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Real Life Diet Questions Answered

Janet Aylott

Posted 18 Jan 13

Training for a marathon & very hungry, should I eat more?

I originally joined nutracheck at a time where I was i) wanting to lose weight and ii) get fit. The results have been surprisingly good with 2 1/2st lost since August and now able to run the quickest min / mile I've ever been able to run. I've decided to enter two marathons this year - the first of which is April. I've done them before so the training isn't a problem. What I'm unsure about though is my eating patterns and still using nutracheck. I've got a calorie level of circa 2,500 calories per day with 200 calories to burn to lose 1lb a week in weight I want to use. Now I'm training my weekly mileage is increasing as is my appetite. There are some days when I'll burn circa 1500 - 2000 calories if I go on a long run but does this allow me to go slightly over my calorie allowance or should I stick to my 2500 allowance? I'm finding it very difficult training as I'm feeling quite hungry early into some of my runs (about the 4 - 5mile mark). Thanks for your help.

Our expert says...

Well done on your fantastic weight loss so far - you've done such a great job and should be very proud of yourself!

As you're already noticing, intense exercise such as training to run a marathon, burns up a lot of calories. If you want to keep at optimum performance levels, you need to fuel your body properly for these runs.

I would advise you to immediately switch your details to maintenance, and then to set your activity level to high. This will automatically give you extra calories. You really shouldn't be following a weight loss plan when you're training so intensely - the activity itself is enough to give you the calorie deficit you will need (should you want to carry on losing weight). Remember that muscle is heavier than fat though, so even if you see an increase in weight, or a plateau on the scales, this may just be a sign that your body composition is changing.

Fuelling properly for activity is essential. What's happening 4-5 miles into your run is that your body is running out of energy stores. We don't have great ability to store energy in its most readily available form (i.e. glucose or carbs). By having more complex carbohydrates in your diet, especially the last meal before a run, can help to build up some carb stores in the muscles in the form of glycogen. Pasta, rice, porridge, wholegrain cereals etc are all good sources. Try and have these pre-run.

The other important nutrient when you're training is protein. This helps to repair muscles and tissue, and to help them to grow and work more effectively. Lean meat, eggs, fish and dairy are all great sources of protein. Vegetarian options such as Quorn, Tofu, beans and pulses, and some vegetables are also good sources.

Eating more calories when you're training is essential to make sure you have enough energy reserves to keep you going through the run. This also makes sure you're not losing weight too rapidly. Doing a marathon is a pretty extreme event which takes its toll on your body, so making sure you are properly fuelled up before you start is really important.

In answer to your question, should you go over your 2,500 allowance? The answer is yes. Try increasing your calories for a week or two, and keep a note of how you feel on your runs. Hopefully you should start to have a bit more energy, and not get hungry during exercising.

Best of luck with your training.

You are advised to seek medical advice before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle with an aim of weight loss. This website and the content provided should not be used by persons under 18, by pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with any type of health condition, except under the direct supervision of a qualified medical professional. The information contained in these articles, and elsewhere on this website, is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to replace, and does not constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis and may not be used for such purposes. Continue...