You would think that running (or any form of training) and weight loss would be happy partners, but actually they are not. It seems like they would be great friends at first. If you are lighter, you can run faster, right? And often you feel a bit healthier being a bit lighter too and that’s bound to be a good thing, surely?
The problem is that for performance you need to eat quite a lot. That’s true for running and that’s true of weight training. If your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs then you are going to feel tired and sluggish and you aren’t going to get the results out of your workouts that you want. I find particularly for me as a vegetarian getting all the nutrients I need can be quite challenging. Some days it feels like I eat all the time! Getting all the carbohydrates, protein and fats to get me to peak performance means that I can’t really afford to cut any calories out.
So what do I do when I want to get down to racing weight?
1) I aim for a calorie deficit, but it’s a really small calorie deficit. So on days when I do no exercise I try to keep myself at about 1900 calories – which is about 100-200 below my maintenance. On days when I do exercise I add those calories on, so I still only have a very small deficit. On a day where I do crossfit and go for a run eating 2,500-3,000 calories would not be unusual.
2) I put a higher priority on nutrient dense foods than on staying under a calorie limit. I keep track of the calories more to make sure that I’m getting enough protein and carbohydrates and so I’m being mindful in my food choices. Ultimately, I know I am in a better position for performance in training and for weight loss if I eat 3,000 calories of nutrient dense food as opposed to 1,500 calories of processed food.
3) I eat six meals a day and I focus on eating soon after I’ve gone for a run or been to crossfit. Food for me during the day might be a green smoothie, a fruit salad with greek yoghurt and LSA, a chickpea salad, vege sticks with hummus, a tofu and vegetable stir fry and a protein shake. Like I said, it’s a lot of food.
4) To keep track of my progress I pay more attention to measurements than to the scale. Because I’m lifting weights I’ll often lose centimetres but gain weight.
5) I stay focused on what my goal is. The goal is what my body can do. Performance is more important than what I look like. The changes in my body are just icing on the cake.
6) I don’t stay overly rigid. Last weekend I had a date night that involved dinner and a movie. I had entree. I had main. I had dessert. And I had a huge amount of popcorn and ice cream. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
I’m happy for my progress to be slow. Because the number I really care about is the one on my running watch and the weight on my bar.