Smutty Fitness: Running and Weight Gain

Hayley Posted by Hayley at July 24, 2012 13:01:48 July 24, 2012 13:01:48

This may seem like something that someone who is training for a running event may not need to worry about but all too often beginner runners will gain weight while training for their first half marathon or other running distance.  You might be thinking that someone who is running 3 or 4 days a week plus cross training would find it hard to keep weight on but this is a common problem.  There are a few reasons why this happens, the main one being the skewed idea of how many calories you are actually burning in a run versus how many calories you are consuming in a day.  Also, as you start to incorporate fuels (energy drinks, gels and bars) into your pre workout, workout and post workout nutrition, most novice runners take in more than they need.

For example, an average female runner will burn approximately 100-150 calories a mile, so on your 5 mile run you will burn between 500 and 750 calories.  If you meet your girlfriends for brunch afterwards and opt for a meal on the not so healthy part of the menu, because you feel like you deserve it after such a long run, you will most likely finish the day consuming more calories than you needed.  I know that I preach health over being skinny but if you want to run your best, every extra pound that you carry will add time to your race and add stress to your body in your training.  It is estimated that for every pound you lose you are able to run 10 seconds a mile faster, which equates to over 2 minutes on a half marathon and almost 5 minutes on a full marathon.  And that is only one pound; imagine 5 or 10 pounds! I have been there before; the heaviest I ever weighed was when I was playing volleyball in college and when I was training for my first Ironman.  People could say it was just muscle but I know it was my attitude that I could eat anything I wanted because I was exercising over 2 hours a day, and anything I wanted was more than I needed.

Here is my advice to you to ensure that you do not gain weight through your training. 

First thing is make sure you are getting enough sleep: being overtired can cause us to overeat and now that you have increased your activity level try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.  This will also help your body recover and prevent overtraining.

Stay hydrated: our bodies will sometimes confuse being thirsty with being hungry, so keep a water bottle by your side at all times and fill it up once or twice in a day.

Instead of hitting the coffee shop with your running friends after your long Sunday morning run, pack a healthy post race snack (a banana and a few almonds and some lemon water) and meet your buddies in a park and have a group stretch; your muscles and your mid-sections will thank you.

At dinner try not to fill up on carbohydrates (as us runners think we need) but rather opt for lean proteins and lots of vegetables.  A serving of rice or pasta is not going to kill you but remember what a serving size is: 1 cup not a giant bowl.
You will find you will be hungrier than you usually are and if you do not address your hunger you will find yourself filling up late at night, trying to make up for the calories you did not get earlier in the day.  Keep healthy snacks within reach and try and eat a small meal every 3 hours.

On your long runs when you start to add fuel make sure you take only what you need.  Your body is only able to digest 200-250 calories an hour and 12 ounces of Gatorade has over 300 calories.  Combine that with some energy chews (about 200 calories per package) and 2 gels (220 calories) plus an energy bar (200 calories) you are taking over 900 calories! 

Part of the reason why you need to intake fuel during your training runs is to make sure your body knows how to handle it in a race but you do not need that much.  If I am running 2 and a half hours or longer I will usually have 1 bottle of electrolytes (usually water with a Nuun tablet in it as it is pure electrolyte without the sugar) and I will carry 1 gel with me to have at half way.  If the run is 3 hours I will usually pack a second gel in case I need it. Before the run I have a healthy breakfast, either a smoothie or a piece of toast with banana and peanut butter, and after my run I will have a second healthy breakfast which is typically a 1 egg and egg white omelet full of vegetables and lots of water.

Be careful not to overeat while you train and get rid of the attitude that you can eat whatever you want because you are training for a marathon.  I have seen more people gain weight while training for an endurance event than I have seen lose it.

Attached - Matthew McConaughey out running in New York yesterday.


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