Have you ever found yourself exercising like mad and not losing weight?
Running is a tremendous exercise for weight-loss, providing one of the highest calorie burning options in relation to time spent exercising, helping you keep your heart, mind and body in great shape. Perhaps you started running to improve your health, or maybe you were attracted to running as an escape from the stresses of daily life. For most women, one of the main draws of running is that it burns extra calories. So why isn’t everyone seeing this impact on their waistline?
If you burn extra kilojoules when exercising then you’ll lose weight, but perhaps you’re simply replacing kilojoules post-workout as an act of reward? Studies certainly appear to back this up, with researchers from the Institute of Psychological Sciences suggesting that some people may not reap the rewards of running due to a predisposition to compensate for an increase in this energy expenditure, with what they term ‘implicit changes in food preferences’. So what tempts you to make different food choices after a run?
You may be used to not feeling hungry after your run, as the hormones that suppress your appetite are particularly high at this time. But a few hours later, when you’re passing a café, or when you sit down to your next meal, you’ll often find you can’t resist something tempting. This is a classic response to low blood sugar. In the same way as missing breakfast often means you end up eating more kilojoules across the rest of the day, not eating ?in the recovery period after a run can leave you filling up on extra later. If your blood sugar levels are low, you’re more likely to crave sugary foods. Hunger hormones will kick in too, encouraging you to eat more… and it doesn’t take much to eat more than the kilojoules you’ve burned.
If you weigh 65kg, you’d burn around 2175 kilojoules on average on an 8km run. If you run three times a week, this would burn an extra 6,527 kilojoules, which would only require an extra 933 kilojoules of intake per day to cancel out any weight-loss. Just one digestive biscuit and a grande latte would make light work of replacing that! Not surprisingly, a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that exercisers replaced on average 418 kilojoules more than they burned during exercise when they followed their natural drive to eat, highlighting that if you’re not keeping an eye on your food intake, running alone may be an ineffective tool for weight-loss.
Eat in the recovery period
If you’re looking to lose weight while enjoying your running, the first step is to get your appetite under control. This can be done by splitting your kilojoules across meals and snacks in the day and leaving some valuable kilojoules for the immediate period post-run. In this ‘recovery window’ not only are nutrients taken up for repair and replenishment of energy more easily, but eating at?this time will stabilise your blood sugar levels so you’re not left craving the office cakes an hour later.
Keep a food diary
Keeping a diary of intake can also help make you aware of what you’re eating. Smuggling a couple of biscuits from the kitchen cupboard and the odd treat here and there can easily be forgotten when you’re standing on the scales. If you’re recording your food each day, you can look back and see what went wrong and set out to get it right next time.
Adjust your diet
Choosing the right foods in your diet can help you eat less without even thinking about it, leaving you full, energised and weighing less. Fiber and protein fill you up for longer, so make sure you include these foods in every meal or snack, with wholegrain starches in moderation. Once you’re feeling full for longer? and your energy levels are stabilised, controlling food intake should become a breeze, seeing you reap the rewards of those extra kilojoules burnt running.