4 Reasons why you gain weight during marathon training 2


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Marathon training? What is up with the weight gain?

By Ryan Light, Running/Anxiety Coach

You’ve trained long and hard for your first half-marathon, and then even harder for your full marathon, you’ve been eating well and following a sensible carb-loading diet but when you step on the scale you find that there is a weight gain. How is this possible? How can someone who runs and trains at your level experience gain weight?
This weight gain is not uncommon, in fact it has a name, marathon training induced weight gain and occurs most frequently in novice or recreational marathoners and for a variety of reasons.

4 Reasons why you gain weight marathon training?

  1. Muscle is more dense and as a result weighs more than fat. But wait, doesn’t a pound of fat weigh the same as a pound of muscle? Yes, but a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. If you are slimmer and trimmer than before you began marathon training, but weigh more, your new muscle in your new body takes up less space than the fat did but weighs more. If you are gaining weight but losing inches, you are on the right path.
  2. But if your training is causing weight gain AND adding inches to your waistline, you made need to adjust your diet. Long runs and extended training sessions and your actual races cause you to be hungry. That’s normal, it’s called rebound hunger. But then there is the “I ran x miles today, I deserve a pizza, heck I deserve a beer and a pizza, maybe a pizza and a pitcher…” That’s called a calorie reward and soon leads to celebratory fat. Both of these cases result in extra pounds. This ravenous hunger can also be caused by skipping your post-training recovery nutrition window. You may not feel like feeding your body immediately after your run, but it is the optimal time to feed your depleted muscles and skipping this window will result in that feeling of starvation later.
  3. In your healthy attempt to stay hydrated throughout the entire day, are you drinking extra sugar and calories? Colas, sodas, concentrated juices, milk, coffee specialty drinks and wine and spirits are loaded with hidden syrups and sugars. If you are thirsty, drink water. Save those sports drinks for immediately before, during and after extended training sessions lasting more than an hour or during extreme heat. The carbs (sugar) in these drinks are designed to replace and replenish glycogen stores during and after training, but if not used for that purpose they are converted and stored as fat.
  4. Speaking of glycogen, it’s the reason athletes (marathon runners in this case) follow a high-carbohydrate diet and carb-load before intense exercise or prior to extended endurance events. Your body converts carbs to glycogen and stores it in muscle and your liver. As a distance runner, you are now a glycogen converting and storing machine! But, glycogen is said to be hydrophilic and has a strong affinity (attraction) to water molecules. Where glycogen goes, water follows, sometimes as much as 2-3 grams for each single gram of glycogen. This is a temporary water weight gain that diminishes as your body’s glycogen stores are used to fuel your run, but can easily account for 3-5 pounds of your weight gain!

So, if you find that you have gained weight over your training cycle, take heart we all have.

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Ryan Light

About Ryan Light

I started to run after a very stressful time in my life. I suffered most of my life with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), panic, and anxiety. I tried everything from diets to conventional medicines – nothing worked. Running saved my life – literally, I was at the bottom with my OCD, panic, and anxiety, and on the verge of suicide. Running gave me a new found adventure, a goal, an escape so to say. It’s been seven years since I took my first run…Currently I have run over 40 Half Marathons, Three Full Marathons, and countless amounts of 5 & 10Ks” and loving every minute of it. I’ve made some outstanding friends, overcame challenges I thought I’d never could, and best of all found a passion in life! To learn more...http://realrunryan.com/about-running/


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2 thoughts on “4 Reasons why you gain weight during marathon training

  • Amity

    Great article, Ryan! I just signed up for a half in October so this came out at the perfect time for me. Great to be reminded to what to do (and what not to do) to stay healthy during training.

    • Ryan Light
      Ryan Light Post author

      AWESOME! It’s always a good thing to remember that you have to watch what you eat and during training you should follow at 60/40/20 plan. If you’re looking for a training plan or want more info on the 60/40/20 eating plan let me know.