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Weighty Matters, Part IV: Maintaining Major Weight Loss During Marathon Training

Welcome to the week of Weighty Matters: a website- and podcast- series devoted to weight-related issues that have popped up among the #motherrunner crowd and seem to have resonated.

In each of the website series, we pose the issue and then offer perspective and tips from an expert. The #motherrunner + the expert will then discuss the situation and thoughts on an Another Mother Runner podcast: the two episodes will air on April 26 and May 3.

Because we don’t want to leave them—or you—hanging we will then follow up with the #motherrunners on posts the week of June 24 and a podcast on June 28 to see how integrating the expert tips + perspective worked for them.

Emily after a recent 5K.

WEIGHTY MATTERS:
MAINTAINING MAJOR WEIGHT LOSS THROUGH MARATHON TRAINING

I met Emily at a Skirt Sports event in March, and she told me about her inspiring journey that includes losing 100 pounds and setting her sights on a marathon.

After having two kids and hitting a weight of 240 pounds post-pregnancy, she got a wake-up call when her doctor told her she was morbidly obese. “It really scared me,” the 40-year old admits.

In February of 2016, she started on a weight loss study at the University of Colorado. Over the course of 14 months, she lost 100 pounds (about 25 pounds every 3 months), and she began running about halfway through the program. “I participated in a 5K,” she says, “Even though I walked the whole thing, I was so emotional at the finish line. I knew this was something I wanted to keep doing.”  The study was two years total, so it was about one year of weight loss, one year of follow-up and support. (Read: it was far from the weeks typically given on The Biggest Loser.)

Emily ran he first half-marathon in January in Carlsbad, California, and has two big races on the rest of her schedule for 2019: another half-marathon in July in and the St. George Marathon in early October. In addition to the challenge of the regimented training cycles, she wants to be sure she’s taking care of her nutritional needs and stays in balance, weight- and metabolism-wise.

Emily at her first 5K.

THE EXPERT WEIGHS IN:

“Emily has done an amazing job,” says Stephanie Howe Violett, Ph.D. in exercise and sports nutrition, elite ultra runner, and the Ultra Coach in the Train Like a Mother Club. “Somebody who has lost weight and kept it off for nearly three years has worked really hard and been very consistent.”

As Emily ramps up for longer distances, Stephanie weighs in with general advice for people who have lost a significant amount (50+ pounds) of weight and want to challenge themselves to a long-distance race without compromising their weight loss or performance:

Lose the I-ran-18-miles-so-I-get-a-hall-pass It has no place in your marathon training cycle. (And in truth, it doesn’t belong in most training cycles. “It’s really easy to overconsume when you’re doing higher volume training,” says Howe, “The occasional indulgence is fine, but it should be done typically much less than people think.”) Continue to follow the strategies—could be an app or a journal or whatever accountability method has worked for you—you’ve used to maintain your weight, knowing there isn’t much wiggle room despite your upcoming extra mileage.

Maintain your diligence about your caloric intake. Sounds harsh, but it’s important to realize that your daily consumption will go up [see below] but not by much. You’re looking for a balance between properly fueling your training demands without further suppressing your metabolic system. Significant weight loss requires suppressing the metabolism; if you don’t feed your marathon-training body properly, it will want to hold onto weight again.

Eat the same meals as you typically do. Hoping, of course, that you already eat three meals. If not, start to integrate three meals so you can support the energy demands of both your day-to-day life and your training. The meals should be packed with high-nutrient foods like vegetables, high-quality proteins (chicken, fish, turkey, beans, eggs and dairy products), whole grains, good fats (nuts, oils, fish, avocados) and fruits.

Emily and her cute family after they all 5K'ed.

And supplement with additional calories of nutrient-dense foods. Based on Emily’s weight, Stephanie recommends an additional 200-500 calories a day. On a long run day, she should veer towards the 500 calories; on a normal weekday training run, 200-250 is a good target. Those additional calories shouldn’t necessarily be added to meals, but rather as a snack before a mid-morning run, or a post-run recovery snack.

Hall Pass, Part I. One time you may pull out a hall pass? Immediately after a long run. While what you consume counts towards your daily calories, your belly might not feel ready for peanut butter on whole wheat. If something like a glass of carb- and protein-rich chocolate milk sounds good, have at it.

 Definitely pay attention to your hunger. If you get hungry, be sure to listen to your body and eat so your metabolism continues to behave. When you tune into your body and realize you’re hungry, reach for real foods—not a bar or other packaged foods—that will fill you up but aren’t super energy dense. In addition, be sure to include some protein for satiety. Some suggestions: carrots and hummus, or an apple with a handful of nuts.

Hall Pass, Part II. Don’t count the calories that come from gels, chews, sports drinks or other things consumed on the run towards daily caloric intake; you’ll be burning enough energy on the run to minimize their overall effect.

Finally, don’t forget that you are marathon training—and human. Give yourself an occasional splurge: a glass of wine with girlfriends, a piece of cake for a birthday. Stephanie suggests one day a week, and again, being fairly regimented about the frequency of how often you splurge. That way, you can enjoy the treat, knowing that you’re not sidelining your marathon training or your metabolism.

Any words of encouragement—or advice for—Emily as she takes starts her first round of marathon training?

4 responses to “Weighty Matters, Part IV: Maintaining Major Weight Loss During Marathon Training

  1. Congratulations, Emily! The most important piece of advice I saw in this post is the fact that you will only need a few hundred extra calories as you train. It seems unfair and maybe counterintuitive, but one extra healthy snack is about all you get. Enjoy your training and be proud of the way you turned your life around!

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