You might think that running and weight loss are a match made in Heaven. Many people would have us believe that running is a ‘free pass’ that let’s us eat whatever we want and stay thin forever. Unfortunately, the truth isn’t quite that rosy. Staying thin and losing weights means paying mindful attention to what we eat, even when we have a lifestyle that includes lots of exercise. Today, four key weight loss tips that runners should keep in mind.1) Running is not a free pass to the buffet — Contrary to popular belief, you can’t eat whatever you want, even if you are a runner. Why not? First off, running doesn’t burn all that many calories in relation to the number of calories that may be packed into the modern foods that we eat. If we assume that we burn very roughly 115 calories per mile when running it’s going to take a lot of miles to burn off a high-calorie meal. Let’s go crazy and have a plate of Pesto Cream Penne at Calfornia Pizza Kitchen: 1,210 calories. That would take you 10 1/2 miles to burn off. And that doesn’t include the bread, salad, desert or a drink. Plus there’s worse news here: 690 of those calories come from fat, which isn’t especially helpful to fueling your runs. So that advice that you heard about carb loading needs to be taken carefully.
2) You do need carbohydrates, but you don’t need sugar — I know that strictly speaking carbohydrate and sugar are in the same family of nutrients, but they have very different impacts on your body. You have likely read that carbohydrate is helpful to fueling your runs, but loading up on sugar is not at all helpful to a lifestyle that leads to weight loss. Eating sugary foods quickly raises your blood sugar making you feel full quickly, but the effects of this surge are not long lasting. You’ll be hungry again quickly. And simple sugars aren’t good for stocking away to be used in endurance workouts. So the first thing to do here is to look at the ingredients of what you eat and try to eliminate added sugars. The second thing to do is to eat foods with slowly processed sugars (also known as low glycemic index foods). A helpful tip here is to eat starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasta the night before a long run, but watch out that your food choices aren’t loaded with hidden sugars. Get other natural sugar in your diet by eating whole fruits. The fiber in whole fruit slows its digestion in the body, giving you longer lasting energy and less of a sugar rush than other highly sugary foods. Plus fruit is packed with healthy vitamins and anti-oxidants.
3) Eat small, frequent meals — Eating smaller, more frequent meals keeps your blood sugar more consistent and keeps hunger at bay. Perhaps worse than other people runners get “hangry” when they get hungry. Their bodies do need calories for fuel and hunger is simply a signal that you need to eat. But the longer you go between meals, the more prone you are to over-eat. Keep hunger at bay by eating frequently. Learn to snack on healthy foods like nuts and whole fruit. If you’re saying, ‘I’m not really that hungry’ by dinner time, you will be less likely to pig out late in the day before you settle in for the night.
4) Increase the intensity of your runs — What we want as runners interested in weight loss is to get the most bang for our running miles. Running slowly, what we might call ‘plodding along’ or ‘jogging’, burns fewer calories than more intense workouts. Doing speed work, tempo runs and other higher intensity runs will burn more fuel. In addition, the body has to work harder to recover from these highly intense workouts, which means the body burns more calories throughout the day and night. Runners that want to lose weight should aim to get in at least two to three high intensity workouts per week, reserving easier miles for long runs and recovery runs.
I’ll close with a story. I was walking out of the gym one day behind two guys. They were ‘pumped’ about their run, visibly exited and sharing stories of the progress that they had made. When talk turned to food, one of the guys said, “I’m starved. Let’s go get burgers.” The other guy said, “yeah, that sounds great. We can eat whatever we want today.” Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Running can have great health and weight loss benefits, but only when we eat like we’re serious about our bodies and our weight loss goals. Pay attention to what your body needs and keep yourself fed with healthy, small meals. You’ll feel better and you may just have a chance at shedding a few pounds in the process.
Read more at www.running-advice.com/blog.
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running-Advice.com & RUN Time