Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to Gain Weight While Being a Runner

Okay, so this may sound like a funny topic. There are probably less than 1% of runners out there who would actually say, yes please I hope I gain weight by running.
Truth be told, most people who run, want to shed a few pounds or trim down and shape up.

I hear a lot of people say, I can't wait to train for a marathon, just thinking about how much weight I will lose in the process is exciting... Then months later they discover they may be training, but they are also gaining weight.

Why is this?  It's very simple, once you start running and burning all those calories you tend to get hungry, and when we are hungry we tend to eat or in some cases overeat.
If we are already over weight, and not changing our eating habits as we are running.  We aren't actually making the healthy changes needed to give us the overall results.

Or another common mistake is thinking we went out and ran 5 miles, and then decide to treat ourselves to a treat for our efforts.

If you step back and look at how many calories you actually burn in a 5 or even 15 mile run. Then look at the amount of calories in the reward meal after, or treat...  More than likely you're going to find, you're still eating more than your burning.

Another huge and very common mistake is energy drinks or energy bars.  They are thrown in our faces as runners as the go to item we must have.  They trick us into believing that we actually need them each run to preform better and to sustain energy.
In fact they have very expensive ad campaigns designed to do just that, trick us into believing because something says it's for runners, or fitness enthusiasts, or that it is a health bar, that it is actually good for us.  When in all actuality, they are chalked full of calories and sugars and not really all that healthy.

The fact is, unless you have one of those metabolisms that you can't gain any weight no matter what you do.  (If you do, I am jealous!)  Those energy drinks and bars, are going to be most runners downfalls.
Sure, it looks like liquid, or is so small that it fits in the palm of our hand to squeeze or bite into.  But if you look at the calories, look at the amount of sugar inside.  You'd realize most people don't burn enough in one workout to equal that which is in an energy drink.

Truth is, energy drinks/bars/supplements aren't really needed for regular training.  Yup, I said it and it's true!
Most of the time they aren't even needed in a race.  In my own personal opinion when you think about the calories inside them, nearly any distance short of a marathon and you can easily over eat more calories than you are burning.
Just think in a 5k, if you stop and drink an energy drink mid race, in 1 drink alone you just went over the amount that you burn in the race itself.  Then if you have another right after the race, your just adding calories that will turn into pounds on your body over time..

So if you are a runner, and I can write this post based on fact, because I have been there, I have made the mistake of eating too much vs. what I am burning...
Take a look at what you're eating, track the calories, write them down.  Then compare them to what you're actually burning during that workout.
If you are gaining weight, or not losing weight while training for a race of any distance.  Then there is your answer.

Losing weight is simple math.  3500 calories burned = 1 pound lost.  3500 calories ate, means a pound gained...
If you want to lose weight, you have to create a daily deficit in calories, it's that simple.

I remember once, I had just ran a marathon.  The next day I was on a flight with literally a plane full of runners, including the race winner.  Our flight was cancelled and we were all put up in the same hotel and picked up very early the next morning to make our re-scheduled flights.
I was sitting next to this couple who had just ran the same race I did, I had run the full and they had both run the half.  They both were lean and looked like they were in great shape.
I looked like I was in shape, but lean is not something one would call me, as I have the girly curves and a few extra pounds.
I didn't have time to get anything for breakfast so I just decided to grab something after I got through security.  I didn't have many options, but decided I might as well grab a  McMuffin.
I grabbed it and headed back to the terminal.
When I got back, I sat down right across from the lean couple I rode over with to the airport.
Guess what they were eating.... Rice cakes, and a yogurt and they were completely satisfied with it. In fact, the woman didn't even finish hers.  I finished my McMuffin and the hashbrown they gave me easily.
Right then I realized, this is the difference between runners like myself and runners who are lean.

Is there a right or wrong?  Nope!  Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and whatever you're comfortable with, that is what is important.  You never have to be anything other than what makes you happy.
For myself, who's always wanted to shed a pound or five... Weight loss is something I would like, but unfortunately I wasn't eating the right way.

Is it hard to eat fewer calories, when you are running high mileage?  Definitely, especially at first. You can feel hungry all the time.  But like you're training your body to build up mileage for races. You can also train your body to run on what is needed, not more than, in the calorie sense.
It's possible!  I have seen thousands of runners at many races I run who can pull it off, so it really comes down to willpower and wanting it.

This post isn't meant to hurt any feelings.  It's a fact that a lot of runners don't know why they can't lose weight or why they are gaining weight.  Even runners who are running 40-60 miles a week can easily gain weight.
Instead this post is meant to give a little food for thought on the subject.  If losing weight is something you're interested in, and your a runner and it's not happening.
Take a little look at the daily and weekly numbers, what are you eating, and how much?  I won't say it will be easy, but I will say with some willpower and a little time, you can train yourself to not overeat and not to have those intense hunger cravings after runs.  Additionally, you can also un-train yourself to feel you need energy drinks and supplements with all workouts and re think how you use them, or if you need them at all.



Are you a runner like me who has had trouble in the past and actually gained weight while training for marathons or other races?


21 comments :

  1. This is a fabulous post. I have watched runners go crazy with sweets, treats and post race meals after as little as a 5k (pancake house breakfast) and chuckled. It is crazy to think a little running gives you a free pass to indulge in all sorts of food and beverages. I am one of the lucky ones who has trouble keeping their weight on during marathon training, but I also do not eat or drink tons of junk. Ice cream in my big downfall and I certainly have other issues besides weight like osteoporosis and bunions.....we all have something!

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    1. Thank you! Oh I have seen that too, whats funny is I see it far more in the shorter distance races than the longer ones. Not sure if that is just because longer the race, more tired and not in the mood to pig out... But ya some get a little crazy with it.
      I wish I had your trouble, I have the reverse one. I can run many many miles and pretty much look at food and gain a pound, LOL
      But you're right, we all have something!

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  2. I dropped weight training for my first half, and when that showed up at the doctor's office (I don't have a scale at home) I thought Sh!t, I need that back!!! Right now I'm eating Luna Bars as either my pre-workout snack during the week, or post-run snack on the weekends. Jeff Galloway said if you eat something around 200 calories within 30 minutes after a long run, you're less prone to overeating junk.

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    1. Ya, eating within 20-30 minutes after a run does a lot for you, it even helps with muscle recovery and I have heard because it stops your body from going into fat saving mode, it helps with proper weightloss too.

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  3. I dropped weight initially and kept it off a good while. A few pounds have snuck back up on me recently. I think it's my late night snacking. I try not to worry too much about it. Thankfully, I've never had to do very much battle in this area. But, obesity runs in my family, so I have to stay aware. My sister lost a lot of weight in her early 20's and has kept it off all these years. She has worked very hard.

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    1. I need to be more aware myself, as it runs in my own as well. I am really great at being active, but I do need to remind myself to watch what I eat, I am far from perfect or anything close on that front:)

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  4. I gain weight training, not training, any day, any hour of the week :)

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    1. At some points I think I gain a pound if I just look at a Pepsi LOL So I know what you mean!

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  5. I am probably one of the few who doesn't ever weigh myself. I weighed myself the other day while I was at Physical Therapy only because I was bored while I was waiting around for the PT to come back over to me. I was a little surprised at the number, but then again the last time I stepped on the scale was years ago so really why would I expect to have weight the same. I am hoping that I gained some muscle in those years.

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    1. Some people don't have to worry about it, they have genetics in their favor:) You're probably lucky that way, or you just eat really well.
      I'm the opposite, I really have to watch it close.

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  6. This is a great post. I always gain about 10 pounds during marathon training but with that said, I don't over eat or use it as an excuse to eat. I saw a nutritionist during my entire training and he insists that some poeples bodies go into stress mode during training and hold onto glycogen stores despite eating the appropriate calories and healthy foods. I'm one of those and it's really frustrating!

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    1. When I first started running marathons, and I was much smaller back then. I used to joke that I would gain 10 pounds right after I ran a marathon, then it would take me a year to get it back off in time to gain another 10 the next marathon.
      I learned I had to watch it, especially when I started running more than one a year, LOL
      But your'e right, some bodies do that, it can be really frustrating!

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  7. We do get hungrier when we work out a lot. I haven't really ever lost or gained a significant amount of weight while training but I do notice changes in my legs and muscles. You are right some energy bars are just candy bars. Eating whole foods when possible is always healthier IMO

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    1. Ya, some energy bars, really need to be banned from marketed as fitness products because like you said, they are just candy bars!
      You're also right on whole foods, that is really a big key in weight loss and control!

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  8. So true...always rungry! It took me a few years of running to see that running alone will not get me in the best shape ever! It really does matter what foods go in, even if we are putting in lots of miles!

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    1. I know, I can workout and run no problems, but food is not as easy for me. It really is a 50/50 thing when it comes to eating and workouts and weightloss

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  9. Yes. Or sometimes I'm just the opposite. ANd I'm not rungry, but I know I need to eat. My metabolism is strange sometimes. ;-D

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    1. Mine goes weird after a marathon, I seriously can't usually eat for hours after like my body shuts that part of my system down. Of course in training it's the opposite and I get hungry LOL

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  10. I am guilty of running and then getting a treat afterwards especially after long runs, but luckily I haven't gained a considerably amount of weight. It fluctuates but stays about the same. The running/exercise helps but it is important to watch what you eat.

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  11. I've definitely gained weight while running a lot of miles before. I can't remember if it was last summer, or the summer before, but I could feel the jiggle to the wiggle so to speak haha. Now, I don't think it was extremely noticeable to anyone, but I definitely felt the difference in just the way my running shorts were fitting me and some of my tighter tanks. So it's for sure true that you have to be careful what you eat not only for weight reasons, but for overall health and performance. For me, I love to treat myself a little more than the usual the day of a race, but then it's back to healthy eating the next day. It's just become the norm now, but you really do have to make a conscious effort to not want to indulge after ever single run at first for sure! The weird thing is, I will have just as big of an appetite when I'm taking time off as when I'm running haha that wasn't so good for that three months running hiatus a few years ago when my diet was pretty terrible ;) Loved this! You put it in such a kind way too :)

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  12. Great topic! I agree that many runners fall into the trap of eating too many gels, bars, drinks, etc. I personally try to limit that type of thing to before a longer speed workout or during a long run 12+ miles. I do think it's important to get in calories after a tough workout session but think it can be done with real food like a peanut butter sandwich or chocolate milk. For me, at least, if I eat real food, I tend to feel more satisfied and less likely to overeat during my next meal!

    I loved your airport example, I also would have opted for the McMuffin and hashbrowns ;)

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