Ofall the reasons people start running, one of the most common is to try to lose some body weight. There is nothing wrong with that: it is very frequent that one decides to do it just because of that, and it is also good that it is so, because one can get a lot of motivation from it. In short, when you don’t feel like going out for a run, the fact that the reward is also to lose weight may better convince you, despite the magnetic force exerted by the couch.
Yet running may not always work, and there are several reasons why, and they need to be looked at from other angles: whether you are a beginner or already experienced. Professional athletes are excluded from this list because their training/rest/feeding regimens are carefully followed by nutritionists and dietitians, so their diet escapes the observations I will make, not least because they often–being professionals–feed themselves many more calories than we do, burning in proportion to their training load.
When you run for the first few times, weight loss is evident. After all, you’re doing the physical activity that you hadn’t done before, and so your metabolism burns more calories. What happens is that, precisely, some of what you used to eat without burning is used to provide you with energy during physical exertion. After a while, however, the magic ends, especially if your dietary regimen does not vary and if the road you run on is always the same. After all, there is no escape: if what goes in (food) and what comes out (training, through calories burned) do not vary, body weight cannot vary either.
If the initial weight loss motivated you greatly but now you risk demotivation because it no longer works, it is time to turn to more radical remedies. Fear not: nothing earth-shattering, except some extra care, especially about what you eat.
You have already guessed the speech. If eating the same things over and over again and training consistently but without increasing your load does not help you to lose more weight, you have two paths ahead: train more often and longer, or eat less.
It’s not simply a matter of “running longer” but of running while doing more. Keep in mind that, while it is true that running burns calories, it is also true that it is not the sport in which you burn the most (jumping rope for example beats it big time, although doing an hour of jumping rope is not exactly pleasant). Do you know how many calories you burn? About 1Kcal per km per kg of weight. So: if you weigh 65 kilograms you will burn 65Kcal per km, and if you run one hour for 10k, then you will burn 650 Kcal. It follows that if you want to burn more you have to run longer distances, not just run longer. I know the argument might seem counterintuitive: “If I run longer, I also cover a longer distance, right?” Yes and no: running longer might lead you to do it in a more relaxed way, not ultimately adding much distance to your training, or at least not as much as if you focused only on distance and not time. Similarly, if you run harder but still cover the same distance in the end but in less time–you have still covered the same distance and therefore burned the same calories.
Without delving into defining regimens, there is a very simple trick to not eating more than necessary: don’t reward yourself for running. Really, nothing could be simpler than that. And if it seems little, think about how many times you ate more because you had been running so much and it seemed only fair to reward yourself. It happened to you, didn’t it?
There are other tricks:
- Don’t eat before a normal/short run: if you plan to train no more than an hour, you don’t need to refuel beforehand, as you won’t go into sugar debt
- Do not eat during training, especially if-as in the case above-it is a short or normal workout. You have no need for it. Different matter beyond 15km: in this case it is better to take gels or supplements, to avoid turning the rest of the training or race into an unnecessary ordeal
- After training: now you can reward yourself but you can also do it in a smart way. For example, do not immediately pounce on food but drink a glass of water first so as to control the hunger pangs and prefer foods that require eating with forks or utensils. The less immediate and easy you can eat (like using forks or small spoons), the smaller the quantity will be
- Always eat in proportion to your training load: if it is indeed correct to eat a little more when you have a week of intense work, it is wrong to adopt the same dietary regimen in unloading phases or when for a thousand reasons you miss workouts.
Once again: always being aware of what you plan to do in your workout can help you regulate yourself about food, never forgetting that the amount of calories you need to take in is proportional to the effort you need to put out.