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Why do I gain weight during marathon training?

Why do I gain weight during marathon training?

Whenever I tell someone that I’m training for a marathon, I get two responses: “you’re crazy!” or “you’re lucky – you must be able to eat whatever you want.”

The first remark is definitely true. But the second? Not so much.

Training for a marathon doesn’t mean you can neglect your diet, nor is it a ticket to weight loss for runners. Most runners don’t lose weight during marathon training. The reality is many of us pack on the pounds while training for those 26.2 miles.

What gives? There are several reasons why marathon training can coincide with a thicker midsection.

Here’s why weight gain may occur and how you can stop it from happening to you:

We overestimate how many calories running burns.
On average, running burns 100 calories per mile. But that’s just an average that depends on many factors such as speed, terrain, weight, and muscle mass. Many runners actually burn fewer calories than 100 per mile. On the same note, we also underestimate the number of calories we eat. If you think finishing a 15-miler entitles you to refuel with an entire pizza plus a couple of beers, then think again. Pizza can run anywhere from 250-400 calories per slice, or 2,000- 3,200 calories if you eat the whole pie, and one can of beer can range from 100- 150 calories a pop.

Running long distances can cause our appetites to soar, and if we’re not careful, we may gain a few pounds. Be mindful not to over eat during training. Choose nutritious foods, watch portion sizes, and eat every few hours to keep blood sugar levels stable, which will stop you from overeating later.

We forget about speed work.
Unless you’re training to finish the marathon in a certain time, there’s a chance you’re training plan doesn’t include speedwork. When we run at the same pace day in and day out, our bodies become more efficient and get used to the workout, meaning we burn fewer calories. Adding in speed or hill intervals can keep our bodies guessing and boost our metabolism in the process. Following a training plan that includes weekly speed workouts may keep weight gain at bay.

We don’t hit the weight room.
Muscle burns more calories than fat, so by strength training regularly you’ll speed up your metabolism. Aim to strength train a couple of days per week. (Try the best strength training moves for runners.)

We think running means we can be lazy throughout the rest of the day.
Just because you completed a long run doesn’t mean you can spend the remainder of the day lounging around on the couch. Here’s why it’s important to stay active throughout the day.

We forget weight is only one measurement of health.
Running builds some muscle, especially if you’re new to the sport. So if you’re pants are feeling looser despite putting on a couple of pounds, that may not be a bad thing. You may have lost fat and put on muscle, which weighs more.

If you’d like to lose weight during marathon training, know that it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to succeed at weight loss and training.

Written by Jen Matz.