Why marathon training doesn’t always help you lose weight…

Have you ever wondered why you aren’t shedding lbs when you are training so much – for your marathon or half marathon… the truth is – marathon training doesn’t always help runners lose weight.

If you’ve ever trained for a marathon, you probably expected to lose wight. And why not? Long runs that last 2, 3, even 4 hours burn a serious number of calories. But many runners step on the scale just before race day and discover that instead of dropping pounds, they’ve added them.

Runners sometimes gain weight because they change their diets, along with their mileage, or because other factors such as hormonal factors some into play. And occasionally extra pounds are actually a sign of things going right. Here’s why the numbers on the scale go up during training, and how to fuel yourself so you get to the start at an ideal weight.

Your body is trying to fuel your increased activity. One of the ways it does this is by making you hungrier. Best thing to do after a long run is have a recovery meal which includes carbs and protein (such as a chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice). Try to keep away from the extra fries, or the cheese burger and fries… try to eat high quality carbs to help your body repair and recover.

You might be hungrier, but make sensible choices when choosing what you eat and what you don’t eat. Food high in protein tends to keep you satisfied for longer, and if you eat carbs, try not to eat processed carbs or sugary carbs.

You go for a 10 mile run and come home starving… before you know it you’ve inhaled a stack of pancakes, a smoothie, eggs, bacon, toast and a few well earned biscuits. Oops – you just ate 1,200 calories – a few hundred more than you burned on the run.

Try to eat whole, minimally processed foods rich in carbs, fibre and protein. Don’t fall into the ‘I deserve it’ mindset. Going for a long run does not mean you should eat anything and everything you want to – especially if you are trying to lose weight.

When you eat matters as well – try to eat a meal two or three hours before a long run. Your body will be fueled enough for your run and you won’t feel hungry – this eliminates the need for a pre exercise snack. After the run, skip the recovery snack and instead sit down to a full meal within 30 minutes.

Not all weight is bad weight. In fact, there are reasons you may have put on pounds that will actually help you on race day. Months of training can reduce your body fat while adding muscle mass. Muscle is denser than fat, which explains why the scale may have crept up even though you’ve likely lost a few inches around your waist and gained strength.

Another reason for weight gain before a race? Fluid retention. Not only do runners typically drink more in the days leading up to a race, but they also tend to eat more carbs. Carbs attract water, leading to possible fluid retention. This fluid will help ensure you are well hydrated on race day.

Finally – here are some tips to help you avoid extra pounds and run your best race:

Are you increasing your milage but taking the lift instead of the stairs? Ordering cheesy fries because you ‘deserve it’? These behaviours offset the calories burned logging miles and can lead to weight gain. Keep paying attention to what you eat, eat well, train well and you will lose or maintain your weight.

Optimal hydration can improve performance AND reduce hunger. Remember to hydrate before and after a workout and sip on calorie free liquids (water) throughout the day.

Don’t fill up on carbs from processed grains and sweets. Instead, car load with whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, which have more filling and are nutrient rich.

Of course you should eat before your long run, but chances are you probably have enough stored energy to fuel you for an easy three miler, so skip the snack and just run.

High fibre foods (vegetables, fruits, grains) are often low in calories but filling, making them great for weight control. But they also keep your digestive system moving, so avoid eating too much fibre right before you run.

When people reduce their training, they usually don’t reduce their intake, setting them up for weight gain. If you reduce or stop training, think about your food intake and reduce it accordingly.

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