Conventional dieting wisdom doesn’t work for runners.
It leaves you hungry, tired, and... overweight. So we updated popular weight-loss strategies to meet a runner’s needs. Here’s how you can fuel up smarter (on real food), run stronger and drop pounds for good.
Dieter's Strategy: Develop a running routine and stick to it
Runner's Strategy: Mix up your routine with new types of workouts
Anyone trying to lose weight knows that he or she needs to work out on a nearly daily basis – and that's not easy. So to stay on track, dieters develop a workout routine (that often includes lots of steady, slowish runs) and then stick to it no matter what. "People are comfortable doing what they know," says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. "If you're a runner, you feel comfortable with a specific pace or distance." Sticking to that routine brings dieters security.
While running an easy three-miler a few days a week is better for weight loss than doing nothing, there is a smarter approach. Break out of your routine by boosting your intensity and doing different types of workouts (like a weekly long run or a day of cross-training) to challenge your body and burn more calories. "It's a lot like city driving versus motorway driving," says McCall. "When running a long, slow distance, your body becomes really efficient at using oxygen. The more times you do the same distance, the easier it gets and the fewer calories you burn. Sprinting is like starting and stopping a car, which uses more petrol."
A 10.7 stone (68kg) runner doing a four-miler at a nine-minute/mile pace burns about 480 calories. But you can torch more calories, speed weight loss and spark up your runs by swapping that four-miler with one of these high-intensity workouts one to three times a week.
What: Alternating sprints of a certain distance (such as 400m) with recovery laps; often done at a measured track.
Why: Sprinting at high speeds makes your body work harder and burns up to 30 per cent more calories to keep up with the demand.
How: 4 x 400m hard (max speed), separated by an easy 400m recovery lap; 8 x 200m hard, separated by 200m easy; 4 x 100m hard, walking back to the start between sprints to recover.
Calories burned: 700
What: A less formal version of intervals; the term actually means "speed play" in Swedish.
Why: Like interval workouts, fartlek sessions make your body burn more calories to match the demand of running faster.
How: While out for a 45-minute run, pick a tree or mailbox about 50m away. Run hard (max speed) until you reach it, and then slow down until you're recovered. Continue alternating periods of hard running with recovery.
Calories burned: 540
What: This workout is exactly what it sounds like: running uphill for a period of time.
Why: Hills require more force to overcome the angle of the incline, leading to a challenging cardio workout; it's also a great way to strengthen the larger muscles of the legs.
How: Find a steep hill 40 to 80m long. Follow this sequence, each time running up the hill and jogging back to recover.Start with 10 reps (progressing to 20) - 5 runs at 50 per cent max speed, 2 to 3 runs at 80 per cent max speed,
1 sprint at max speed.
Calories burned: 600
Dieter's Strategy: Eat low-fat foods
Runner's Strategy: Eat the right fats
Though the fat-free craze peaked in the 1990s, many dieters still avoid oils, butter, nuts and other fatty foods. Their logic: if you don't want your body to store fat, then don't eat fat. Many dieters also know that one gram of fat packs nine calories, while protein and carbohydrate both contain just four calories per gram.
But the logic of having fat in your diet has risen to the fore again. "I think it's a pretty antiquated thought now that we need to eliminate fat to lose weight," says Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Energy Naturally (Fair Winds Press, £14.99). In fact, eating moderate amounts of fat can help you lose weight. The key is to make sure you're eating the right kinds.
Saturated and trans fats are unhealthy because they raise your levels of LDL (so-called 'bad cholesterol'). Trans fats may also lower your HDL (or 'good cholesterol') levels and increase your risk of heart disease and weight gain. But unsaturated fats (which include mono- and polyunsaturated) have important benefits.
Keep you satisfied Unsaturated fats promote satiety, reduce hunger and minimally impact blood sugar. That's important because if your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience cravings, brain fog, overeating and low energy, making it "fiendishly difficult to lose weight", according to Bowden.
Protect heart health Monounsaturated fats found in vegetable oils (such as olive and canola oil) and avocados have the added power to help lower LDL and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Reduce injury Eating unsaturated fats can actually help stave off injuries, such as stress fractures. A 2008 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that female runners on low-fat diets are at increased risk of getting injured – and
of course a sidelined runner can't burn
as many calories.
Decrease joint pain Bowden adds that Omega-3 fatty acids – which are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in oily fish, walnuts and ground flaxseed – possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe knee, back and joint aches and pains that plague many runners. Translation: you'll hurt less and run more.
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