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Why Runners Struggle to Lose Weight

There is this misconception that the more you run, the more fat you burn or weight you lose. But for many women, it’s just not true. Many runners struggle with an extra 5-10 pounds, or even gain weight while training for distances.

There are exceptions. (First time runners, certain body types, good genes!) But in general, here are 7 reasons that running does not necessarily help with weight loss, particularly around the belly:

  • Running the same distance and paces: Our bodies do best when we mix up our routine, either by slowing down (such as MAF training) or by adding intervals. Strength training is also crucial for a stronger metabolism, toning, and more balanced running muscles. (Despite what the cover models of Runner’s World may have you believe, running does not create a toned upper body and strong core!)

  • Your body may interpret the running as stress: Your body can’t tell the difference between running sprints for fun and a bear chasing you! As you add on miles in distance running, your body may begin to feel stressed and increase cortisol (which leads to an increase storage of body fat, especially around the belly.) Some body types are much more sensitive to interpreting exercise as stress than others.

  • A diet high in sugar and processed carbohydrates- I know, I know… the cupcakes and bagels are the prize for all that running, right?! In moderation, they are fine. But as staples in our diet, the body will have more glycogen stores than it needs and stores the rest as fat. Overdoing sweets can also lead to insulin resistance, sugar addiction, or sugar/ yeast overgrowth in the gut.

  • Lack of sleep: Missing sleep affects our hormones, especially ghrelin and leptin, which help to balance our appetite. It also causes us to crave quick energy for a pick me up- yep, sugar and refined carbs.

  • Overfueling for runs- In some cases, we teach our body to rely on sugar and to burn glycogen during training, rather than it’s preferred fuel (fat) by never giving it the chance to burn it’s stores.

  • Undiagnosed food sensitivity- Many times we crave the foods we are sensitive too and this can lead to inflammation and trouble absorbing nutrients, which can cause more food cravings and over eating.

  • Clogged Liver- Our liver manufactures bile, for breaking down fats. When it’s congested from a poor diet and environmental toxins, it cannot do it’s job efficiently.

I’m surprised how many runners I work with in my health coaching practice who have symptoms of sugar overgrowth in their gut or insulin resistance. Even if that’s not you, I think it’s important to recognize the risk and pay attention to any messages you hear from your body.

How does increased mileage affect you? I am one of the many women who always gained five pounds when training for an endurance event, until this past year when I began implementing metabolic efficiency strategies.

In April, we'll kick off another Runner's Reset with nutrition tips, an overview of metabolic efficiency, and strength workouts from Kristen, a personal trainer and runner.

Join us! Or contact me if you want one-on-one guidance.

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