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How can I avoid gaining weight while I train for an endurance event?

Jul 1, 2014

Carrie Burr:  Manager of Fitness Together South End in Charlotte

After training for 5 marathons myself, I finally feel that I have conquered the dreaded endurance training weight gain.  Here is the thing…if you are training for an endurance event, don’t focus on weight loss because it probably won’t happen.  A lot of physiological responses are happening when you stress your body to the degree we do in endurance sports.  The most important thing is fueling your body correctly.  The most important thing is to make sure you are eating enough.  With that said, you still need to be mindful.  I listen to my body, but still track calories.  Also, these calories need to be nutrient dense foods that will help in the recovery process.  Sure you can eat more than you did, but that doesn’t mean ice cream every night.  The most mind-blowing thing that will happen is your weight on the scale will probably fluctuate A LOT or even go up.  All these fluctuations are due to water retention from your muscles repairing themselves and you are training your body to store glycogen as well.  When your muscles store more glycogen, they need water to maintain it…equaling numbers that go up on a scale.  However this is not ACTUAL weight gain.  I recommend having a range for your weight while training.  For instance, I maintain between 125-130 during training.  If I go up, I am overeating after my long runs…if I go under, I probably need to refuel more to stay healthy and improve my times!

Bruce Kelly – FT Media

It all comes down to nutrition doesn't it? You have to eat "close to the earth," watch your portions, and most of your hydration should be water and unsweetened teas or coffee. It's not rocket science just common sense. It's one of those things that’s simple but not easy, as it requires consistency and discipline.

Chavanne Scott – Manager of Fitness Together Ballantyne in Charlotte, NC

While training for an endurance event, it is vital to fuel properly with adequate macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats). I recommend applying the scientific method. Regularly chart body composition to determine how much lean composition you (or your client) have to determine their body's specific daily protein needs. For every pound of lean composition it is best to consume .75-1.00 gram protein per pound of lean body mass. For example, if Athlete A weighs 135lbs and has a lean body mass of 120lbs, she will need to consume between 90-120g of protein per day. This will help to maintain and strengthen the muscle tissue and aid in optimal recovery. Also, it can be helpful to train with a heart rate monitor to determine how many calories are being expended during activity as well throughout the day to accurately calculate daily caloric needs.

Dr. Janet Brill

How can I avoid gaining weight while training for an endurance event?
Hah…great question! I always used to joke that I was the only person I knew who actually gained weight training for a marathon. That’s because I definitely took in more calories (chocolate GU or Powerade anyone?) during my 20 mile marathon training runs (in super-hot and humid South Florida) than I expended. I would highly recommend that individuals training for endurance events (particularly those training in hot and humid environments) --who are weight conscious-- limit their training supplements and bump up their water intake during exercise as well as maintain a healthy, higher carb, calorie-controlled diet.

(Note: to be on the safe side it’s best to calculate your sweat rate (there are plenty of on-line calculators) and make sure to replace 80% of the amount of fluid you lose DURING exercise and then AFTER exercise, drink the difference to 150% of your fluid deficit. To play it even safer, consult with a professional sports


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