Tara Gidus

Weight Loss and Running: What's Tripping You Up?

You're training hard and watching your weight diligently, and yet, the number on the scale won't budge! Many runners striving for weight loss have experienced this frustration and confusion. Why does running cause some athletes to lose weight and others to gain weight? Let's talk about the common culprits that derail weight loss goals.

Nutrition: What Am I Missing?

  • Not enough protein—Protein for runners is crucial in increasing muscle growth and speeding recovery… and keeping you more satisfied! Did you know protein is the biggest metabolism booster? It can take up to twice as long to break down! Protein assists in rebuilding muscle fibers torn during a run. Insufficient protein intake increases the risk of injury, while adequate intake reduces risk of injury. Distance runners need more protein than the average person, and athletes trying to lose weight might need even more! I recommend anywhere from 1.0 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (there are 2.2 pounds in a kg) a day, which equates to about 75 to 120 grams of protein for a 165 pound runner.
  • Not enough fat—Contrary to past beliefs, fat is a critical component of weight loss and overall health. Healthy unsaturated fats such as those found in olive oils, walnuts, salmon, avocados and ground flaxseeds help keep you satisfied and tend to reduce hunger. Healthy fats also help reduce injury and inflammation while providing protective heart benefits.
  • Quality carbs—Eating the right kind of quality carbs can positively affect your waistline, improve performance, increase energy throughout the day, and aid in weight loss. Slowly digested, fiber-rich carbs found in whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, etc.), lentils, fruits, and vegetables help replenish muscle and liver glycogen (stored energy) post-workout.

What Behaviors May Be Hindering My Weight Loss?

  • Realistic weight loss goals in a realistic time frame—Know how many calories your body needs. Keep a food diary to track progress and challenges.
  • Skipping snacks or meals—Your body may try to conserve calories by decreasing metabolism and calorie burn throughout the day. Muscle fatigue and slower recovery may also occur if you're not obtaining enough calories.
  • Lack of sleep—This has been associated with increased calorie consumption. Try to go to bed earlier or switch runs to later in the day.
  • Not incorporating strength training—Even though cardio burns more calories during exercise, strength training helps build metabolically active muscle, which burns more calories throughout the day. Strength training also helps improve leg strength and enhance endurance.

Extra Ways To Cut Calories

  • Make your own granola instead buying store-bought versions. You're able to control ingredients, calories, fat, protein and sugar. Plus it's cheaper!
  • Grab string cheese and an apple instead of an energy bar. Packaged energy bars may be sugar- and fat-laden.
  • Make your own salad dressing using two parts vinegar and one part oil to control calories.
  • Eat fruit prior to a meal. Studies show that people who ate an apple 15 minutes before a meal ate 187 fewer calories.
  • Walk during lunch for 20 minutes; sitting all day negates some of the health benefits of your workout.

Do you have questions or comments? Tweet me @DietDivaTara.

Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.