Can You Lose Weight While Training For A Marathon?

Serious question: Is it possible to lose weight while you train for a marathon?

When I signed up for my first marathon back in 2013 I thought I was finally going to shed those 10 pesky pounds I had convinced myself I would be so much happier without. (You know the 10, or maybe 5, or 20. The weight that will fix all your problems if you lost.) I didn’t lose a single pound. Not 1. Not even a sympathy pound. And after looking into whether or not weight loss is conductive to running a marathon, I've found that it’s normal not to lose any weight while you train for a 26.2.

That doesn't seem to make sense right? If you're training for a marathon, you're running 30-40+ miles a week averaging about 100-120 ish calories per mile which is about 3,850 (ish) calories burned per week. Losing a pound of week requires a 3,500 calorie deficit. SO HOW IS IT NOT POSSIBLE TO LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU TRAIN FOR A MARATHON?

The online world is unanimous in that you shouldn’t try to lose weight while you train for a marathon. You can’t be a slave to that evil scale! That scale is not your friend! If I could grab myself and shake myself I would you guys, I really would. Look I am really gunning for a 3 hour 45 minute marathon. I want to do it so GOD DAMN BADLY! Will I? Meh 4 hours is looking very likely but 3:45 I will equate with the likelihood of me kissing a frog and having him turn into a single and ready to mingle version of Channing Tatum.

We look so happy together.

So why do I care about losing weight while training for a marathon? Because I am only human and I keep thinking losing 5 or 10 pounds would help my time. And it would, but in order to lose weight while training for a marathon you just have to be smart about it.

Here's how it works; In order to lose weight you need to consume fewer calories than your body burns. Sounds easy enough, you’re doing it on the daily training. Here’s the kicker, when you’re training for a marathon you likely will experience the sensation known as "runger"- basically you feel like a hungry, hungry hippo all the time! I don’t know about you but I am at the point in my training where I am hitting 40+ miles a week and I am ALWAYS hungry. ESPECIALLY after my long runs when I want to body slam 45 omelets, at LEAST. I am a pretty healthy eater but do I indulge in a chocolate bar or a beer or two here and there? Abso-effing-lutely! I'm not a health nut. I'm happier when I'm less constrictive about what I eat. Could I log everything I eat, portion it and stop myself from reaching for something less healthy? Definitely. I just choose not to.

One of the reasons you don't lose weight while you're training for a marathon is because you're building muscle. And guess what weighs more than fat? Beautiful muscle! So you say, dangit I lost an inch around my waist but I haven’t lost a single pound. I say to you, “Shut it. You look amazing and damn your strong.” If you really, honestly, truly feel like you need to shed some pounds before your 26.2, here’s what you can do:

1. Get a Calorie Counting App On Your Smartphone

I want to stress how important it is to be smart about the fuel you put into your body as you train for a marathon. Do you know if you are getting the proper amounts of carbs, protein, fat (Yes fat. You need fat), and nutrients on a daily basis? No? Awesome nor do I! We can figure this out together! Honestly, I just eat lean proteins, fruits and veggies and hope for the best. Well, no more! I started with this Runners World Daily Caloric Calculator. Here’s why I like it: It gives you your needs for different activity levels (active, very active, extremely active, etc) because weekly it’s not always going to be the same. CLICK HERE.

You enter your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level. Here is my breakdown: I am very active so I have to consume 2639 Calories to maintain my weight. Of those 2,639 calories its recommended that:

 45-65% come from carbs,

10-35% come from protein,

20-35% come from fat.

I shoot for 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat. In my app, MyNetDiary, you can customize your plan to reflect your percentages.

Now in order to figure out how many calories need to be shaved off, a little math is involved. In normal weight loss plans losing 1-2 pounds a week is normal. If you're training for a marathon, aiming for 1 pound a week is aggressive. A pound is about 3,500 calories and spread over seven days that’s about 500 calories a day. For me that means I would be taking in 2,139 calories a day which would be extremely difficult to endure. Instead I aim for 2300 calories a day which (allegedly) leads to a .6 lb loss each week.

2. Go to Active’s Nutritional Needs Calculator by CLICKING HERE. 

It will tell you exactly how much carbs, protein, and fat you need on the daily after you impute your daily caloric intake. These calculators take the guess work out and are miracle workers.

3.  Understanding Portions.  

Protein: The average serving size for protein is 3oz. An easy way to remember is 3 oz is about a deck of cards.

Fat: For fat the average serving size is 1 teaspoon which is about 1 dice.

Cheese: The average serving of cheese is 1.5 oz which is about 4 stacked dice

Carbs: A serving of rice, pasta and potatoes are  ½ cup which is about the size of ½ a baseball.  (1 cup = your fist) (Remember keep the carbs "whole grain." The first ingredient listed should be whole grains.

4. Prepare Your Meals

Honestly, the only way you can 100% know what is going into your meals and eat proportionately is to make your meals yourself. Not only will you save buckets of money (believe me you will) but you will feel healthier. It doesn’t take a lot of time, you could honestly make a weeks’ worth of food in 2-3 hours on Sunday.

5. Let It Go

Chances are you aren’t going to lose any weight and that's OK. If you are feeling like you are going crazy limiting yourself then add those 200-300 or so calories back into your plan. Just be mindful on those easy weeks and days off. You really have to take it one day at a time. And if you have an ice cream cone, just enjoy that ice cream cone! Don’t sit pulling your hair out racking your brain with guilt if you eat a slice of pizza. It’s OK to indulge here and there. That's half the fun of running a marathon...

6. Notice Your Muscles

The best way to stop stressing about how you feel about your weight is to start drawing giant circles around the parts of your body you love. For example I have GIANT thighs. HUGE thighs! But my huge giant thighs are muscular and every time I look at them I directly correlate them to how hard I am training. I run 40+ miles a week and do hundreds of squats, lunges, and step ups and I STILL have cellulite. I am at the point where I could care less because it finally doesn’t bother me. I love my ripped legs and manly calves. They make me a badass.

7. Snack It Out

I can’t eat only 3 meals a day. Can’t do it, won’t do it, choose not to do it. I eat 2 meals a day (lunch and dinner) and snack every 2 hours. I have a banana, an apple, some pretzels and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, peppers and hummus, edamame, an energy bar, you name it. I like munching on a small snack every hour or two because I am always hungry. You know that saying “When you think you’re hungry have a glass of water, you are actually thirsty?” I always want to back hand people who say that to me because I drink 1-2 water bottles an hour. No I’m not thirsty, I’m hungry! Do I eat a burrito every hour? No. A small snack? Yes because that works for me. Find what works for you.

9. Just Keep Running, Just Keep Running

Remember you are doing something so much bigger than trying to lose weight. Running a marathon is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. You are doing something remarkably difficult. Instead of focusing on what you wish you could change, focus on what you are working towards. You already have the strength to try and the courage to fail. That is enough. Everything else is icing on the cake. And I mean an actual cake that I will consume with you once we cross the finish line because we ran a marathon, we earned a cake.

Not sure what constitutes as carbs, fats, and proteins? Choose my plate has some awesome lists I stole for your educational pleasure.

CARBS: (Good rule of thumb if the first ingredient on an ingredient list is whole grain it’s actually good for you. Not “Enriched/bleached whole wheat flour”) 

Whole Grains

  • amaranth
  • brown rice
  • bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • oatmeal
  • popcorn
  • rolled oats
  • quinoa
  • whole grain barley
  • whole grain cornmeal
  • whole rye
  • whole wheat bread
  • whole wheat crackers
  • whole wheat pasta
  • whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls
  • whole wheat tortillas
  • wild rice

Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals

  • whole wheat cereal flakes

Refined Grains

  • cornbread
  • corn tortillas
  • couscous
  • crackers
  • flour tortillas
  • grits
  • noodles
  • pitas
  • pretzels
  • white bread
  • white sandwich buns and rolls
  • white rice
  • Pastas
  • spaghetti
  • macaroni

Dark Green Vegetables

  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • dark green leafy lettuce
  • kale
  • mesclun
  • mustard greens
  • romaine lettuce
  • spinach
  • turnip greens
  • watercress

Starchy vegetables

  • corn
  • green bananas
  • green peas
  • green lima beans
  • plantains
  • potatoes
  • taro
  • water chestnuts

Red & orange vegetables

  • acorn squash
  • butternut squash
  • carrots
  • hubbard squash
  • pumpkin
  • red peppers
  • sweet potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • tomato juice

 Beans and peas

  • black beans
  • black-eyed peas (mature, dry)
  • garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • kidney beans
  • lentils
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • soy beans
  • split peas
  • white beans

Other vegetables

  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • bean sprouts
  • beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • green peppers
  • iceberg (head) lettuce
  • mushrooms
  • okra
  • onions
  • turnips
  • wax beans
  • zucchini

Protein (Go lean or go home)

  • beef
  • ham
  • lamb
  • pork
  • veal
  • bison
  • venison
  • beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • chicken
  • duck
  • goose
  • turkey
  • ground chicken and turkey

Eggs

  • chicken eggs

Beans and Peas

  • bean burgers
  • black beans
  • black-eyed peas
  • chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • falafel
  • kidney beans
  • lentils
  • lima beans (mature)
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • soy beans
  • split peas
  • white beans

Processed Soy Products

  • tofu (bean curd made from soybeans)
  • veggie burgers
  • tempeh
  • texturized vegetable protein (TVP)

Nuts and Seeds

  • almonds
  • cashews
  • hazelnuts (filberts)
  • mixed nuts
  • peanuts
  • peanut butter
  • pecans
  • pistachios
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • walnuts

Seafood

  • catfish
  • cod
  • flounder
  • haddock
  • halibut
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • pollock
  • porgy
  • salmon
  • sea bass
  • snapper
  • swordfish
  • trout
  • tuna
  • clams
  • crab
  • crayfish
  • lobster
  • mussels
  • octopus
  • oysters
  • scallops
  • squid (calamari)
  • shrimp
  • Canned fish such as:
  • anchovies
  • clams
  • tuna
  • sardines

Fats (Good for your heart, cholesterol, and health) Note that non of these are saturated fats, which are bad.

Monounsaturated fat

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fat

  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu

Alright, you will never go hungry again. Those lists contain so much food! There's a lot more to carbs than bread and spaghetti. You've got veggies, grains, nuts, etc. etc. Refer to that whenever you're about to head to the grocery store. Keep it healthy, keep it delicious, and always include a candy bar because you are a god damn marathon runner and chocolate keeps ya sane!

Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.

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Kelly Roberts

My name is Kelly Roberts and I am a 25 year old New York City resident. My story made headlines when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the NYC Half Marathon. My blog, www.RunSelfieRepeat.com is bursting with humor and personal stories that lend an insight into the world of running and lead you to believe that just about anyone, regardless of their fitness level, can and should fall in love with running. Though currently an avid runner, I never would have predicted I would run marathons. I was the kid who used to hide in the bushes or play dead to get out of running the mile in school. I HATED running. But running has given me a purpose. It’s shown me that I really am limitless. In the two years since I started running, I’ve run multiple half marathons, 10ks, and 5ks, and two full marathons. My mission is to inspire others to find the courage to say yes to themselves all the while making them laugh hysterically because laughing is the solution to everything.