Marathon Weight Gain

by ashleyd on August 29, 2012

Today’s lovely guest post is from one of my favorite running bloggers who inspires many of us to run that extra mile each week. I mean heck, she eats marathons for breakfast on an almost weekly basis; or so it seems! If you’re new to my site first and foremost HELLO! Second of all, I hope you’ll stay for a while and check out not only SkinnyRunner’s story but also the other stories that have been shared over the past year as part of my Marathons+Moderation series. Not, I’ll turn it over to today’s expert and let her share her tips for managing the dreaded marathon weight gain.

Hey y’all, it’s SkinnyRunner. I blog over at the aptly titled SkinnyRunner about a bunch of crap, I mean, marathons and stuff.

When Ashley asked me to contribute to her Marathons + Moderations Series I thought, Well, that’s an honor. And then I thought, Uhhhhhh what am I supposed to write about?!

I thought about injury prevention, compression and Garmins, but decided to talk about something far more dreaded: marathon weight gain.

How?! It doesn’t even make sense! You run all these miles, put in months of work and end up gaining weight?!

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Life is a cruel, unfair thing.

Running is a very efficient exercise meaning you burn a lot of calories, but along with that comes a big appetite: your body needs fuel to run all those miles.

Fast forward 4 months: you’ve been training hard and have become used to your long runs and refueling heartily. Now you have 2-3 weeks of imposed taper where you still want to eat (marathon hunger, baby!) like you have a 20 miler on tap, but you’re resting.

Race day comes, you have an amazing day, and then suddenly it’s over and you’re again supposed to reverse taper and take up to a month off to rest and recover. But you still have that big appetite that you’ve gotten used to in the past 4 months! You’re enjoying your bigger meals and extra snacks, but your activity level isn’t matching your intake.

And that my friends, is how you can (some people do, some don’t) gain weight while running a marathon.

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So is there a solution or should I just never ever run except to the bathroom?

I would say to NOT run a marathon if you’re doing it ONLY to lose weight.

I love running and think everyone who can, should run one marathon in their lives to experience that amazing sense of accomplishment and culmination of all your hard work, but don’t do one just as another diet fad or way to drop pounds.

You might lose weight, you might not, but you could miss out on the enormity of your accomplishment because you’re only focused on a number on the scale. And frankly, I’ve heard of a lot more people gaining a couple pounds during marathon training than losing them.

Start using MODERATION to eventually match your intake (calories) to your outtake (exercise).

Enjoy yourself post-race: you deserve that beer, burger and whatever else you want. It’s your day; own it and be proud.

In the days after, slowly start taking a look at your diet to see what, if any changes need to be made. I’m not saying to drastically drop to a 1300 calorie diet all of the sudden because you’re not running 50 miles a week. There’s nothing moderate about that.

Instead, look at your afternoon snack: say for the past 3 months you’ve enjoyed a huge fruit smoothie and peanut butter sandwich. Great, nice and healthy. But now, maybe eat the same smoothie with an open-faced sandwich. You’re not doing anything drastic or depriving yourself while still making small adjustments to your eating.

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{That was a banana milkshake, not a smoothie}

Find another physical outlet or activity besides running.

Post-marathon it’s recommended to take a day off for every mile you’ve run, so nearly a month. Your body’s probably beat up and you might be burnt out mentally so take a couple complete rest days.

And then find something else active to do: maybe it’s simply walking, or taking a yoga class; whatever it is, do something. Your body will feel better, you will mentally feel better, and you’ll probably make healthier choices too.wordexercise2

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Don’t make it a big deal.

Life goes on and in the big picture, it just isn’t a big deal. That bump on the scale might be from muscle you’ve gained in your thighs and legs from all the miles you’ve logged. Either way, those legs carried you 26.2 miles, hot dang!

And if the couple extra pounds really bother you, you can always sign up for another marathon. Who wants to go run one with me?!

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What are your tips for keeping your weight in check when you’re training for a marathon, triathlon, or other major event?

{ 18 comments }

Kaitlyn - @runkaitrun August 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm

i love this – its the first thing i’ve read about marathon weight gain that actually makes sense. but in general i love the idea of keeping a level-headed outlook… don’t stress over the numbers!

skinnyrunner August 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

thanks for letting me guest post!

Krissy @ Shiawase Life August 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Great post!

I maintained my weight through my training cycles, but it definitely is easy to fall off the ‘healthy’ wagon. It helped me to track calories for just a while so I could get an idea of how my body reacted to changing conditions.

Leah R. August 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I’m all about your last tip – don’t make it a big deal. I gained 6 lbs while training for my first marathon and didn’t worry too much because, hello, my 126 lb self that can run 26.2 miles is way cooler than my 120 lb self that can’t. I naturally lost the weight when my appetite subsided after the marathon, and I haven’t gained any weight training for my second or third marathon. Listen to your body, and don’t freak out over a few pounds!

Kim August 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I think not using food as a “reward” or justifying that you deserve extra dessert, junk food, more food, etc. after a run. That easily can become eating extra for anything – completing a long run, finishing a hard run, or whatever.

Erica { EricaDHouse.com } August 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Wow – I never thought about weight gain with marathon training but it makes so much sense! Wonderful guest post!

Kathryn August 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Well, I guess I’m lucky because so far I’ve done nothing but lose weight since taking up running. BUT since starting my marathon training (now almost halfway through) I have started to use myfitnesspal.com to track my eating to keep myself from going crazy with the “I-just-ran-10+-miles-therefore-I-can-eat-everything-in-sight” syndrome.

Shut Up and Run August 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I think one main reason people gain weight is that the Garmin says they burned 600 calories, so they think they can eat an extra 600 that day. In actuality, if you did not run, you would have still burned some calories doing something (even laying on the couch) so that automatically is factored into your daily allowance. In reality, you are not working on a 600 calorie deficit. That probably made no sense at all. Off to eat a cheeseburger.

Marcy August 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm

You and Kathryn make a good point…I think this is common for any type of exercise. “I just worked out for x time, so I can eat this ice cream sundae and cheeseburger.” Repeat tomorrow.

Robin August 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Great article…it’s extremely hard to control your portions after running a marathon. Keep it simple and slow changes…nothing too drastic.

Teresa @ fitnwoodbine.blogspot.com August 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Training for my first full in October and I have noticed my increased app! Thankfully the scale is still my friend. Great post!! Oh, and yes, I would love to run a marathon with you!!!!!!!

Laura August 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Or if you’re like my husband, you can train for a marathon, eat whatever you want plus some, still manage to lose 15 lbs without even trying, and complain that none of your clothes fit…yeah honey I feel really bad for you, it must suck to lose weight without even trying! Why is it so easy for men sometimes!!

Kiersten August 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I gained weight training for or after all of my marathons. I find that I am much less active in my daily life and workout after my long runs for a few days. SO my average activity for the week is pretty normal, but I feel like since I ran so long at one time that I can eat anything I want.

michelle kim August 29, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Cool topic! I love SkinnyRunner, and I’m glad I found your blog through her post!

ShrinkontheRun August 30, 2012 at 2:33 pm

This is so true… Running definitely hasn’t led to weight loss for me, although I am also a victim of the high calorie snacking. Very interesting.

Tori @ In Love and Peanut Butter August 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Great post. I gained weight training for my last few long races. Then lost it after. My clothes always fit the same though!

Katie August 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I’m so excited to have found your blog! I’m also training for NYC this November– my first marathon. It should be fun to follow along with your training as well!

Liana@RunToMunch August 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Don’t eat everything in sight on rest days ;) That’s a tip I keep in mind for myself.

Sunday long run is no excuse to cancel all other plans and sit on the couch with a family size bag of tostitos. That’s tip #2 I keep in mind for myself.

Otherwise I try to enjoy life and just realize the difference between fuel and treats.

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