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Will losing weight make me a faster runner?

Will losing weight me run faster?

We’ve covered a bit about how to balance training with weight loss, how to run for weight loss, and even how running helps when we overeat. Still, if you’re trying to lose weight … after all the healthy eating, cross-training, and weight lifting is over, that magic question every runner asks (out loud or not) is: Will shedding pounds make me a faster runner?

Joanna Golub, Nutrition Editor at Runner’s World magazine, claims “Broadly speaking, for every pound you lose, you’ll cut about two seconds off of your mile time.” So, with the 7 pounds I’m trying to lose, that could mean up to 14 seconds a mile or a little over 3 minutes total toward my half marathon goal.

Whoa. Is it really that easy? Of course not!

Golub warns thinner runners that weight loss could actually lead to muscle loss — which is certainly not ideal when looking for hardcore PRs. And anyone trying to lose weight using super low calorie diets or other drastic measures is doing more harm than good. Ultimately these methods will “sap your energy, and increase your injury risk,” making you a slower runner than you started out being.

Running coach Jay Johnson shares another perspective on this issue. Though you “may be running many miles each week, the body has a protective drive that maintains fat levels in case there were to be a lack of food.” It’s stemming from the whole evolution thing. In other words, it’s important to set realistic weight loss goals to avoid putting your body in hardwired starvation mode.

Johnson shares another interesting idea that “your training weight is the weight you want to maintain roughly 90 percent of the year.” Note that this isn’t your whittled down, light-as-a-feather racing weight. It’s the healthy weight your body sort of wants to be, if that makes sense. And if you’ve tried losing weight and can’t get below a certain number, that might be where your body is happy.

Basically “if you try to weigh less [than a healthy weight for your body], you’ll often find that you’ll get sick more often and fail to have as much consistency in your hard workouts.” So, Johnson suggests only concerning yourself with weight a few times a year as it relates to your racing goals. “Don’t be greedy,” he writes, “if a pound or two for a marathoner is important, and this goal is realistic for most if they watch their diets in the last four weeks of training.”

As a completely non-scientific “study,” I’ll share that I am at my heaviest weight ever these days. After having my daughter, I have had trouble leaning back to my previous shape, but admittedly haven’t concerned myself with it terribly much. Yes, my running tights fit a little tighter. Yes, I certainly feel a bit heavier on the run. Thing is: I’m also faster than ever. So, we shouldn’t put too much, uhm, weight on any of this information.

I think it’s important when we got caught up in the numbers game — whether trying to lose weight or attain faster race times — that we take a step back at look at the broader picture. We’re runners. We’re doing this activity for our health. Most of us want to be runners for, well, the long run. There’s no new information here: If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, slow and steady wins the race. And always talk with your healthcare provider if you’re looking for more specific information about a healthy weight for your body.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.