Hopefully by now you know that the mantra of “Run to Eat” can get some of us into trouble when it comes to unwanted weight gain. Many people begin the sport of running so they can better manage body weight, but find themselves with no change in body weight or the dreaded gradual increase in body weight. Unfortunately, the weight gain is not necessarily all muscle mass and is instead body fat. If you fit into this category, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you a reward eater? As alluded to above, if you believe you have free reign on the fridge, kegerator, pantry, and the local bakery because you got in a run, your choices and food amounts could easily contribute to an excess of calories over the course of a day. Although the nutrition perspectives on calorie intake have changed over recent years, overall calorie still matters… and you may not be burning as many calories as you think you are or what your watch tells you. Think about the “why” of your food choices to get a sense of your level of reward eating.
- Do you have an excess of added sugar in your daily diet? Unless you are eating 100% whole foods and absolutely nothing out of a package or container, it is quite possible there are added sugars in your foods. Items such as yogurts, nutrition bars, condiments (like salsa, ketchup, bbq sauce), cereals, breads, and flavored beverages are easy culprits. Your sports nutrition choices can most definitely be significant sources of added sugar as well. Learn how to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Note that not all sugar will be labeled exactly as ‘sugar’ in an ingredient list. There are many disguises!
- Do you have an inappropriate intake of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat)? Aside from considering how much you eat, you must also examine what you eat. Runners can experience weight gain if the amount and type of carbohydrates in their daily diet is excessive or unnecessary. It is also common for runners to have too low of a protein and fat intake, believing that a high carbohydrate diet is needed for improved athletic performance or believing that eating sources of fat will make us fat. Together with implementation of nutrient timing, it is essential for runners of all types to learn how to adjust macronutrient intake to support health, athletic performance, and body composition goals.
- Do you have a hormonal imbalance? Weight gain can sometimes be a result from a hormonal imbalance due to a variety of reasons such as suboptimal macro- and micronutrient intake, overtraining, poor sleep, restricted dietary patterns, or the aging process itself. Having a sport dietitian and a sports-minded physician or healthcare practitioner on your support team can help you figure out what is going on.
Unintended weight gain is no fun when trying to improve your personal bests. If you’re feeling stuck or would like to pursue some individual guidance, feel free to e-mail me to arrange a nutrition consultation by phone.
-Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSN, METS II
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Board Certified Sports Dietitian