Marathon Training Weight Gain
Tip #16

Marathon training weight gain…is this an oxymoron? Many people pursue marathon training in hopes of losing weight, only to find they are adding pounds as they progress through the weeks of training. It doesn’t make sense at first, but there may be real reasons why you are gaining weight.

“Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.” Orison Swett Marden

So, don’t be discouraged. Instead, check if any of these points are relevant to your habits during marathon training. Instead of cowering in fear of these potential weight promoters, identify that they are real issues that can be easily corrected. Then, don’t just walk boldly through them…take charge and run through them to stop the marathon training weight gain.

Weight Gain from Good Intentions

  • Are you overdoing it with carbohydrate calories while attempting to build/maintain fuel stores?

  • Carbs are the most important fuel for runners, but maybe you’re taking in more than you need. Try cutting back on your portions. Also, remember that carb calories from Gatorade Endurance or other sports drinks are only necessary if you are exercising longer than an hour or in extreme heat.

  • Are you overdoing beverage calories while attempting to stay hydrated?

  • You need to stay hydrated for safety and optimal performance. However, marathon training weight gain may be caused by drinking extra liquid calories. Water, sugar-free drinks like Crystal Light, caffeine-free iced-tea, non-fat milk and sports drinks as needed are best. Fruit juice has nutrition, but is very high in calories. Also, beware of that extra Starbucks specialty drink or that extra glass of wine. Smoothies can be healthy, but sometimes are the calorie equivalent of an entire meal.

  • Are you better hydrated compared to pre-marathon training?

  • Being well hydrated is a good thing. Marathon training weight gain from rehydration is just normalizing your weight. Be careful not to over-hydrate. If you feel bloated, have a headache and have gained weight during a run, then you are drinking too much fluid. Back off and adjust.

  • Are you attempting to eat healthier during marathon training?
  • If you were skipping meals and eating junk, then you may be taking in more calories just by eating real food at regular times. For example, if you switched to healthier fats (like olive oil instead of butter)…good for you from a health standpoint. However, healthier fat choices are not always lower calorie choices, so you still need to cut back on the portions of any type of fat. If you started eating bagels for breakfast (instead of nothing), okay, but some bagels are huge (and therefore a huge jump in calories). In your attempt to avoid marathon training weight gain, think both quality and quantity.

    Weight Gain from Mind Games

  • Have you added calorie rewards?

  • Have you said, “Wow, look how much I ran...I can have that not-usually-eaten-cookie or that extra bowl of tortilla chips with that extra margarita”? In that case, the extra calories burned in running are wiped out by the extra calories eaten. Be realistic. One mile burns one hundred calories.

  • Are you resting more than usual?

  • Are your running miles in addition to your normal activity or in place of it? It is common for some people to rest more during training, thinking, “Wow I ran far...I can relax the rest of the day”. Another way to look at it is in hours. Before marathon training a typical Saturday was a few hours of golf or tennis followed by grocery shopping, laundry, yard work and then out with friends. You were moving constantly. Now a Saturday involves two hours of running followed by vegging on the couch most of the day and ordering a pizza. So, keep up the momentum even on days with long runs. I am not against rest and recovery, but don’t be a marathon training sloth.

    True Physical Changes

  • Are you building muscle?

  • You are working your muscles when you run, so there may be a small weight gain. The addition of muscle is unlikely to be the primary cause for marathon training weight gain, but could be one of many small changes that add up. (It is another story if you are doing heavy duty weight training, as this could add significant bulk which could be counterproductive to your training. It may be best to do this type of muscle building in the “off season”).

  • Are you building glycogen stores?

  • Good for you since glycogen is the stored carbs you need to make the distance. The reason that glycogen storage could add weight is that your body automatically stores water with the glycogen. This is the reason that an Atkins-type of carb-deprivation causes fast weight loss as water loss. Atkins, with its water loss and lack of carbs, would be a total disaster for anyone training for a marathon. Glycogen storage, then, is one of many small changes that add small amount of weight, but this is the type of marathon training weight gain you should expect and accept.

  • Are you losing inches?

  • If you are experiencing weight gain, but a loss of inches, you may be losing body fat…excellent. When it comes down to it, your body composition (fat vs. lean) is a better health predictor, and likely performance predictor, than body weight alone. So, take a few measurements (hips, waist) and take note of improvements over the weeks. You can also get your body fat tested by someone trained in the accurate techniques. You may be on the right track and not even know it.

  • Is the body just freaking out after a long run?

  • It is yet to be determined how much fluid shift occurs because of inflammation and the other resulting joys of marathon training. However, this would more likely be like a short-term gain followed shortly by a return to normal weight. The best advice is to track your weight over time and look for personal trends.

  • Are you experiencing “rebound hunger”?

  • It’s common for some runners to have little desire for eating after a long run. The first concern is skipping the ideal time for recovery nutrition . The weight-related concern is that eventually your running-related hormone changes return to normal and you are left feeling famished. You are so hungry that you make choices on impulse, often with no regard for quality or quantity of the calories. Result: a higher calorie intake than is needed. Repeat this pattern for a few weeks with the resulting marathon training weight gain.

    Marathon Training Nutrition Tip of the Day: Make a list of the possible reasons for your marathon training weight gain, find solutions for the reasons on this website, and let the melting begin!

    Contact me with your marathon training weight gain or nutrition questions.

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