cycles can be more frequent, but they still need to be controlled."
— John Kiefer, physicist and the author of The Carb Nite® Solution
If your fitness journey includes weight loss or fat loss, you should follow Kiefer's advice.
Can Diet Pills Affect Birth Control?
Fat burners shouldn’t affect your birth control’s efficiency. However, the answer isn't that simple.
You should always talk to your gynecologist and ask them about the particular birth control and fat burners or diet pills you're taking.
Also, be sure to take only FDA-approved supplements, as those without certification can have harmful ingredients not listed on the packaging.
Also, note that fat tissue produces extra estrogen, so when you use fat burners, your estrogen levels may fall rapidly, which may result in getting your period even when you're not on the placebo pill.
If you notice any blood, don't panic, the pill should still be efficient. But, contact your gynecologist just to be safe.
They'll probably tell you to continue using the pill. Be sure not to use the fat burners and weight loss pills for an extended period, as even the highest-quality, all-natural ones can cause side effects such as insomnia and jitteriness.
The Final Verdict on Fat Burners & Birth Control
Birth control pills seem to be the necessary evil for women. As efficient and as safe as they are, they're still packed with hormones.
Luckily, fat burners and other weight loss pills don't interact with the pill's efficiency, but if you're on a fat or weight loss journey, you should develop the most effective gym strategy. Talk to your trainer, take our advice, and share your experience in the comments!