This might sound odd – surely running = weight loss. To a certain extent, this is true. Sometimes though, the two do not play nicely and you need to make a choice.
My runs fall into two different categories, with different goals and priorities.
The running-for-exercise runs
Most of time time, I run to keep my weight in check. I enjoy racing, I enjoy improving, I enjoy all the fun running gear I have; but if it didn’t help me lose weight, quite frankly I would probably wouldn’t bother.
For morning runs, breakfast beforehand would massively improve my performance. At the same time, having breakfast so early would result in me needing a mid-morning snack or watching the clock until lunchtime.
For evening runs, a snack about an hour beforehand would again make me faster and make the run easier. This would however be in addition to dinner afterwards.
I burn about 105 calories per mile, and a typical snack for me is about 200 calories. So for a five-mile run, this puts a real dent into my achievement in terms of weight loss. For an 11-mile run though, it helps me to achieve my goal distance, burning more calories than I would do without eating something extra, and so ultimately benefits my weight loss goals too.
Running has helped me lose 36lbs over about 18 months. This is because I created a deficit and burnt more calories than I ingested, plain and simple.
The getting-better-at-running runs
There is one notable exception: (half) marathon training. When it comes to running these longer distance, you are asking your body to do something pretty epic. Here you have to eat as much as you need, wave the white flag and accept that you might gain weight. I most certainly did when I trained for the Manchester Marathon in 2014. I need to eat extra carbs to get the most out of my training runs (or indeed, to do them at all). Dragging myself along a 17-mile run under-fueled in order to lose weight wasn’t the point. The point was purely running. I wanted to run a marathon.
After running, I would develop the hunger of a thousand teenage boys. Knowing that I had put my body through something tough, I of course gave my body what it needed. Again, these runs were not about losing weight, but about training for a running event.
Clearly running is something different for everyone. It is obvious that your body needs fuel, and that the more fuel you give it, the better it will work. It is a tricky juggling act, and everyone’s motives will be different.
Do you run to lose weight, or to get better at running?
How far do you run on an empty stomach?