As we all know, running is a great way of losing weight. While it may not be favored by many, it does a great job at promoting overall health. From the obvious cardiovascular health to a more in depth process of increasing bone density, running is an overall great way to exercise. One of the primary reasons people opt to go for a run is a long-term goal of weight loss. However, if running is someone’s plan to drop a few pounds over the next few months, there are some actions you can make to catalyze the process.
The Right Kind of Fuel
With any other type of activity, your diet with either make or break you. If you eat junk food on a normal basis, it’s unlikely to perform admirably and results could go stagnate.
I’m not saying you need to eat clean 24/7, but baby steps are encouraged. Taking in the right kind of foods to fuel you will make a noticeable difference.
High Quality H2O
I cannot stress this enough. DRINK WATER! Put it this way, your body can last around a week without food; it lasts three days without water. It’s pretty important.
As a starting point, try drinking a bottle of water every hour or two. Don’t just chug one in a few seconds, sip on it throughout the day. You can mix it up with Gatorade to add flavor if you wish as well.
These are known in popularity but some may not know how they work. In a nutshell, these types of carbs take longer to be broken down on a molecular level. In consequence, if they are used for fuel, you’ll get more energy out of them due to them taking longer to be broken down. Examples of complex carbs are whole wheat bread, bagels, pasta, oatmeal, grits, and rice. These can be mixed up in variety throughout the day and go with pretty much any meal.
Fats are essential for your diet. There is a difference between a stick of butter and fish oil, though. Obvious right? Well believe it or not, you actually get more energy per gram than any other basic component of protein or carbs. The fat you take in needs to help you, though. Examples include polyunsaturated fats like olive oil, fish oil, and even peanut butter can help greatly. Sources peanut butter and fish oil are obvious, but some polyunsaturated fats can be found in leafy romaine lettuce (the darker the better).
Probably the most well-known nutrient in the fitness world next to carbs. Protein is important for repairing the tears in muscle fibers that are felt as soreness. With that being said, it is best to know that most people get enough protein in their diet from solid foods. On average, it is recommended in a 2,000 calorie diet to get 1-1.5 grams per bodyweight. If you’re burning off some calories from running a few miles, it’s important to take in a meal with a decent amount of protein after. Examples include chicken, beef, nuts, and dairy products.
Having a good diet is important, but eating at certain times is important, too. Below is an example of important times to eat with foods to accompany them.
Morning – Take in a good amount of protein and carbs upon rising. When you sleep, your body uses it’s own sources of fuel to keep your body functioning. By eating things such as eggs, whole wheat toast with peanut butter and some milk, your body will use this for fuel instead.
Lunch – Take in a decent sized meal after you get into your day. With most people in their feet with work or school, you burn off a lot more than you think. Take in some meat (chicken or beef), some pasta and a small salad.
Pre-Workout Meal – Have this meal about an hour to an hour and a half prior to your run. Make a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread and maybe a small salad. The point of this meal is the carbs and the peanut butter will help fuel you and remain in your system longer. The timing is to ensure that the contents have been emptied from the stomach to avoid getting sick.
Dinner/ Post-Workout Meal – Make sure you take in a good amount of complex carbs following a good run or workout. Studies have been shown that complex carbs within 30 minutes of exercise replenish muscle glycogen and promote healing much faster due to higher paced blood circulation. Have a bit of pasta or rice with chicken breast and a side salad. The protein will also aid in healing of the muscle fibers.
*This doesn’t need to be how your day goes. Most don’t even fall into this category due to school or work. Accomodate yourself to your own needs and expand from there.
Catch Those Z’s
Sleeping is just as important as dieting in certain cases. Without rest, your body will eventually shut itself down. Several things happen when you sleep. Your brain recharges, your muscles heal, several hormones are released and chemical reactions occur.
The recommendations vary from age group to age group. Everyone is different, though. As time goes on, you’ll discover how much rest you need to balance out your actions.
Track Your Progress
It helps to track your progress with any goal you end up setting. In this case, there are several ways to doing it. Thanks to the modern technology, there are ways besides pen and paper for keeping track of the past few weeks.
There are several apps for both iPhone, iPod, and Droid to keep track of your progress. The good thing is most are specific to the user with knowing age, weight, height, and goal setting. Below are some popular ones.
This is the one I personally use. It’s free and is very convenient to have. You plug in your information and set a goal of either distance, time, or both and it keeps track. With the aid of GPS, it also keeps track of the path you run.
One convenient aspect of this app is it tells you your progress while you’re running. At a selected time interval (for me, every 5 minutes), it tells you how far you’ve ran and your average pace.
Overall, I highly recommend it.
This is another great app that is similar to RunKeeper. The similarities are practically the same. The only difference I have found is that the GPS on my iPod is stronger with RunKeeper. It may just be where I live, though.
Like RunKeeper, it allows you to plug in your information and set goals. It also gives alerts while you’re running about distance reached and the time. It’s a very good app.
In the end, you can still track your progress with a watch and a pen and paper. Most people find this to be easier, too. It’s all about personal preference.
The Right Gear
In this case, I’m talking primarily about proper shoes. Granted you can literally run in any kind of shoe, but getting a good pair of running shoes can help out with shin splints, an even glide, and balanced stride.
Shoes I would recommend are Asics, Under Armour, Nike, Brooks, and Saucony. Granted they are a little pricey, but running shoes in these brands are properly made for running. They’re extremely light, provide varying arch support and varying cushioned heels.
A Little More Science
If you opt for running to lose weight, do so intelligently. Don’t think that starving yourself and running will get you to a healthy weight. I think we all know one person who eats a small amount of food and a large amount of time on the treadmill. Granted they are losing weight, but there is a fine line between thin and healthy.
In short, when your heart rate climbs and stays there, your body will burn off the fuel you’ve recently eaten or it’s own fuel to keep you going. After you run a mile or two, your body is not just going to go back to resting vitals. Your metabolism will still be needing excess fuel to help recover from the workload it just went through. By taking in those carbs and protein, your body will use less of the glycogen (stored sugar). At the same time, your body will also use adipose tissue (fat) that some are trying to get rid of.
Bottom line: You NEED generous amounts of food to keep yourself going. Even if you’re aiming to drop unwanted fat, your muscles will still need replenished. Healthy weight loss will come over time.
In the end, you’ve made a good decision to live healthier. Granted it will take time and determination, but keep a positive mental attitude throughout. Keep visualizing yourself reaching that end goal and make it happen!
If you have other questions, check out my other blogs about running!