We’re in the midst of the holiday season and I get asked quite often about my running and that I am so fortunate that I can eat everything without gaining weight because I run it all off. Oh my – I wish that would be true. As a matter of fact, my metabolism is so low –I would be fat as a pig if I would not be working out. I had a metabolism test done a couple years ago and my metabolism came in at around 1,400 calories per day. So, in my case running and burning more calories per day does not translate into a free pass to eat everything (it sucks, doesn’t it). Of course nobody believes me when I tell them how running and weight loss works out for me (suckers).
However, you should not simply look at running as a way to lose weight. As a matter of fact running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and get fit without having to restrict your diet and that’s the key piece of information that you need to know about. Running by itself is not the key to weight loss, but it certainly is a great tool to increase (and optimize) your weight loss. Let’s assume you are gaining weight on a regular basis because you take in more calories than you burn. Running could compensate for the calorie overload and even things out – meaning it can help you to stabilize your weight at a certain level, but it might not necessarily the quick fix you are looking for – more on that later.
So, your weight has been stabilized, but what now? Apparently running has not given you the weight loss you have been looking for or did it? Before you stop that “running thing” completely, think about what has happened so far. You stepped out of your comfort zone and started running several times a week. You have not gained additional weight, but you haven’t lost any weight either and that is the key – you have not gained more weight. It really is kind of easy from here if you are serious about losing weight – running has only been the first step, but now you need to look at your diet as well as the amount of running you do.
Two Options to Accelerate Your Weight Loss
Your options are to adjust your diet a little bit (or quite a bit depending how bad it has been) and the second option is to adjust your running and to run longer distances (while monitoring your food intake at the same time).
If your weight is stabilized due to your new running routine adjusting your diet for the better just a little bit will go long ways without the need to run more. Let’s assume you consume ~3,000 calories per day and quite a few of those calories come from sugary soft drinks, then a quick adjustment of your diet could be to cut back your soft drink consumption by 50% and to drink water instead for those 50%. Do not switch to zero calorie drinks – they will make things worse (trust me – been there, done that and regret it ever since). Sugary sodas are the worst – for one it is not real sugar (think high fructose corn syrup instead) that you drinking and second the calories coming from soda drinks are so-called “empty calories”. Empty calories do not provide any nutritional value for your body and empty calories are one of your biggest enemy when it comes to weight loss. Replace just some of these empty soda calories with water and your body weight will drop quite nicely. Ideally you want to look at your overall diet, but for most people it is very difficult to stick to a dramatic change in their eating habits. By slowly introducing new types of food or by slowly replacing certain foods the change is less dramatic and chances are much higher that it can become a permanent change in your eating habits.
Run Longer Distances
Another way to tackle your weight is by running longer distances and carefully monitoring your calorie intake at the same time so that you do not over-compensate. When I ran the Las Vegas Marathon back in November I burnt over 3,000 just from running. On average I burn between 600 and 800 calories during a 10K training run. As long as I monitor how many calories I consume after such a run I can create a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit simply means you burn more calories than you consume. The bigger the calorie deficit per day, the larger is your weight loss but I guess you knew this already. It is easy to talk about it (or write about it), but walking the talk is quite different.
For the longest time I did not look at my diet when it came to weight loss. I lost some weight initially when I picked up running as a hobby, but the weight loss got less and less over time. So, I adjusted my running and increased my running to 10K per day and my weight loss increased again, but soon I plateaued again. For the longest time I left it at simply blaming my low metabolism. Perfect, I had an excuse for carrying extra weight around with me – but deep inside I was not happy with where I was. I was not obese and most people still considered me skinny, but just because I was skinny by current standards meant I was skinny. Our society has become more and more overweight and obese – sure you look skinny if you are more at the bottom end of the new scale, but that does not mean you are skinny.
It took me until December 2012/January 2013 before I became upset enough to really look at my diet in more detail. A friend from work pointed me towards a condition called Candida after I we had a discussion about health and well-being. I did a lot of research during that time and as a result I changed my diet dramatically over time. Not that I was necessarily eating bad before, but I guess I was paying the price for years of not so great eating habits. And with eating more healthy I started feeling better and I had much more energy and motivation, too. Later that year (2013) I ran my very first marathon and I kind of see that as a result of the changes I had made before. I lost about 10-12 pounds of extra weight even though I gained muscle at the same time. I still have about 10 pounds of extra weight around my waist that I like to get rid of, but I am much more happy with where I am now than before.
But don’t take my word for it, try it out and see how it works for you. Even a small change in diet combined with physical exercise (hey, I mean running) can lead to dramatic weight loss. And I do not mean to set this as one of those stupid weight loss goals for 2014, but to make this a permanent change.
I am currently working on another blog post where I will talk about a big running challenge that I am going to take on in 2014. This challenge is only something I can do because of the changes I did in 2013 from a diet perspective and from running perspective. It’ll be fun and I am super excited to take on this challenge.