Here’s an email I received recently from a newbie endurance runner:
“I’m trying to run to lose weight, I’ve never really watched what I eat and when I get home from my runs, I feel like I could eat everything in sight! But I feel guilty when I do this and then I feel like I shouldn’t eat much for my next meal. Even after all this food, I get tired after my runs and cannot run the next day. Sometimes it takes me three days to feel like I have enough energy to run –and then my energy level is really low again. I struggle to run my longer mileage days. I really don’t want to gain weight so I don’t feel like I should be eating much. Help!”
A common problem for new endurance athletes -especially ones that are trying to lose weight as well – is not getting enough fuel. Often times these newcomers to the endurance world hold back on taking in calories because they feel like it will “undo” all the work they just put in exercising- the common misconception being that it’s fighting against them in their battle to lose weight. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not eating enough calories will not only ensure that your endurance training suffers, but if you do it long enough, you’ll run the risk of serious health problems too.
Today and tomorrow we’re going to talk about why taking the time to figure out your calories and starting to look at the nutritional efficiency (the density) of what you’re eating is so important, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Let’s get started!
Well, denizens, there’s not a super easy answer for this -there’s a few things that could be going on. Their training plan may be a bit too advanced, but my guess is that they may not be recovering properly in between runs (eating within an hour after a good run, not piling up two hard runs back to back, not increasing mileage too quickly, making sure what they’re eating is nutritionally sound). This person may have some type of nutrient deficiency also (another sign of a bad diet). As soon as someone mentions that they’re trying not to gain weight, it makes me think that they should take a long hard look at their nutrition.
Let’s break a few things down and hopefully hand out some helpful pointers
Eat During Your Run
If you’re out for a run that lasts longer than 1:30, you need to be consuming between 100-200 (depending on your weight and what feels right -this can take some experimenting) calories every 45 min. This will DRAMATICALLY change not only how you finish out your run, but also how you recover afterwards. For example, if you’re running for 2:30, you need to bring enough food to be taking something every 45min. That means at the 45 min mark you are eating, at the 1:30 mark you are eating again and finally at the 2:15 mark, you are taking in your last gel before you finish. Just remember my motto: Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty. I prefer Clif Bar gels or Shot Bloks. Hammer Nutrition gels or Honey Stinger gels, chews, or waffles are good options too. They use a higher quality, long chain sugar that is fairly natural and much less processed. They are also very careful about everything else they’re putting in there as well. Cliff gels are actually 90% organic. And make sure you are ALWAYS taking your stuff in with water. This is extremely important because if you are dehydrated, your body literally won’t be able to absorb what you’re trying to give it, your stomach will get sick, you may get side aches or cramps, you’ll become seriously dehydrated and that’s just generally a bad spot to be in. I can’t emphasize this enough, DRINK!
Don’t Stop Eating Just Because You’re Done Exercising
Again, make sure to take in 200-300 calories within an hour after finishing your run as well. Gnarly Feast or Gnarly Whey are great options on their own or use them to compliment a smoothie that has some good dark berries, bananas, spinach or anything else that has some solid antioxidant properties to it (your immune system is at it’s weakest just after completing a long endurance event)
Endurance Athletes Need Fuel!
Runners, especially when training for a marathon and starting to get into longer runs, use a lot of energy. Sometimes, if you’re trying to maintain a weight, it’s easy to not take in quite as many calories as you need. What happens is this slowly runs down the body and you’re left wondering why you’re dead tired and your runs are getting worse and worse. You shouldn’t be afraid of eating things like sweet potatoes, quinoa, plenty of fruits, and real 100% whole grains. These foods provide the energy sources that endurance exercise requires. They literally are necessary if you want to have successful runs. I would also look into taking a multivitamin –this will help if you’re not quite getting what you need from your diet. It’s generally overkill for most folk, but it’s a smart way to cover your bases.
Check back in tomorrow as I continue to hand out golden nuggets of endurance knowledge goodness. In the meantime, get out and enjoy the fall weather!