From competitive athletes to recreational exercisers, weight loss is a fairly common goal among all types of runners.
For those aiming to set a new personal race record, achieving an optimal “race weight” can help improve performance. For others, losing weight is part of an effort to live a healthier, happier life and running happens to be a favorite form of cardiovascular exercise.
Whatever your situation, it’s certainly possible to lose weight while training at a high level or to use running as a vehicle for weight loss. However, there are some obstacles involved, which is why it’s important to create a strategic plan of attack.
As Jason Fitzgerald a 2:39 marathoner and the founder of Strength Running points out, perhaps the most difficult challenge is that for most, running leads to an increase in appetite, and especially when training at high volumes and intensities.
“As running volume and intensity increase, your appetite triggers will become more sensitive because of hormonal changes in the body,” Fitzgerald explained in a recent blog post.
In other words, many runners find it difficult to lose weight because long or intense workouts leave them feeling, as Fitzgerald described it, “ravenous” afterwards.
“You may feel like you could literally eat everything in the fridge,” he said.
So, how can you avoid this situation and use running to promote your weight loss goals? According to Fitzgerald, the key is to create a strategic training plan.
“Smart training can help you lose more weight than ‘just’ running,” Fitzgerald said. “When your training is designed properly with a time goal in mind, you’ll shed pounds faster than if you were just running for fun.”
Below he offers a few pointers that will help you make the most of both your workouts and your nutrition strategy.
1. Plan to make running and exercise a regular part of your life.
“Ongoing exercise is also critical for weight management,” Fitzgerald said. “People who have successfully lost weight and kept it off almost always exercise regularly.” He noted this is an integral part of permanent weight loss.
2. Create a progressive training plan that incorporates speed workouts.
“The progression of workouts, ‘extras,’ long runs, and even frequency of running all work together to help you lose weight,” Fitzgerald explained. This means as time goes on, your workouts should increase in volume and/or intensity so they’ll continue to challenge your body.
Additionally, speed workouts will help improve your performance and promote weight loss by improving your metabolic functions.
3. Don’t go on a diet.
“Low-calorie diets won’t allow you to run to your full potential,” said Fitzgerald. His nutrition approach is simple: make better food choices to control weight gain and to prevent it after it’s lost.
He has two important tips for controlling hunger and shedding pounds: Eat extra protein in the morning; and eat more nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains, and especially after your workouts.