Needless to hide that many people start running to lose weight. They feel out of shape, they have an athletic past now buried by years of work and neglect, they no longer recognize themselves in their bodies, they feel unhealthy. The first thought that motivates them is to take their lives back a bit, starting with physical fitness.
And it works: the transition from a sedentary life to an increasingly dynamic one positively affects the body: it tones muscles, improves mood, and, especially in the beginning, causes weight loss.
The basis: eating and burning
By eating, you take in calories and by moving (but, more generally, living) you burn calories. When you have recently introduced running into your life and have not varied your diet, it is natural to lose weight: you have added to what you burned in your sedentary phase what you now burn by running. The result is that you lose weight.
The more normal your workouts become, the more your body gets used to the new exercise regimen. In other words, by running you continue to burn the same calories as at the beginning but you don’t burn more.
If you don’t change something in your workouts you risk stopping your metamorphosis: you burn the usual, you eat the usual, and therefore you no longer lose weight.
Solution? Eat the usual and increase the training load: run longer, run the same distance but more often, include uphill running in your training.
There is no other solution: if you want to lose weight again (or more) you have to run more.
I will also quickly reveal a bitter truth: running is not the most calorie voracious sport. In short: it’s not that running burns so much more than walking or biking. If I really had to choose the sport based on its caloric efficiency jumping rope, for example, would do much better. As much as doing it for a straight hour is not exactly a fun kind of workout, besides the fact that you would take your body far beyond its limits (and your mind beyond the threshold of boredom).
Running should not be a justification for eating more
This is the most common mistake anyone who runs makes: food as compensation for the effort made. Don’t cheat, you’ve thought about it too, “I ran so hard, I deserve a reward.” I am not saying that gratifying yourself now and then is not good (it is perfectly fine for your mental health, in fact), but doing it all the time has only one result: by eating more, you diminish the effect of running in terms of calories consumed and, if you overdo it, you undo it by taking in more than you can burn. The result is soon obvious: you gain weight instead of losing weight.
When you really need to eat to run
We often tell you that nutrition, along with recovery and training, is one of the three components of the triad of preparation. You eat to have fuel to burn in running, you run by burning that fuel, you recover through rest and sleep to accelerate the rebuilding of muscle fibers and to recover the energy expended.
This is all very true but must be framed within the real caloric requirements. Let me explain: not all distances require the same kind of nutrition, and certain distances can be tackled even without having fed first.
This also explains that people who fuel themselves before, during and after training like they were going to run an ultramarathon even if they are running for less than 10 k are taking in far more calories than they need.
Generally, a 45-60 minute run or a distance of about ten kilometers can be tackled even without eating anything before.
The same argument also applies to what you eat while running. If in fact supplementation is justified and indeed recommended for medium and long distances (from 15-20 k up to the marathon and, of course, beyond), for lower mileages it is not necessary.
Finally, after the run, it is important not to reward yourself excessively but to take in the amounts you are used to.
Some tips for monitoring how much you eat
- As soon as you get back from your run, drink some water: it serves to replenish lost fluids and give you some satiety by occupying a part of your stomach that you would otherwise fill with food.
- Prefer foods that require the use of cutlery: you will eat smaller bites and smaller quantities.
- You may not necessarily be able to train consistently every week. If you miss one or more sessions you should pay attention and eat a little less, or certainly not more.
- Finally, use food planning: it helps you make varied and balanced dietary decisions in advance and prevents you from being subjected to hunger pangs that cause you to bite whatever you find within reach, which at these junctures are often carbohydrates or sweets.
Never forget, as mentioned above, the most important thing: don’t overdo it and reward yourself every now and then. Not always but every now and then it is needed.