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If you are like most runners, you share similar goals of increasing your overall fitness level and becoming a betterweight management for runners runner.  I am not like most runners.  I’m built differently and I like to eat pizza and cannoli’s more than the average guy. My goal is usually to lose weight. There’s nothing wrong with any of those goals. Where it gets tricky, is pursuing all of them at the same time.

Here’s the rub, runners can’t really chase a maximum fitness level and aggressive weight loss at the same time. This is due to the fact that the diet and training practices that will allow you to be most effective in building your personal fitness are different from those that work best to shed excess body fat.  You gotta choose one.  To get the best results from your marathon training and diet, you’ll need to single in on one goal that’s most important, either fat loss or fitness.  Once you decide on your goal, then you’ll need to eat and train accordingly.

There are some basic dietary rules and training practices that will apply no matter your training goal. For instance, your diet should always include a smattering of natural foods while limiting the amounts of processed foods you consume. This is something I think most people know intuitively, but in our fast paced world its easier and, in most cases, cheaper to consume processed foods. Natural and fresh foods are just better for you.  Period.

Years ago, a friend of mine invited me to train for a half marathon with him.  I had previously run a couple full marathons.  I had already overcome the mental hurdles of whether or not I could run, so I thought, “sure, that would be fun.” When I was in the midst of my half marathon training things weren’t going as smoothly as I would have liked. It seemed like I was working against myself in some way.  It seemed so much harder than before.  I was fatigued and sluggish.  I wasn’t seeing any improvement in fitness.  As I was going through the situation in my head it occurred to me that I was also trying to lose weight.  I had been away from the marathon training game for a while and put on some excess weight.  I thought that I could limit my caloric intake while training and I’d be sure to lose a ton of weight.  That assumption, sadly, was false.

What this example shows is that when you’re training hard for a marathon or half marathon it is vitally important that you eat enough good calories to enable your body to meet the energy demands of your training runs. The downside of this is exactly what happened to me.  These include sub par training performance, increased injury risk and mental discouragement and frustration.

To become a successful runner, don’t do what I did by cutting calories and dieting while training.  You CAN lose weight while your training for a marathon, but you need to listen to your body and eat enough good calories to stay healthy and energized.

Losing weight is as simple as eating fewer calories than your body burns each day.

Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

When weight loss is your goal,  you should count the calories you consume and estimate your calorie burn and ensure that you end each day with a slight deficit.  The optimal deficit range is between 300 and 500 calories per day. If you eat any less, you’ll be hungry and that sucks.  Any larger calorie deficits can be more damaging resulting in less fat loss and more muscle loss. I read a study where, one group of subjects cut their calorie intake by 700 calories a day, and a second group cut theirs by only 300 calories a day. Guess what happened?  The first group lost more total weight, however, roughly 50% of the loss was fat and the rest was lean body mass.  On the other hand, the group with only a 300 calorie deficit had less total weight loss, but approximately 91% of that loss was fat.

While in training for a half marathon or marathon, your ideal goal should be to increase your fitness level.  This approach will be the most beneficial scenario for a successful training while minimizing the propensity for injury and maximizing mental strength.  You’ll feel better because your body is getting the caloric fuel through good carbohydrates to power through your training runs.  You will most likely lose some weight as a result of the increased calorie burn. Save the serious fat burning weight loss for the off season.


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