Does Marathon Training Lead To Weight Gain?

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If you’ve ever trained for a marathon, you probably expected to lose weight.

And why not?

Long runs that last two, three and four hours burn a serious number of kilojoules. But many runners step on the scale just before race day and discover that instead of dropping kilos, they’ve added some. Runners sometimes gain weight because they change their diets along with their mileage or because other factors, such as hormonal fluctuations, come into play. And occasionally extra kilos are actually a sign that things are going right.

Here’s why the numbers on the scale go up during training, and how to fuel yourself so you get to the start at an ideal weight.

You’re hungrier!


Marathon training almost always requires more mileage, which boosts the number of kilojoules you burn as well as your appetite.

Your body is trying to help fuel your increased activity. One of the ways it does this
is by making you hungry.

It’s worse for women: Researchers at the University of Massachusetts discovered this heightened sense of hunger is stronger in women than in men because exercise accelerates the production of appetite-regulating hormones, prompting them to eat more; men, it turns out, aren’t as susceptible to these changes.

If you’ve just finished a three-hour-long run, of course you need a recovery meal containing carbs and protein, such as a chicken-vegetable stir-fry with brown rice, to restock energy stores and speed muscle repair. After that, ask if you’re still hungry, actually thirsty, or simply giving in to cravings.

When your body truly needs food, you’ll experience fatigue, a rumbling stomach, or hunger pangs that accumulate over time.

To keep cravings at bay and avoid unnecessary kilojoules, remove temptations from your sight – if nacho cheese Doritos aren’t on the counter, chances are they won’t call your name. You can also try a diversion, such as taking a walk; a study published in 2009 in the journal Appetite found that taking a brisk 15-minute walk reduces chocolate cravings.

Or use your stopwatch as a tool: Force yourself to wait 20 minutes before giving in. Usually after 20 minutes have lapsed, the urge is no longer as strong.

You’re overeating!

You go for a 15km run, come home starving, and scoff a smoothie, eggs, bacon, toast, and a well-earned choc-chip muffin. Oops, you’ve just eaten nearly 5 000 kilojoules – a few thousand more than you burned on the run.

To limit overcompensation – that is, eating above and beyond what you need for recovery and erasing the kilojoule deficit achieved during a workout – you need to make smarter food choices all day.

Eat mostly whole, minimally processed foods rich in carbs, fibre, and protein. The latter two take longer to digest, keeping hunger at bay and helping you avoid eating more than you should. Sabato also warns runners against falling into the ‘I deserve it’ mindset: Going for a long run doesn’t give you license to eat a whole batch of cookies.

When you eat can also help you to avoid overcompensating. The goal is to time meals so that you provide your body with enough energy to fuel runs and recovery, but without overdoing it. If you eat a meal two to three hours before a workout, your body will be fuelled for the run and you won’t feel hungry – this eliminates the need for a pre-workout snack, which adds extra kilojoules.

After a run, skip the recovery snack and instead sit down to a full meal within 30 minutes.

You’re gaining muscle – and retaining fluid!

Not all weight gain is bad. There are reasons you may have put on kilos that will actually help you on race day. Months of training can reduce body fat while adding muscle mass. Muscle is denser than fat, which explains why the scale may have crept up even though you’ve most likely lost a few centimetres around your waist and gained strength.

Another reason for weight gain just before a race? Fluid retention. Not only do runners typically drink more in the days leading up to a race, but they also eat more carbs. And carbohydrates attract water, leading to possible fluid retention.

This fluid (and the energy from stored carbs) will help ensure you’re well hydrated and fuelled on race day. Fluid gains often disappear in the days after a race, when you’re no longer loading up on carbs or hydrating as much.

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One Response to Does Marathon Training Lead To Weight Gain?

  1. Muscle Force Max Ultra March 13, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    Hello to all, the contents existing at this site are in fact amazing for people experience, well,
    keep up the good work fellows.

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