Running Long Distance? Don’t Expect to Lose Weight

To get started, here’s what you should know about nutrition:

While many participants see marathon training as a way to lose weight, that should not be the goal. Long-distance runners will naturally lose body fat during training, but a build-up of muscle will replace much of this weight. Ideally we do not look for a change on the scale, but a change in body composition.

The proper way to think about food during training is not calorie restriction but what fuels your body to perform, recover and allow it to change. With this outlook you can prioritize what you eat in a way that will prevent injury and promote a positive relationship with food.

The goal of a proper diet during training is to promote recovery of damaged muscle tissue that results from training, replenishment of energy stores and most important, promote new muscle growth. A balanced diet is required:

• Carbohydrate (grains, breads, pastas, fruits, starchy vegetables and dairy) provides active fuel; it fuels the muscles so they can continue to contract under stress. Intake of carbohydrates should increase as exercise intensifies and duration increases. Fat remains the dominant fuel during low- to moderate-intensity activities.

• Fat (nuts, seeds, oils, avocado, meat, dairy and fish) is used in the body to create and balance hormones as well as maintain skin and other organs.

• Protein (meat, poultry, fish and other sources including nuts, beans, lentils, dairy, soy products and whole grains) is used to repair damaged muscle tissue, create new muscle tissue and maintain a balance of hormones and other systems.

• Vitamins and minerals should come from the diet if possible (dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale, nuts, grains and meat) instead of a multivitamin.

• Hydration (water, sodium, potassium and chloride intake). Females should have at least 90 ounces of fluid per day and males should have at least 125 ounces per day.

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