Hey everyone. I hope you’re all well and have been coping with running in this delightful winter weather?! I was asked recently by a keen cyclist if I ate any carbohydrate! I was a little taken aback by his question as my diet, like all endurance athletes, is very heavily based on carbs. As we talked, it became clear that this guy was trying to lose a bit of weight and thought that the no carb route was the best bet. It struck me that there isn’t a lot of information and advice out there for people who exercise and want to lose a few pounds. For many runners weight management takes care of itself.
One of the many perks of running is that you can afford to (and need to) eat more than your sedentary mates. However, modern lifestyle, where it’s easy to grab high-calorie processed foods when you’re sitting at a desk all day can if you’re not careful, counteract the effects of training. If you are looking to lose a little bit of weight then you need to approach this with caution. Losing weight too quickly and/or restricting your calorie intake too much whilst continuing to train is a sure road to illness, injury and underperformance. Remember that we all have a natural body shape; you can’t change your height or the width of your hips. You can’t change your genetic potential for leanness either (thank your parents for that one!) You need to find the right weight for you and nobody else. So with all of that in mind, here are five weight loss tips specifically designed for runners that don’t involve crazy calorie restriction.
Go easy on the sports drinks
If you’re doing a long run then there is good reason to be using carbohydrate based sports drinks because your muscles will be crying out for you to replace glycogen and electrolytes. However, in most cases you don’t need to use sports drinks after your shorter runs. For example, during a 30 minute run you could burn around 300 calories. However, if you then drink 500ml of sports drink that’s anywhere between 150-200 calories that you’re putting straight back in, so in effect you are partly negating the calorie burning benefit of the run. To rehydrate after shorter runs why not swap a sports drink for low sugar squash with a pinch of salt.
Hit the weights
A small amount of strength and conditioning work can go a long way for runners; it can help to prevent injuries and can also improve running form and efficiency. However strength work can also help to promote weight loss too. Weight training or resistance work increases the percentage of your body’s mass that is muscle. Lean muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat, so with a little more muscle you burn more calories whilst at rest. Get pumping some iron!
High intensity training
High intensity training, such as interval work is a great way to boost your fitness. However it’s also an effective way to help you lose weight too. You burn calories at a higher rate during high intensity exercise than during moderate or low intensity exercise, which is not exactly rocket science. However your body’s rate of oxygen consumption and therefore your metabolic rate, remains elevated for some time after exercise. This means that after harder workouts you will burn more calories than normal, even when you’re sat in front of the TV!
Don’t avoid carbs!
Runners generally require a special approach to weight loss. For example, low-carbohydrate diets are an effective and fashionable weight loss strategy for non-athletes. But for endurance athletes they are a recipe for disaster because they starve the muscles of the primary fuel they need for endurance performance. Without adequate carbs you will most likely feel tired and sluggish and will be unable to run at the higher intensities that will promote gains in fitness and weight loss. Restricting your carbohydrate intake will also make you more susceptible to illness and injury, and when you’re ill or injured, you can’t run!
Eat high satiety foods
Managing your appetite can be a difficult thing to do if you are trying to shift a few pounds. Why is it that you can eat a big bowl of pasta and feel hungry again a few hours later whereas a wholemeal bagel with peanut butter can leave you feeling fuller for longer? Some foods provide more satiety per calorie than others. The foods that provide the most satiety per calorie are those which contain large amounts of nutrients that activate the body’s hunger control signals more effectively than other nutrients. These include fibre, certain types of protein and long-chain fatty acids. By including foods that contain these nutrients in your diet you will be able to satisfy your appetite throughout the day and eat fewer calories in total. I do hope these tips are helpful. Remember, a racing car needs high octane fuel! Happy training!
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