Run All The Miles, Eat All The Food
Every fall, articles start appearing in our news feeds about people gaining weight during marathon training. It seems almost impossible for someone to train for and run a marathon and still manage to gain weight so we click the eye grabbing headline. (Like this one "Running a Marathon Made Me Fat". I hate that headline just in case you were wondering.)
Weight is always a tricky subject for me to cover because while I do feel like food is something we should joke about, I also want to apologize for perpetuating the idea that if you run all the miles, you get to eat all the food. I can't help it! It's funny to laugh about because running makes you so hungry! RUNGER IS REAL PEOPLE! And carb loading? Yeah, that's a thing!
Is it funny that you can enjoy some bread while your friends are crash dieting and juicing so that they can feel good in their Halloween costumes? YES. But carb loading isn't nearly as much fun as being able to consume an entire loaf of bread. It just means you get a higher percentage of your daily calories from carbohydrates. (I don't count calories.) I get my carbs the week of the race from sweet potatoes, carrots, whole wheat bagels, tortillas, roasted squash, brown rice, english muffins, and pasta. (That list could go on and on.) Then the day before the race, I switch to white rice and a normal bagel because it's easier to digest. It's what works for me. So while I'm eating more carbs, I'm still eating proper portion sizes and a balanced diet.
And sure, I'm also guilty of creating some graphs with some information that may also be slightly misleading...
Do I cross the finish line of a marathon an eat an entire pizza? No. COULD I? Hell yea. (No, just kidding. I'll have a few slices of pizza, a salad, and probably a cheeseburger.) DAMNIT, I'M DOING IT AGAIN! You guys! Running all the miles and eating all the food is fun to joke about because it makes sense, if you run ridiculously far, you should get to eat fun food guilt free. But here's the kicker, everything we eat should be consumed guilt free.
Our beautiful media has convinced us that fat, carbs, and sugar are BAD when in reality, we should just be eating well rounded diets and proper portion sizes. The foods that make up your diet shouldn't be an issue if you're leading a healthy lifestyle. Are there days when I finish a long run and have some fried chicken? There sure are! But most days, I don't really have an appetite after I finish a long run so I have some protein in a green smoothie, eat something when my appetite returns, and then I go about my day like I normally would.
The most common mistake new marathoners and half marathoners make is over consuming sugary sports drinks and energy gels. And don't kick yourself if you're making that mistake. I did! I used to fuel every single 45 minute run with a sports drink or an energy gel. I didn't know better! I thought that it's what everyone did! Running was foreign to me so of course I didn't know what I was doing. It took time to figure out what worked for me.
Will training for a marathon or half marathon make you hungry all the time? Yes. Runger is real. The key to managing runger is to just make sure that you're fueling your body with foods that are good for you and that you don't develop a habit of treating yourself to a Thanksgiving feast every time you finish a long run. Eat foods that help keep you satiated and munch on nuts, fruits, veggies, protein, and whole grains and stay hydrated.
The key to living healthy and happy is to enjoy your meals and to remove the fear from what you eat. Sugar isn't bad, it's just something that should be consumed in moderation. Fat isn't bad either, there are just better (mono and poly saturated fats) and worse fats (trans fats). Everything in moderation. If you finish a 10 mile long run and you want an ice cream, have an ice cream. Don't have an ice cream and then a cheeseburger, fries, burrito, and slice of pizza.
It's not rocket science. Enjoy your food. Don't stress about gaining a few pounds if it happens. If you feel like you're gaining weight, try logging what you eat, when, and how much. That's not obsessing, that's just being proactive. If you're truly worried about your diet or if you really want to lose weight while you train for a marathon, hire a professional. They will not only help you hit your goals, but they will blow your mind with the tips and wisdom that they will teach you.
Now go look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are beautiful and strong.