Will Training for a Marathon Help Me Lose Weight?
For my 30th birthday I decided to run a marathon. I did it for a number of reasons:
- I wanted to raise money for cancer research in honor of my father who passed away
- Seeing people in wheelchairs pass the finish line in front of my building the year before inspired me – it reminded me how blessed I was to have use of my legs and that this was an achievable goal for many people
- My wedding was planned for May and I really, really, really wanted to lose a little weight. Surely running a MARATHON would burn calories, right?
While happy to report that I finished my first marathon and raised money for a good cause and had many other mental and physical benefits from the experience, weight loss was not one of them.
My theory (which made perfect sense to me) was that if I was running all the time I should be able to eat whatever the hell I wanted. Also, I heard that runners at pasta, so I felt that it was my athletic duty to go to Italian restaurants and order lasagna and fettuccini Alfredo as often as possible.
What I didn’t know then, but do know now, is that to have a fit body that looks fit diet and exercise is not a 50/50 split. It’s really more of a 90/10 split. To look fit you need to eat clean. You can run dozens of miles and be strong as can be, but if your muscles are nestled beneath a snuggly layer of fat no one will see them.
Likewise, you can eat really well but without exercise your stamina will be lacking and you won’t have that sculpted physique you see in fitness magazines. Fortunately, bodybuilding clued me into the art of food science and how to fuel your body for the best results. More on that later.
Training for my first marathon (coming from a state of complete non-movement) I actually did lose a little bit of weight the first two weeks, when I was running 4 times per week for about 30 minutes each time. But once my long runs got over 3 miles, I found myself famished and eating everything in sight, especially carbs. And it wasn’t even like I was hungry for 20 minutes after the run; I was hungry all damn day. And when I ran a half marathon in 2010 in an attempt to shed the baby fat, I actually ended up gaining weight (!!!)
Looking back I realize now that I was hungry due to poor pre and post-workout nutrition and sporadic dehydration. Also, I ate frozen diet foods and processed foods that had clever marketing like “47% less fat than the regular brand!” thinking they were healthy choices.
Please learn from my mistakes and spare yourself some grief. If weight loss is one of your goals for marathon or half-marathon training here are some tips:
What to Eat When Training for a Half-Marathon
- “Food is For Fuel, Not a Reward.” Let this be your mantra. I’m a big believer in rewarding yourself after milestones (like running 5 miles for the first time) – just make your reward non-food related, like a long bubble bath or a new running T-shirt. Don’t throw away your 2,000 calories burned on a 2,300 calorie pizza after a long run.
- Eat clean. Fuel your body with the right kinds of nutrients. Each meal should be a combination of proteins (for muscle recovery) like fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, Greek yogurt, and beans, carbohydrates like brown rice, old fashioned oatmeal, quinoa, vegetables and fruit and some healthy fats like avocado, almonds, chia seeds and olive oil. “Dirty” food = processed/pre-packaged foods you find in boxes and cans, sugar, fried foods and junk food. I’m not gonna lie: It took me about two weeks to get used to eating whole foods, but I dropped weight fast and felt intensely better. (If you are interested in learning more about the foods and exercises I used to lose weight, please check out my SLIMethod on my website. It includes a meal plan, 24 no-gym workouts, motivational videos, tips and tricks to get healthy.)
- Pre-workout meal. Eat about an hour before your workout. This is a great time to eat fruit because chances are high that you will burn off all the fructose during your run and it won’t turn into fat storage on your hips. I eat 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal with a little Stevia, 1/2 banana, 4 egg whites and drink 16 oz. of water before a long run.
- Post-workout meal.
To minimize soreness and keep your muscle gains, it’s best to eat within 30 minutes after your long run. Go for a mix of protein and carbohydrates. I tend to stick with a protein shake and a rice cake with almond butter because it’s fast and easy. I also make sure to continue to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Portions please! I know you really want to eat carbs, and you should eat healthy ones, keeping in mind the portions. If I’m having a serving of brown rice with dinner I measure out 1/2 cup, not 2 cups.
Let’s say you run an hour a day. That’s great! But that’s only 1/24 of your day. The other 23 hours should be focused on eating clean and going about your daily routine.
Weight loss is simple but it’s not easy. If you are training for a marathon or half marathon that suggests you are willing to put in the effort it takes to accomplish a really hard fitness goal. Put that same focus and consistency into your food choices and you will see results in your physique too.
I’m running on behalf of Johnny James Follis who broke his neck and severed his spine just before Thanksgiving. Did you find this article helpful? If so, please click here: DONATE NOW
Any money donated is greatly appreciated by JJ and his family. #JJwillWalk #JohnnyJames
If you’re serious about getting healthy, but need help getting started, try my S.L.I. Method on my website ShesLosingIt.com. Only YOU can do the work, but I can give you the tools that I’ve learned over the past four years about nutrition, exercise and overcoming excuses.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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