Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on Weight Loss

I'm editing this post to insert this preface just to be sure that I don't sound too harsh. I'm not fussing at anyone. I'm only trying to clarify. I don't want someone to quit running because they don't see quick weight loss after they start running. There are better weight loss tools for me than running. I run because it's fun (weird, I know), not to lose weight. Your mileage may vary. That's all I'm trying to say in this post. Now, back to the original post.

Is running good for a weight loss plan?

I may have left a wrong impression with this blog. I was fat three years ago. Then, I lost weight and ran a marathon. I stated in the first posts that I didn't lose my weight by running, but I think I may be leaving the impression that running was a primary weight loss tool for me. I lost almost all of my weight before I started running. I'm no expert on this; I can only speak from my experience. However, I have lost very little, if any, weight by running.

Here's the problem I have with weight loss while running. I eat a little before my run to fuel up. If it's a long run, say longer than 12 miles or so, I'll fuel on the run with gels or sports drink. Then, when I finish, I'll have some chocolate milk or nuts or a granola bar immediately after. On long run days, when I get home, I absolutely destroy all the food in my pantry! It's not that I'm justifying overeating by saying, "I ran so I can eat what I want." No, my body simply demands that I eat! I'm starving all day on long run days!

So, long story short, if weight loss is your goal, you should choose some exercise instead of, or in addition to, running. Running can help, but it takes a while to build up to a distance (without injury) that can yield any weight loss benefits. My experience has been that resistance training (free weights and dumbbells for me) is much more effective for dropping the lbs. It's even more effective when complemented with running or other aerobic exercise.

Oh yeah, here's the hard part. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat right. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein are good. Processed foods, white pastas, white breads, processed sugars, and saturated fats are bad. Eat your 5-9 servings of veggies per day, and you'll probably lose weight without much other effort because the veggies will displace other less healthy foods.

Just a review....

Here's me when 3 miles was a long (and miserable and hated and very infrequent) run for me. This is me before running.
And here's me 14 months later, after running a marathon. There may be 5lbs difference.

So, in summary, if you want to lose weight, eat right and go to the gym (duh). If you want to run, well run! But don't expect to lose lots of weight if you don't eat right and mix in some other form of exercise.


Rae! said...

I have found it harder to drop the pounds now since I have been able to go the longer distance. And I have been starving unable to fill myself after a long run, like the half.
I am waiting to hear from my trainer to see what is new and next.

I agree with you.

Tanjie said...

Excellent advice!
I've long wondered why the idea of losing weight presents such a mystery that it has become Big you said "eat right and go to the gym" or engage in some sort of regular exercise..."duh."
And I know I'm a thin person saying this...but seven years ago I was a 40-pounds overweight person. Like you, I lost the weight by changing my eating habits and getting up off my duff now and then.
I started running only after I lost most of the weight.