A few people I’ve come across are taking up running in their quest to lose weight, or some have taken up running to train for a half marathon or full marathon and hoped that the training would mean weight loss. Then they have been shocked to find that their weight actually INCREASES or stays the same during the training.
Weight loss is all about consuming less calories than you burn. A pound is 3500 calories, so to lose a lb a week you would need to create a deficit of 3500 calories in what you eat compared to what you burn.
From experience, I can say that running can definately help you to lose weight. But it depends on how much you do, and what else you do as to whether you will lose weight or not.
A bit about my journey…
I started running in June 2008 when my BMI was almost 25 and I was on the verge of being overweight. I was about a stone heavier than my ideal weight, and since then have lost 23lbs… or 16% of my body weight.
By December I’d reached my ideal weight and was happy with it (135lbs – 21.75 BMI – right in the middle of the BMI scale). This weight loss was after 6 months of increasing my activity levels and eating more healthily… but since I’ve been running more, the weight has been falling off.
The further the distance I’ve trained for, the more weight seems to be coming off. I’m not even trying anymore and although I am tracking my weight, I am not worried about my it.
Training: 5ks to Marathons
I started this journey by training for 5k events in June 2008. 5ks are great to get yourself into running. You have to take it slowly: run / walk some distances first, then once you can run for 15 to 20 minutes non stop you should be able to run a 5k.
Over the years, I’ve trained for 10ks, triathalons, half marathons and marathons. I’ve concentrated on swimming at points, and worked in the gym, done spinfit and played basketball an hour a week at other points, but my activity levels have always been quite high.
If you think you don’t have enough time for exercise… you do. You just don’t choose to do it. I get up 2-3 times a week an hour earlier than I would normally to fit some of my runs in. I don’t watch too mcuh TV and I don’t lie in often.
I also don’t have children, but there are always ways to get time to yourself or increase levels of activity as a family.
I excerise 4-6 days a week – twice some days (morning and night). I walk to and from work, and always take the stairs rather than the lift.
In 2010 my average calories burned was around 4600 and I exercised on average for 7.5 hours a week.
This year, with my increased training in relation to my marathon, my average calories burned is around 5300 and I’m exercising for the same average time. (I’m running more, gym and basketball less).
In June 2008, all I did was increase my activity levels with a routine of exercise. I’ve changed my lifestyle to include exercise, and especially running as a main part of it. Drinking alcohol was elimated and now I tend to only really drink water or milk. If I’m not running, I’m cycling, hill climbing, walking or swimming. I can’t sit still!!
How has running affected my weight?
I’m pleased to say, it’s helped me shift a lot of weight and I’m now in the best condition of my life!
The graph below shows my weight since June 2008 and the events I’ve trained for over the course of that time. The orange line at the bottom of the graph shows when I increased my weekly mileage incorporated in my marathon training.
I’m very proud that I’ve managed to maintain my weight and can blame it confidently on increased levels of activity and always having a challenge to aim and train for.
Weight isn’t the be all and end all though. I’ve also been monitoring my body fat… it’s gone from 29.5% to 20.6%… that’s a starting 43.5lbs of fat, reduced by 18lbs (8 bags of sugar!!) to 25.5lbs of fat!
I’m very pleased with that!!
Eating and consuming calories
I eat small amounts regularly throughout the day (5-6 times) and I never find myself hungry. Small portions but enough to fill me up and provide me with the energy I need to run/exercise.
I eat a lot, and I eat a chinese take away once a week. I eat mars bars and snickers. I also eat fruit, chicken, bagels and rice among other stuff. I drink lots of water and have even managed to quit carbonated drinks (diet coke mainly).
Anyway, enough about me.
So how do you prevent yourself adding lbs when you train for a half marathon or marathon??
Are you resting more than usual?
Are your running miles in addition to your normal activity or in place of it? It is common for some people to rest more during training, thinking, “Wow I ran far…I can relax the rest of the day”.
Another way to look at it is in hours. Before marathon training a typical Saturday was a few hours of walking followed by shopping, laundry, garden work and then out with friends.
You were moving constantly. Now a Saturday involves two hours of running followed by vegging on the couch most of the day and ordering a pizza.
So, keep up the momentum even on days with long runs. I am not against rest and recovery, but don’t be a marathon training sloth.
Are you eating too many calories to over compensate for how far you are running in your training?
You may be thinking ‘great, I just ran 10 miles… 1000 calories burned, I can have what I want’. But if you are serious about weight loss, you’ll decide to still eat healthily and not over do it. Don’t have that pudding, or that extra glass of wine.
Be realistic. One mile burns one hundred calories. Think about that when you are eating that extra cake, bag of crisps or chocolate bar.
Keep healthy food in your house, so that you don’t end up eating crap after exercise. Nuts, chicken, muller rice etc. Foods with protien are good to aid recovery after long runs.
If you are really serious, keep a food/calorie intake journal. Think about EVERYTHING you consume.
Which leads me to another issue…
Are you drinking too many calories??
Lucozade, Gatorade and all the usual sports drinks contain carbs to refuel you, but they also contain lots of calories.
I used to swim 3000m, then come in and ‘rehydrate’ with 500mls of fresh orange juice and 500mls of lucozade…then I realised I was burning 500 calories swimming – then coming in and drinking 600 calories!! Stupid eh?
If you run for under an hour, you will only need to rehydrate with water. Anything over an hour you can use you sports drinks, but go for the lite version (lucozade lite is good – only 50 cals).
Another issue is alcohol. I gave up drinking alcohol in May 2009, and I would never tell anyone else to if they didn’t want to. But you do need to understand the calories involved in drinking if you are serious about losing weight.
I stopped drinking alcohol after a very heavy session (I was sick 8 times the next day and didn’t recover until about 3 days later) … and have noticed a very large difference in my overall health (not to mention my bank balance! – £50 a week (including taxis and hangover food etc) for 105 weeks = £5250!!! up).
I went on two foriegn holidays last year, to Lanzarote and San Francisco, and am probably going to go away for the same amount of trips this year. Mainly because I’ve quit spending money on drinking!!
You don’t need to quit like I have, but you can maybe consider your drinking habits. Try to only drink at the weekends, try not to binge. Or take some time off it.
I know someone who takes a month off drinking every 3 months. He notices a massive difference in how much he’ll lose in the months he doesn’t drink, compared to the months he does drink (same levels of activity).
If he trains & eats the same, in 4 weeks he can lose an extra 4-5kg or 9-11lbs in a month. Just by cutting out beer!!
Or you could take 2 weeks off from every 6? I prefer to just stay off it and have managed to remove the habit from my life, but I know how hard it can be.
Exercising increases your motabilism and in turn you burn more calories. After you exercise (especially circuits or exercise where your heart rate goes high), afterburn occurs where your body is still working.
If you exercise twice in one day, your heart rate is increased twice during that day, and afterburn will be even higher. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn also.
If you’ve increased your levels of activity, and are eating a nutritious and healthy diet and you still find that you’re gaining weight, try not to focus too much on that number on the scale.
Pay attention to other measurements such how your clothes are fitting, how toned you feel, body fat percentage, or inches lost.
And if you really want to lose weight, remember that healthy weight loss takes time. Even with all the running that you’re doing, you should not aim to lose more than a pound a week. So, try to be patient.