"But I'm SO hungry, like ALL the time" - sound familiar?
Meals then miles, miles then meals.. seems like that’s all one thinks about during marathon training, and rightfully so, fueling your tank determines the type of engine you will run with that day.
So how do you manage this increased intake of cals without gaining weight.. that’s the real question.
I remember back to 2012, when I trained for my first full, thinking I could literally eat whatever I wanted because hey I was running 20 mils the next day.
Right..? EHHHH, WRONG!!!
I also remember not wanting to train for my third (and ironically 1st BQ) marathon because I couldn’t afford the weight gain I accumulated during the first two.
Like WTF.. I was burning all these calories during training, how could I possibly be getting bigger and packing on pounds.. something couldn’t be right..
Through the years I have learned through mindful eating/research and studies that not all calories are created equal. For me personally, I owe a huge THANK YOU to my gfree/dairy limited lifestyle for my recent PRs and BQs. Now am I telling you all that’s the hidden secret in all of this? Paleo, the answer to everything right? NO way jose! You are putting your body through the ringer during training and in order to perform optimally, you’ll need sufficient calorie and nutrition intake that works for YOU. Otherwise, you’ll be at risk of illness, injury and diminishing your weekly training volume, gains and overall performance.
So then what should you do? Simple, prevent unwanted calorie binges before they creep up on you.
1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY – listen closely to what it craves and how it digests what it is craving. And do not, I repeat DO NOT omit certain foods or food groups.
For example, I notice I crave nut butters a lot when in training mode. This is most likely due to the calorie, fat, sodium and protein content in the product. My body is clearly craving all of the above so I generally give it what it is asking for, HOWEVER, I know that if I overdo it with the nut butter before training I feel weighed down and sluggish so I know the proper serving that my body can handle at once. – it’s a give and take aka BALANCE ;)
2. REFUEL IMMEDIATELY AFTER A WORKOUT – lots of people claim to feel nauseous or unappetized after a workout but it is extremely important to replenish the nutrients lost during the workout. Why though? – Without getting all sciency all y’all, you can just ask those same people that skip the immediate post workout fuel why they are eating 4lbs of pasta, cakes and cookies a couple hours after they finish that workout.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO PROTEIN – especially in the post workout meal. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles.
If it’s really too hard for you to take in whole foods, protein smoothies work great for easy recovery meals or snacks.
4. CARBS ARE FRIENDS – but really though.. Protein will help build and repair but it solely will not refuel your depleted muscles. Your muscles want 3-4x more calories from carbs than from protein. I encourage complex carbohydrates, from vegetables and whole grains (sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, oats), the majority of the time. These provide both energy and important vitamins/minerals. Simple carbohydrates, coming from refined grains and processed foods (think crackers, cookies, chips), candy, soda, etc. can certainly be enjoyed occasionally or even as fuel during a run, but they aren’t optimal for keeping the body running strong.
NOTE: If you like the convenience of post workout protein shakes, don’t be afraid to add carbs to them such as banana, berries or granola, it will help you from going on a sugar binge later in the day/night.
5. DON’T FEAR FATS – they help keep you feeling full, satisfied.
Adding 1 – 2 tablespoons coconut oil to your smoothies, pre-run breakfasts, or cooking is a great way to boost some calories while reaping the performance enhancing benefits of coconut oil.
6. CONTROL THOSE SUGAR CRAVINGS – It’s easy to feel like you’ve “earned” that extra cookie or doughnut, hell you just ran a 35 mile week. However, if marathon sized hunger is something you are experiencing then it’s time to shut down the “I deserve it mindset”.
You see, high sugar foods spike insulin and become somewhat contagious causing you to feel hungry when you may not be…resulting in a vicious cycle of nibbling and eating more than necessary. This is an easy trap for any distance runner to fall in to because after weeks of pushing hard, it can absolutely feel like well we deserve “treats”…nothing wrong with it, hell I do it all the time, just realize it might be setting you up for failure.
7. DRINK MORE OFTEN - hydration is the name of the game. Long runs and hard workouts take alot out of you and are sure to make you thirsty. Be sure to rehydrate (your urine should run a light straw color) so that your mind doesn’t mistake your thirst for hunger. When in doubt, carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. If in sight, your bound to drink more.
8. EAT OFTEN – don’t wait too long to eat, sometimes it may feel like you are saving calories by saving time and ignoring hunger. Truth is there is no right “time” for your next fueling. When you wait too long to eat you end up overeating and eating far more calories than you likely would have eaten when you first felt hungry.
STAY AWAY FROM RULES, EAT WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE EATING.
9. Vary your workouts - constant running will help build endurance but that alone won't torch the most calories. Cross train (add resistance training, spinning, yoga, pilates, boxing, ect.) to target different muscle groups, making you overall stronger and more efficient.
Think: MORE MUSCLE = MORE CALORIES BURNED
10. Stay Positive - the mind is a powerful tool. What you think is what you become. Keep your eyes on the prize and don't let any little setbacks stand in your way. YOU GOT THIS!