Like many people I started running as a way to help lose weight. After I got a heart rate monitor I quickly realized that I burned just as many calories running for 40 minutes as I did doing an hour long cardio-kickboxing class. It wasn’t until I ran my first race that running became something other than a means to an end. Running was an easy gateway to fitness and extra calories to eat for quite awhile…until I started marathon training.
The trap many of us find ourselves in is this: training for a marathon involves a lot of hard work, a lot of hours on the road, and the need to replenish the calories expended doing that work. It is very easy to justify a half pound 50/50 burger with avocado mash and chipotle mayo after a 15 mile long run. Unfortunately that is a 1200 calorie meal BEFORE you add fries and a drink. Oops. Pretty much all distance runners can relate to “runger”. Olympic level distance runner Shalane Flanagan lists “being hungry all the time” as one of her top 10 things she hates about running. Here are some tips to help you stay in the box while doing your training.
1. Track what you eat and what you burn. Looking at the in/out of what you are doing each day is critical to maintaining your weight. If you are trying to lose you need to see what kind of deficit you have but you should try not to lose more than 1 lb a week. Most coaches recommend not trying to run a deficit during training because it prevents you from optimising your training. Most of us aren’t preparing for the Olympics but more than a pound during training can be excessive.
2. Eating fresh foods is good way to fend off hunger. Yes fruits can have a lot of sugar but is not in a “high fructose” form and is easily converted to energy by your body. Fresh fruit and vegetables also tend to not be calorie dense. It is much easier to eat a sleeve of Pringles than to eat an equivalent amount of apples.
3. Be careful with juices. Even the healthiest juice is a liquid which your body will break down faster than the solid version. You will get just as many calories but because it goes through your system faster you will be hungry and sooner. I’m not saying don’t drink juice, just don’t assume you are being healthy because you had a Naked juice. One of those bottles is enough for a small meal.
4. Avoid processed foods. While the big mega food companies have done a very good job at making easy to prepare meals there is a price to pay and that price is the nutritional value of what you eat. You will get more of the nutrients and vitamins you need from fresh prepared meals than you will from a microwave dinner. Sometimes there just isn’t time to spend an hour or more making dinner but if you can you should.
And last but not least…
5. Keep healthy snacks available at home and at work. Sometimes you just need to have a snack. If you have a serving of carrots or a granola bar on hand that can help you avoid a trip to the snack machine. Good luck and happy eating.