Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Weight a Minute!!!!

Think that because you're marathon training you can go hog wild with eating? Think again.   Sadly all the french fried carbs in the world aren't going to help you...they could in fact, harm you...

While your calorie intake needs will increase with the extra mileage, it doesn't mean you can take your focus off your nutrition. In fact, I'd argue that it's more important than ever to focus on your nutrition during marathon training than at other times.

Now is the time that quality really matters because your food will help you get through the miles without bonking and help you recover from the stresses you're placing on your body.

It's easy, however, when you're tired and hungry to just reach for the nearest food, and if you are like me, you are tired and hungry all the time during marathon training!  I will admit that I have actually gained weight during prior marathon training cycles, which sounds crazy. I learned, however, how to do it right.  I still go overboard sometimes and have to reel it back in but as long as you stay cognizant of that, you will be OK.  The one thing that helps me here is preparation.  I will do this generally twice a week:  Sunday and then Wednesday or Thursday.  I will make several days worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners too.  Sometimes I might just make in advance 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2-3 dinners.  This includes boiling eggs, soaking oats, chopping veggies and fruit, baking meats, making tuna fish etc.  I have been known to even make 2-3 PB&J sandwiches in advance and just tuck them in the fridge. 

Yeah it sometimes sucks to do this, but the payoff is big.  And once its done, its done!  Put on a DVR'd show and go after it.  You dont have to be sitting on your ass for that 1-2 hours watching it.  Or put on your iPod and dance around and sing while you do all your prep work.  Trust me not only will you burn calories dancing, but you are going to feel a lot happier and maybe even laugh a lot ... which is also a huge endorphin rush.

I love knowing that I have grab and go, or just come home from gym or run and have food ready.  No excuses!   Also in addition to preparing meals ahead of time make sure you stock your kitchen with healthy snacks, so when the "post-run hungries" hit, you'll be prepared with nutritious foods, not empty calories. It's normal to feel hungry when training for a marathon. Just try to avoid mindless eating and stick to healthy foods and snacks. 

It is ok to splurge obviously!  I do!  But keep it in check and set a schedule, like once a week, or once every couple of weeks.

This past week, I splurged.  Here was my splurge:  On Saturday evening a few of us went to WF's to eat (sit out on the patio and enjoy the early evening), so in addition to my salad that I made from the awesome salad bar, I added about 3/4 cup of mac and cheese to a small container.  I ran 15miles that morning, and you bet I was going to allow myself a bit of a splurge! 
Having said alllll of that...pay attention in particular to the food you're eating before and after runs. Each person is an experiment of one, of course, but in general you want to fuel up with a mixture of about 60 percent good quality carbs.   This can aid in how hungry you will feel in a couple of hours and even the next day possibly.

After training, you want to seek out a 4 to 1 ration of carbs to protein. You've probably heard it by now, but if not, chocolate milk comes with that perfect ratio. This is my go to especially once the runs go over 13 miles.  I buy the low fat or skim milk, and add my own hersheys syrup to it as opposed to the processed crap that contains a lot more preservatives, not to mention sugars.  Other good choices are yogurt, fruit smoothies, and whole-grain bagels with peanut butter. Make sure to get these calories in within an hour of finishing a long run--within the first 15 minutes is even better. 

Since it typically takes me about that long to get home, I am good.  Sometimes it may be anywhere from 30min to an hour before I get around to it, but later is better than never.  And sometimes I do just stop and get the crap chocolate milk from the corner convenience store too...usually when I know I dont have milk at home...or that I just cant wait for that chocolatey goodness!!!

Anyway...one explanation is that as you're training, you're building more muscle mass, which is denser than fat.  So while that may translate to an overall weight gain, your body fat percentage has decreased and you're more toned than you were before.

Another explanation is that your body is learning to store carbohydrates as fuel (glycogen) for your long runs. Those glycogen stores are important to completing your long runs and marathon without hitting the wall, but you may see a couple extra pounds on the scale on certain days. Your body also requires additional water to break down and store the glycogen, so that will also add extra weight.
Also, you may have been increasing your calorie intake without realizing it. Keep in mind that running a lot does not give you carte blanche to eat whatever you want. The basic principle for weight loss still applies: You must burn more calories than you consume. To lose a pound, you have to burn, through exercise or life functions, about 3600 calories.
With all the calories you burn by running, some people (i.e. me) are surprised when they don't lose weight during marathon training, but they forget that they're inhaling a quart of ice cream and a dozen Oreos for a snack after their run. 
It's also helpful to track your food intake in a training journal (I did this off and on and boy was it enlightening!).  It will make you think twice about the foods you're putting in your mouth and also help you figure out what foods work best for you.  But then again, don't do like I have a few times and try to lose weight in training...all this did for me is make me have some really bad training runs...ones where I only blamed my ability (or lack of) instead of admitting to myself that I had to freaking eat to run at least decently.
Another area where long distance runners get into trouble is drinking too many calories. Just because you're training for a marathon doesn't mean that you need to constantly drink sugary sports drinks.   While it's important that you replace electrolytes during your long training runs, you don't need to constantly have a sports drink at your fingertips the rest of the time.   Stay away from fruit juices and regular soda since they also add a lot of calories to your diet, but don't make you feel full.   Plain water is fine for staying hydrated during the week.  Nothing makes me laugh at someone more when I see people drinking those things in the gym especially.  You don't need it.  And you certainly don't need 3 levels of calories (think Gatorades new ad campaign)...you do need a snack possibly before, water during and that chocolate milk after...but thats a whole lot less calories than what Gatorade is shoving down your piehole!
If you've been eating a nutritious diet and you still find that you're gaining weight, try not to focus too much on that number on the scale.  Better yet stay OFF the scale!!!  It could be inaccurate since our weight does fluctuate depending on what time of the day or month we weigh ourselves. 

Pay attention to other measurements such how your clothes are fitting, how toned you feel, body fat percentage, or inches lost.   And if you really want to lose weight, remember that healthy weight loss takes time.   Even with all the running that you're doing, you should not aim to lose more than a pound a week.

So, try to be patient.  Easier said than done I know.

Have you ever gained while training for a long distance race?  Are you hungry all the time when training, like the marathon tapeworm has invaded your body?  Do you prepare meals ahead of time?  Are you a junk food junkie and just say eff it and eat what you want during training?  If you splurge, what is something you splurge on???!!!

1 comment:

TX Runner Mom said...

"Keep in mind that running a lot does not give you carte blanche to eat whatever you want." Truer words have never been spoken. When training for my 1st marathon, I lost inches, but gained about 5 lbs! I could justify eating what I wanted, because "I ran today". Now, I keep a log of everything I eat. It makes a huge difference. I'll admit to being a junk food junkie...I have trouble staying away from cake at office birthday parties or the candy jar on someone's desk. But, I find that when I log everything, I realize that eating that stuff totally screws up my calories, sugar, etc. for the week and I stop sabotaging myself. I will have one of those itty bitty little cups of Ben and Jerry's if I had a 3 hour bike ride or an extra long run, but that's it. Oh, and don't get me started on Gatorade...the kids at soccer practice will be out there for an hour and will consume two 20oz bottles of Gatorade! I know it's hot out there, but please!