We all know that the basic equation for weight loss is that calories in
But what if you run marathons for fun on weekends? (Okay, so maybe I am one of the only ones with that problem, but let’s pretend it’s widespread). How much do you eat to fuel yourself in between without gaining weight? And how safe is it to drop your calories in when you’re increasing your calories out so drastically? These are the questions I’ve really been struggling with as of late.
There isn’t a multi-marathon nutrition plan; the closest thing I’ve found is reading Dean Karnazes’ 50/50 and noting that he basically just tried to eat as much as possible in between races in order to fuel him up for the next one. When asking other Maniacs for tips on how to run a double (meaning two marathons in one weekend), their biggest piece of advice was to “eat as many calories as possible in between.” I took that advice when I did the Hartford full marathon and then the Staten Island Half… and ended up gaining weight as a result. A few weeks ago, I was at my lowest weight since junior year of college; now, I’m back up to my normal, could-lose-the-margarita-gut weight. But how much can I really cut back on food if I’m running a marathon on Sunday?
I’ve been using Jenn’s 21 day habit challenge as a vehicle to force myself to stop eating “processed carbs” (pasta, bread, baked goods, etc). However, pasta and breads are what most runners (myself included) usually eat to fuel up for a marathon. My plan is to have two meals with “processed carbs” – one on Friday, and one on Saturday. This is less than my usual “get processed carbs in at every meal the day before a marathon” approach – I’m hoping it works. During a race, I’ve pretty much switched over to Larabars and the like anyway, so that’s healthy but caloric.
What kind of calorie deficit should I be targeting on the days I run marathons? Usually I aim for about 1400 calories a day, and that gets me about 1/2 pound of weight loss a week. But if I’m burning ~2400 calories, should I be eating 3800 that day? Split the difference? I’ve tried several different approaches (eating all 3800, just trying to eat 2400 to get to 0), but haven’t come up with a definitive answer.
The one thing I have figured out is how much better I feel when I eat tons of fruits and veggies as the main part of my diet. As many of you know, I experimented with going raw vegan for a little while, but found it unsustainable in the long run. I felt great on it, but I missed cooked foods, and eating out was pretty tough. Now, I’m simply incorporating bits of raw veganism into my lifestyle. I usually do a raw vegan breakfast with various fruits or veggies (my favorite breakfast is frozen mango, a frozen banana, and light coconut milk, all blended together into pina colada-like deliciousness). I try to only eat meat/fish for one meal every day, and go vegetarian for the other. That’s been a bit more sustainable, and it seemed to be working for weight loss (at least, until I gorged myself after Hartford and then also stopped caring about what I ate for a few days). I tried to tell myself that if my body was craving something, I should let it have that because I should listen to my body’s needs. However, my body kind of sucks and will often tell me that it “needs” cookies and ice cream. Should I indulge?
So many questions, not enough answers. But that’s what TIART is all about – putting our heads together to answer the tough stuff! Leave comments or post your own response on your blog.
This post was written as a part of Runners’ Lounge’s Take It And Run Thursday, in which runners from all across the running blogging community come together to post about a single topic. This week’s theme was Running and Weight.