Is Running Making Me Gain Weight?
This is one of the questions that I’m asked most regularly and the answer is no!
The only way that running can indirectly make you gain weight is by stimulating your appetite.
The danger is that runners can sometimes mistake dehydration as hunger and eat when their bodies aren’t hungry. The solution to this is always remain well hydrated before, during and after a run.
If you insist on eating nothing but junk food, then there’s every chance that you will begin to binge on the food and gain weight that way.
You’ve got to remain in control of your diet to lose weight as a runner.
Gaining Weight As A Runner
When I first started running in 2011, I lost around 12lbs in training for the Belfast Marathon, after losing my initial 60lbs with walking and healthy eating in 2010.
Over the course of the next year I gained 20lbs back, with the irony being that I was running more than ever. I found it extremely frustrating and was close to quitting on more than one occasion because of my lack of progress.
It’s important to remember that the key to weight loss vs weight gain is expending more calories than you consume.
I was under the impression that I could eat exactly what I wanted and still lose weight. The crucial factor in my weight gain was that I wasn’t logging the food I was consuming in an external journal service like MyFitnessPal.com
It was short sighted of me to think that I would continue to lose weight, even though I was eating more than ever.
Ultimately you’ve got to ask yourself one question – am I willing to sacrifice my running progress for another portion of junk food? I had to fail at this about 1,000 times to realise that it wasn’t helping at all.
Tips For Reversing The Running Weight Gain Trend
- Don’t give up on running – Try to reduce the amount of calories you’re consuming and increase the calories you’re burning through other forms of exercise such as walking, running and swimming.
- Don’t feel disheartened by your weight gain – My tendency in the past was to let my head drop when I gained weight and eat even more and run less.
- Only eat when you’re hungry – I was able to reverse my weight gain trend by not eating after a run until I was hungry. If your appetite has disappeared temporarily, don’t worry, it will come back!
- You might not be burning as many calories per mile as you think – Depending on your weight, some websites estimate that runners burn between 100 and 200 calories per mile. When I first started running, I assumed that I was burning closer to 200 to100. This wasn’t the case. By experimenting with my diet and recording what I ate, I drilled down and realised I was burning approximately 150 calories per mile.
- Create a sustainable diet for yourself – You don’t have to restrict yourself to 1,500 calories per day if you’re a man. You don’t have to run 40-50 miles a week to keep the weight off. You can find your own middle ground.
How I Finally Managed To Lose The Weight I’d Gained Running.
I finally reached my weight target of 200lbs in September 2013 by monitoring what I was eating during the week. At the weekend, I ate what I wanted.
I continued to run between 30-40 miles a week and lost on average 0.5lb every 7 days.
Initially I was disappointed by my weight loss progress as I was used to losing 2-3lbs a week on regimes like Weight Watchers. Over time I’ve matured a little and now accept that any amount of weight loss is a step in the right direction.
I’d much rather lose 0.5lbs a week over a period of 52 weeks than to lose no weight at all. If I can lose 0.1 a week by eating one less chocolate bar each day, then it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make!
Why Weight Gain Is So Embarrassing And Uncomfortable For Runners
I don’t know about you, but I think I look foolish when I’ve put on weight as a runner.
I become highly self conscious when I’m running outside and it kills the experience.
I think the worst aspect of it is possibly being viewed as a failure by the outside world. Here you are overweight and gasping for breath, yet you’re the one that’s meant to be the fitness fanatic.
You’ve maybe trained for 2 or 3 races by now but yet you still can’t get your shit together long enough for you to lose weight!
It doesn’t just boil down to self image either. I find that my running clothes don’t fit nearly as well after I’ve gained weight. When I’m wearing ill-fitting tops then it’s much more likely that I’ll suffer from chaffed nipples.
This is how bad it got for me in December 2013 after I ballooned to 217lbs during a particularly unhappy spell in my life.
But you know what? I view ‘comfort’ food in a different light these days.
If I continue to binge eat, then this will become a more common occurrence. The temporary and false comfort that junk food brings is never really worth it at the end of the day.
There are better ways of rewarding yourself. Scuppering your plans and your weight loss journey should only be considered a reward if you’re a goddamn masochist!
Watching your weight after previous gains.
The reason why I sometimes struggle to lose the weight after I’ve gained it, is that I’m reluctant to go out running when I’m fatter.
It’s demoralising when you struggle to maintain your previously easy running pace at maximum effort.
That’s why I’m intent on never gaining weight back again.
There comes the risk that I’ll put on so much weight one day, that I won’t be able to recover from it without a gargantuan effort.
I don’t want to be back at square one, yet again. I keep this picture on my tablet at all times to try to remind myself of where I’ve came from.
I’ve found that a great way of shedding the weight is to run for longer at a slower pace.
You can try to maintain the pace that you used to run at when you were lighter, but if you burn up after only half a mile then it won’t really help with weight loss.