The freshman 15 have nothing on the “marathon many.” If you’ve ever trained for a big race — whether it’s a 10K, half marathon or the full 26.2 — your more-experienced friends will regale you with tales of all the weight they gained. One word: Runger.
Training hunger is constant and, let me tell you, very real. There were very few moments during my training when I wasn’t hungry and they usually involved me already having food in my mouth.
And, yet, I didn’t gain any weight while training for my first marathon. I’m not suggesting that I’m any better than my running friends. I’m just suggesting that there may be things you can do to avoid the weight gain — all of which my friends suggested and I followed because they’ve given me such good advice on all other aspects of running.
- Eat. I ate about six times a day. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. These were regular meals and I certainly ate both carbs and protein. But they were smaller meals, especially at dinner time when I often only had a couple of hours to digest what I ate before heading out for a run in the evening. Starving yourself just so you don’t gain weight is probably not a good idea right now.
- Plan. Just like I had a training plan (thanks, Hal Higdon!), I also had an eating plan. I chose Eating for Life because I’d had such a good experience with it before, it’s easy to follow, it includes healthy, balanced meals, and it provides super-easy and yummy recipes.
- Plan some more. I was also better at planning my meals ahead of time and bringing healthy snacks to work on Mondays so I wouldn’t end up eating donuts when I ran out of food on Wednesday. And, yes, sometimes I did have a donut at work. Or cake. Yum, cake… But I digress. Investing a little time on the weekend meant better eating the rest of the week.
- Fuel. Running for four hours at a time meant I was missing my next meal/snack, so I always brought some fuel to make sure I wasn’t starving (OK, at least not ravenous) after my long runs. I chose SportBeans and Gu, but there are lots of options that also include gummy bears, raisins and other regular foods.
- Indulge. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I partook of my favorites. But I didn’t just eat my favorites. If I really wanted a donut, I would have one (not three). But I thought a bit more about my choices because I had the marathon goal on my mind. And, yes, donuts are my Kryptonite.
My eating habits were not perfect, but because my runner friends gave me such good advice that I was able to address a common training by-product before falling victim to the weight-gain trap.
That all said, this is where I admit that my eating habits have gone to crap since my race. I did just put a spring half marathon on the schedule in the hopes that I can get back to healthy eating. Sometime. Soon.
Have you gained/lost/maintained weight while training? Why do you think that was? What’s your Kryptonite?