Some people start running and find that the extra pounds melt right off. But for many others, juggling weight loss and workout efforts just isn't that simple or that easy. Running can stoke appetite and thirst—both of which can prompt you to eat more calories than you need. Running also builds muscle—though a good thing—can drive up the numbers on the scale. What's more, when you start a workout regime that feels challenging, you're more prone to overindulging at the dinner table.
So what's a weight-worried runner to do? Follow the steps below to shed pounds while racking up the miles.
Want to zoom across the finish line? Treat your body like a Maserati. Don't junk up the engine with processed foods that contain a lot of added sugars, colors, preservatives, and fillers. The majority of your meals and snacks should come from wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. These foods will give you the energy you need to workout, and the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and avoid chronic diseases.
About half your calorie should come from high-quality carbs. The rest should be evenly divided by healthy fats and lean protein. Eliminating an entire food group—say carbs and fats—will leave you feeling drained heading into workouts, and put you at risk for injury and nutrient deficiencies. What's more, depriving yourself of foods you enjoy will likely lead you to gorge on those foods later on.
While it's perfectly fine to run on empty for any easy run of 60 minutes or less, if you're taking a longer run, or tackling a hard workout like a speed session or a tempo run, it's important to fuel up pre-run. You'll get an energy boost, so you'll be able to put more effort into your workouts, and burn more calories.
Dehydration drags down performance. It also drives you to feel hungry, and can cause your body to retain fluids, which can drive up numbers on the scale. There's no firm guideline on how much you should drink each day. Experts advise: just drink when you're thirsty. To make sure you do, drink half your weight in ounces of calorie-free fluids each day. That means that if you weigh 160 pounds, aim for 80 ounces per day. If you weigh 130 pounds, aim for 65 ounces per day. Stick with calorie-free fluids like water. Chugging down sports drinks—or 20-ounce fancy coffee drinks—can add unnecessary calories that can show up on the waistline.
The faster you run, the more calories you burn per minute. So replace one slow, easy run this week with a higher-intensity workout, like a tempo run or a speed session. Don't do two hard workouts back-to-back; you'll risk injury.
In the 20 minutes immediately following a workout, your body is primed to restock its glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue so you can bounce back strong for your next workout. Before a tough workout, plan and prepare what you'll eat as a recovery snack. The ideal post-workout snack will have a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio.
Keep that post-workout snack to about 250 calories. Runners are prone to rewarding themselves with food after particularly-tough workouts, and in the process, eating back the calories they just burned, and then some. This food-as-reward dynamic was proven a study published in the May 2014 issue of Marketing Letters. In the study, two groups of people took a two-kilometer walk around a lake. One group was told the walk was exercise; for the other group it was a "scenic walk." Those who "exercised" ate 35 percent more chocolate pudding afterward than those who went on a "scenic walk." To avoid this, find a way to make your workout fun. Download a good book to listen to during your workout; meet a friend to work out and make your run double as social hour. Use your workout as an excuse to explore a cool new park. Do anything you can to make your run fun. That will make you less likely to overindulge after your workout.
If you're looking for a running group or a training plan visit
your local Fleet Feet Sports. Whether your goal is weight loss or meeting a cool group of runners, Fleet Feet Sports has a training program to fit your needs.
Measure your success and your efforts by methods that don't rely on the bathroom scale or the time on the finish-line clock. Track them on a regular basis. The scale can be fickle due to factors like water intake and hormonal changes. Race times can be affected by weather and other factors entirely unrelated to your fitness. If you have other measures of success, you'll be able to draw confidence from seeing all your hard work add up, even when the scale and race-day aren't giving you the results you seek. Record any healthy habit that will ultimately lead to weight loss. Track your daily water intake, which can stave off hunger. Or take notes on your strength-training sessions, which can improve body composition. Count your intake of fruits and veggies, which offer filling fiber, and nutrients you need to run strong.