Youre a runner; so the chances are pretty high that youre not one of the growing number of obese people in this country. Chances are youre one of the healthiest specimens your doctor sees on any given day.
But this doesnt mean youre entirely satisfied with your current weight and that youre not interested in losing a few pounds in order to become healthier, feel better and run stronger.
To demonstrate how easy that could be, weve set out a plan. The goal lose 10lb this month. The modus operandi: (1) Run a series of fat-burning work-outs each week; (2) Watch what and how much you eat. It couldnt be easier.
Now lets look at the numbers. To lose a pound, you have to burn roughly 3500 calories and not replace them, which forces your body to burn a pound of stored fat to compensate. Ten pounds a month is 2.5lb a week. So you need to create an 8750-calorie deficit each week or a 1250-calorie deficit each day.
Wait! Before you throw up your hands in despair over these large-sounding numbers (and reach for the Haägen-Dazs for comfort), realise that daily calorie input and output is a big numbers game. Its like the value of currency in Italy, where thousands of lire are exchanged daily in the buying and selling of basic goods.
Your body burns thousands of calories each day just sitting around or driving to work, not to mention working out. For instance, a 12-stone man burns 1850 calories a day at rest and another 1600 through normal daily activity. Thats a total of 3450 calories burned each day. Then, if he runs 30 minutes at a good clip (seven minute/mile pace), he burns another 540 calories, which brings the total up to 3990 a day. If the same runner were to eat 3990 calories worth of food, hed neither gain nor lose weight. But if he follows our weight-loss guidelines to create a 1250-calorie deficit each day, he can still consume 2740 calories, which amounts to 16 bagels or 27 bananas or 34 apples or 14 servings of pasta. The point is, you can eat a lot of food if youre exercising and eating sensibly.
All these principles apply to women, too, but on a smaller scale. Because women weigh less and generally have slower metabolisms, they burn fewer calories than men over the same activity. Now that the numbers arent so daunting, lets take a closer look at how to lose those 10lb.
Running Strategies That Burn CaloriesRunning is the most efficient way to shed weight. For our 12-stone man, running for 30 minutes at a 10 minute/mile pace will burn about 385 calories. Leisurely cycling for 30 minutes will burn 231 calories; relaxed swimming, 308 calories; and walking (at a three miles/hour pace), a mere 135 calories. But even in running, some work-outs are better than others for burning calories and fat.
Of course, theres the time-tested long run, which puts the body in the fat-burning zone. But today, the shift is towards faster paced sessions, which burn calories and fat much more efficiently. A recent study at the University of Texas showed that fast running burns 33 per cent more fat per minute than slower running. That can be a big help when youre trying to lose weight and are pressed for time.
Weve selected some of the best calorie-consuming, fat-burning training sessions. Do two or three a week. On the other days, run easy for 20-30 minutes or do some relaxed cross-training such as cycling, swimming or stair-climbing.
Run slowly for at least 45 minutes to an hour; 90 minutes to two hours would be ideal. The slow pace which puts your metabolism in the fat-burning zone coupled with the long period of time maximises total fat burning. A 90-minute long run for a 12-stone man can burn more than 1000 calories.
Long, slow runs are great, but you cant do them every day. If you have just 20-30 minutes to run, your best bet is to pick up the pace. The faster you run in those 20-30 minutes, the more fat youll burn, because your total energy cost is up.
Run 20-30 minutes at a race pace between 10K and 10 miles an effort that should feel hard but controlled. Youll get in more distance and burn more calories during a 30-minute tempo run than during 30 minutes of slow running. A 12-stone man on a tempo run of this duration can burn more than 450 calories
Speed sessions are always great calorie-burners. After a five-minute warm-up, try running one to three minutes at 85-95 per cent effort, then walk or jog for recovery. Do 5-10 of these fast intervals in a session, then finish with a five-minute cool-down. Speedwork also produces an afterburn effect. That is, you keep burning calories at a high level even after youve stopped running. This can sometimes amount to as much as 200 extra calories, according to a recent Scandinavian study. And running fast suppresses your appetite for an hour or two, so youll eat less and lose more.
A speed work-out that includes 8 x 2 minutes at 90 per cent effort (with a five-minute warm-up and cool-down) can burn more than 700 calories (including afterburn) for a 12-stone man.
Evening/ Morning Runs
A few hours after your evening meal, go for an easy run of 20-30 minutes and dont eat any more before going to bed. This will deplete your glycogen stores. The next morning, before breakfast, run 45 minutes to an hour at a steady pace. Your carbohydrate-depleted body will turn to fat-burning more quickly and more intensely.
This work-out will stimulate sheer fat burning, but psychologically and physiologically, it will be hard. So we suggest doing this dual work-out with a friend who is also trying to lose weight. Youll motivate each other. A 30-min pm/45-min am run will burn more than 1,000 calories in total for a 12-stone man and many of those will be fat calories.
Pump up the Weight LossBy adding a once- or twice-weekly weight training session to your schedule, you not only burn more calories by working out (115 every 30 minutes for our 12-stone runner) but also by just sitting around. Thats because as you add muscle, your resting metabolism rises. So youll burn more calories when you do taxing work like watching Gladiators and reading RUNNERS WORLD.
A good weight work-out is circuit training essentially laps around the weight room, doing all the standard machine exercises, one right after another. When you can lift a weight 15 times easily, set it at a higher level. Five pounds is a good increase for upper-body exercises; 10lb for the lower-body.
Eating Strategies That Burn CaloriesWhile youre revving up your running, ease back a little on your eating. Dont worry, you dont have to starve yourself. In fact, taking in too few calories slows your metabolism and makes it harder to lose weight. By simply making a few adjustments to your usual diet, you can cut calories quickly. Here are several ways to do just that.
Make Healthy Choices
You dont need a calorie counter when it comes to planning low-fat meals, just some common sense. A simple meal plan for the day could be the following:
- Breakfast: Cereal with fruit and skimmed milk.
- Lunch: A chicken or turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and spicy mustard.
- Dinner: Pasta with vegetables and a pinch of grated parmesan.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your calorie intake is to find low-fat or low-calorie substitutes for some of the rich items in your diet. Using mustard instead of mayonnaise cuts 85 calories off your turkey sandwich. Skimmed milk saves 90 calories per glass over full-fat milk. Lemon juice or wine vinegar on your salad saves 100 calories over ordinary dressing.
Eat Less Food
Your battle isnt against food but against too much food. Learn to be polite but firm at Sunday lunch when you mum passes the roast potatoes the second time. When you eat at home, cut your serving size. Its the number one way to cut calories, says John Allred, co-author of Taking The Fear Out Of Eating: A Nutritionists Guide to Sensible Food Choices (Cambridge University Press). If you usually have two slices of bread with dinner, eat one. If you have six ounces of pasta, try four ounces.
Allred also suggests using smaller dinner plates 8in instead of 12in. That way, you still have a full plate of food in front of you, but youll be eating less, he says.
Eat More Often
Many sumo wrestlers skip breakfast on purpose. They want to drive up hunger and slow their metabolism so when they dive into a fat-filled lunch, it sticks to their ribs (and bellies and sides) like Superglue. You, of course, dont want to look like a sumo wrestler, or you wouldnt be reading this. By eating three small meals a day, plus healthy snacks, you keep hunger on an even keel (avoiding overeating, the real enemy), and your metabolism runs at an even burn.
First, dont skip breakfast. Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clarks Sports Nutrition Guidebook (Human Kinetics), says a good breakfast is one of the most potent weapons for losing weight. It keeps your metabolism cranking, prevents hunger and overeating at lunch, and makes you more likely to eat higher-quality foods throughout the day. A good breakfast should be hearty but not heavy (about 500 calories). Examples include: cereal with skimmed milk and a banana, or a bagel and yoghurt.
And dont neglect the afternoon snack. A bagel at 3pm can be the difference between running a hard seven-mile run after work (which will burn lots of calories and help you to lose weight) or calling it quits after a slow two miles (which doesnt burn lots of calories). The main reason people dont feel like running after work is because theyre hungry. The afternoon snack gives you energy to burn.
And after youve burned that energy, replace some of it right away. A high-carbohydrate snack after a work-out speeds your recovery by replenishing muscle glycogen. It also staves off hunger so you dont overeat at dinner. A sports drink or energy bar is fine, as are bagels. Orange juice is a great recovery fluid. Its got vitamin C, potassium, no fat and only 140 calories per 300ml serving. Plus, youre replacing lost fluids. Ideally, your post-work-out snack should be consumed within 30 minutes of your exercise, and your meal no more than 90 minutes later.
Tempting fat(e)You know your weak spots (ice cream, croissants, pizza, whatever). Set up a defence. If you crave ice cream, dont have it in the freezer. If its a croissant on your way to work, find a route that avoids the coffee shop. If pizza is your passion, throw away those leaflets from the pizza delivery companies.
Its okay to indulge once in a while, but try some of the low-fat treats available, and consume them in moderation. Reduced-fat crisps and tortilla chips are available at most supermarkets. The same goes for biscuits and cakes. Choose reduced-fat or fat-free varieties. But remember, despite the healthy labels and marketing, these snacks do still have plenty of calories, so eat them sparingly.
Make new habitsThere are plenty of little things you can do with your diet that will make a big difference in your weight-loss efforts. Here are five of them.
1. Dont mix fat and sugar
A Big Mac, large fries and Coke is a pretty bad combination to begin with, but its doubly unhealthy because it acts as a hidden invitation to your body to pack on fat. The simple sugars in carbonated drinks cause a release of insulin into your bloodstream, which makes fat cells more prone to storing fat. So, by the time the burger and fries get to those cells, the door is wide open, and they come right in.
2. Man cannot live by carbs alone
Protein and a little fat help to keep you satiated for longer and prevent you from overeating. Fat and protein stay with you longer, says Nancy Clark. For example, if you have a plain toasted bagel and a glass of fruit juice for breakfast, youll be hungry again an hour later. But if you spread a little peanut butter on the bagel, youll be fine until your morning snack.
3. Eat a complex diet
So you want loads of energy to burn all day? Eat lots of complex carbohydrates: fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Complex carbohydrates take longer to burn than simple sugars, giving you energy and staving off hunger at the same time.
4. Trim your meat
Cutting visible fat from meat or the skin from chicken before cooking will eliminate more than 65 per cent of fat calories from your meal.
5. Hold the mayo
Fish is a healthy option, right? But mixing tuna with mayonnaise adds hundreds of fat calories to a tuna salad sandwich. Instead, try mixing the tuna with chilli sauce, lemon juice or a little mustard.
Take it one step at a timeAccording to sports nutritionist Kris Clark, youll have the most success changing a dietary habit if you take the simplest approach. When I spot a problem in an athletes food record, I work on just one food at a time, she says Two at the most. It can be as basic as telling the person to buy a nutritious breakfast cereal and eat a bowl of it every morning.
Clark believes that people need at least three or four weeks to break old dietary patterns and establish new ones. I have my clients stay with one dietary change for as long as it takes to become a matter of habit, she says. Once we are successful with the first change, we can go on to the second.
Its like the way you learned to run. First one mile, then two, then... Its the same thing with improving your diet. Take your time. Dont expect too much or set unattainable goals. Just stay focused on the task and let patience and discipline work their magic.