The Fueling and Weight Seesaw

I am all to familiar with it and maybe you are too; that struggle to fuel your body enough while training/working out and trying to maintain or lose weight.  It’s such a hard thing to wrap your head around especially when like me, you used to be or you are overweight.  I won’t get into the psychology of it in this post, but that relationship with food can really be a roadblock in your journey.  I feel like I am just now maintaining a healthier view of that relationship and I lost my weight about 2 1/2 years ago.  Regardless of that, while you work through some of those issues it’s a common struggle and definitely worth a discussion here.

Here are 4 things to look at while trying to keep this balance, these are things I consider when fueling my body through out the day and maybe they will assist you as well.

  • Your post work out meal will look different than your pre workout meals– The preferred fueling source for your body is carbohydrates, it is one of the many reasons runners “carb load”.  Now it’s true that all carbs are not created equal so when we carb load or just eat carbs in general we really should be pickier about what we use.  For instance the pasta buffet the night before the race is more likely to leave you feeling bloated than energized.  However if I eat a nice solid meal with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain or whole wheat pasta and a nice big salad I can get full, but not bloated.  A bonus of that is they generally have fewer calories so I can fill up and not break the bank with calories.  The post work out meal should have more protein in it because it helps to satisfy my hunger, will stay with me longer, and the protein helps with rebuilding my muscles.  Options like chocolate milk (a runners favorite), eggs, and protein drinks will help with this and also won’t break the calorie bank.
  • You’ve eaten, but are you still hungry– I know how this sounds, but hear me out.  I am one of those people that can down a ridiculous amount of food in 5.2 seconds, okay not literally but I eat really fast.  I try to slow myself down, but when I feel starved it is sometimes more restraint than I have.  Out of that I learned that after I scarf it down I need to stop and back away from the plate.  I sit and enjoy the company or distract myself, anything to allow time for my body to decide if it is still hungry. After 20 minutes or so if I still feel hungry I will find a little bit more to eat and that typically does it for me.  The old saying about it taking time for your body to feel full is true so slow it down while you eat and enjoy the tastes.  Or sit back and relax after you clean your plate, but before you load up the plate again.  Either way, wait!
  • Is it hunger or a craving– Again there is a difference to these and if I don’t listen to my body I may not make the best choices.  A good general rule is if the sensation is based below my body I am hungry, but if it is in my head it’s probably not hunger.  Hunger is a physical sensation not a thought and if I am focused on one particular type of food then it is probably just a good old craving.  For instance since last week I have been craving onion rings, I have chosen not to eat them because of the calories and fried fatty goodness involved.  I know that although it would be nice I will live without them.  This doesn’t mean I won’t eat some again someday, but just not now.  It’s okay to spurge or treat yourself here and there, but if you want lose weight or maintain it you have to consider if it fits where you want to go.
  • The most important one– IF YOU ARE HUNGRY YOU NEED TO EAT!  Seriously if you have done the things up above it could very well be that you are physically hungry and you need to fuel your body.  If you are working out like a fiend several times a day then you do need to eat.  Food is about fueling your body to do those awesome kicka@# things like burpees, marathons, lifting 2x’s your own body weight, etc.  If you want to do those things you have to keep up the energy in your body.  One of THE BIGGEST mistakes that people make when trying to lose weight is going overboard with calorie restrictions.  It may take some experimenting to get the calorie deficit right, but doing things like eating only one meal a day or having an all liquid diet for instance will actually cause your body to slow it’s metabolism down. This is where getting past calorie counting and using mindfulness can really help you.  If you aren’t there yet then you might start working towards it.  I know that counting my calories really helped me in the beginning, but it wasn’t a long term lifestyle that I wanted to keep (it’s a real pain in the rear).

When all is said and done you have to look at what your goals are because that should help shape your habits.  My overall goal is to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy body so that I can be that 90 year old runner/weight lifter you hear about in the news.  I love being active and fit; it makes me feel good both physically and mentally so all of my choices should head that way.  It’s possible to get that perfect equilibrium that we strove for as kids when we played on the seesaw or as my part of the country calls it a teeter totter.  However just like a see saw we may have to reposition ourselves and adapt based on life changes just keep working towards your goals.  I also suggest finding a dietitian or a personal trainer to help you with specifics, they are there to guide you when you are feeling a bit lost.

Do you have tips to find the balance between fueling your body and weight loss/maintenance?



If You Want to Lose Weight Don’t Count on Running

This weekend I finished my 17 mile run, the farthest I have gone to date.  I was exhausted and sore by the time I finished it, but I got it done.  While I was on the treadmill and for almost this entire 16+ weeks of training I had some time to think about the misconceptions of running.  The one I want to address today is stated pretty simply in my title: if you want to lose weight you shouldn’t count on running.

Misconception #1: Cardio is the way to lose weight.  It is a way you can lose weight, but if you go to many races you will see that runners come in all shapes and sizes, even the larger sizes.  The solution if you want to lose weight you should be doing a healthy combination of aerobic and resistance.  Resistance builds muscle= higher metabolism among the various benefits (sexy looking body, stronger bones, stronger core, resistance to injury while running).

Misconception #2:  I just ran _____ miles so I can eat anything. Wrong!  Not if you are trying to do things like eat clean and perhaps maintain your weight.  There is no out running a poor diet, I have tried this, many others have tried this, and we all fail.  Run To the Finish calls it “runners entitlement” this thought that since I burned a ton of calories I can eat a ton.  In fact this happens often enough that you will find several articles out there on how to try and keep the over eating and weight gain under control.  One article that explains it very well is from Runner’s World ; it offers some great insight and suggestions on how to combat this. A side note to this is that the people around you might encourage that kind of thinking, because they are in awe of how much you ran. Be cautious about feeding into this justification or rationalization it’s an easy thing to do.

Misconception #3: I just ran ____ miles and got my steps so I can relax now.  *Raises hand in guilt.* Yeah it’s pretty easy to say to yourself I ran 8, 10, or 16 miles today so I deserve to be able to relax the rest of the day.  The fact is, it’s awesome that you were active for so many minutes or hours, but sitting down the rest of the day will not help your metabolism to keep going, nor will it help you fight the increase in health risks that come with sitting all day.  Most runners do their run first thing in the morning so they can get it out of the way and because it wakes you up better than a cup of coffee.  Personally I have to work to be mindful to stay active the rest of the day on my long run days on the weekend.  The shorter runs it isn’t as challenging in part because of the time of day and the fact that they aren’t as draining. The solution, get up and do some household chores, go for a walk (with dog or kids maybe), add a little resistance later in the day, but make an effort to get up and move.

Misconception #4: The more often I run the more calories I will burn, i.e. if I do 3 miles a day or 5 miles a day.  Sadly this isn’t true, if it were I can think of many run streakers who would LOVE IT!  Just like other exercises you have to “shake it up” or your body will adapt and you will hit the dreaded plateau.  To address it consider throwing in the resistance and other forms of cross training, like bike riding, swimming, or yoga. 

If you address these issues you will see that while yes you can lose weight by running, but it isn’t the only nor is it the best way to do it.  If you are like me you have a hard time finding the balance, but just like other parts of life finding balance is very important.

Are any of these misconceptions one that you believed or that you struggle with?

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