Many endurance sports reward lower weight. But sometimes losing weight can cause you to feel weaker than you did when you were heavier, simply because you’re running on fumes.
If we cut back on calories but maintain our workout schedule, our fuel tanks are going to be running low. Simply put, glycogen depletion can lead to a loss of pure power & energy.
It’s important to time your fueling properly—and consume the proper fuel—to prevent that from happening. Here are six tips to help you run strong while working toward your ideal training & racing weight, regardless of your body type.
Tip #1: Eat to Run
Quality runs and high-intensity workouts will help you lose weight, so you don’t want to sacrifice your performance during these key sessions. Fuel your workouts and cut back during the rest of the day.
That means topping off your tank with a 150 to 200 calorie snack that will provide sustained energy, such as a Larabar, banana with peanut butter, or a light smoothie. If you’re planning to be out for more than 90 minutes, take extra hydration which might include Nuun tablets or Hammer Heed mixed in your water bottle.
Afterwards, have some recovery food available. My personal go-to recovery is a scoop of Garden of Life protein mixed with water in a shaker bottle. It’s 15-20 grams of quality protein that provides my body with immediate rebuilding material.
When possible, time your run so you finish around mealtime. That way, you can just eat as you normally would when finished. Sometimes my wife will have a good breakfast ready and waiting for me upon returning from my long run.
Tip #2: Pace Your Weight Loss
Gradual weight loss will be less disruptive to your training and ultimately less draining than trying to lose a lot quickly. If you’re aiming for significant weight loss, you have to be fine with the occasional failed workout.
I’ve had many high-intensity workouts where my body simply fell short on fuel yet I was still able to finish most of what I had planned. When this happens in training, it’s not a big deal. If it happens during a key race, you may fall short of your goal. This is why it’s important to make sure you have a full tank before that big race.
Tip #3: Eliminate Empty Calories
If you’re running a lot, including racing, and trying to cut weight, you need maximum nutrition with little fluff. That means cleaning up your diet to avoid empty calories.
I enjoy a tasty craft beer from time to time but when I go into lean mode, this is one of the things I cut out. I sometimes refer to beer as “liquid fat” due to its high empty calorie content – a whopping 7 fat calories per gram!
These are things most of us know (heck, even kids know it), but it’s also important to cut out chips, cookies, donuts and soft drinks which are all filled with empty calories. “Empty” means they’re void of any dense nutrition. It’s like filling your car with watered down fuel.
Aim for high quality, real food such as fruits, vegetables, quality carbohydrates (i.e. brown rice, sprouted grain bread), high quality protein sources (i.e. wild caught salmon), and healthy fats (i.e. avocados) as they come in whole foods. I try to get a large green salad with lots of variety everyday if possible.
Tip #4: Increase Protein
Weight loss puts you in a catabolic state so it’s important to take in extra protein to prevent unnecessary muscle loss. Losing muscle will only hurt your running performance.
Research shows that people who eat diets that are rich in protein maintain their lean muscle mass which you need to turn those legs over. This is possible even as you’re trying to lose extra fat.
This is another reason I like having a good quality lean protein powder on hand like Garden of Life. By throwing a scoop in my shaker bottle twice a day between meals, I’m adding an extra 30-35 grams of protein at a cost of only 200 calories. That’s what you call nutrient dense!
Tip #5: Go to Bed a Little Hungry
If you’re looking to maintain fitness while losing weight, go to bed a little bit hungry. It won’t kill you and it’s an easy way to lose a pound a week. In times where I go into lean mode, I typically have a rule of not eating after 7:30pm. If you must eat something after that time, stick with a piece of fruit like an apple or an orange which is low calorie and high fiber.
Tip #6: Make Sleep a Priority
Shortchanging sleep puts your body in a constant state of stress, which increases stress hormones like cortisol which promote fat storage and make it that much harder to drop those pesky pounds. This effect can be even more pronounced if you don’t get enough sleep while also trying to lose weight.
Cutting calories has already put extra stress on your body, not to mention the extra training. Don’t add more stress if you can help it, or you risk overtraining symptoms and a lowered immune system.
Here’s to staying lean and mean on the roads and trails!
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