Running is often regarded as one of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight. So why is it that many runners often find the opposite to be true? They are gaining weight despite sticking to a regular running schedule. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or you’ve just started hitting the trails, you might find yourself surprised and probably disappointed when the scale goes up even after long runs. Below are a some reasons why you might be gaining weight running.
You aren’t getting enough sleep
Waking up at 5AM to get a run in before work shows motivation and dedication. However, these early mornings should also come with earlier bedtimes so that you aren’t sacrificing sleep.
Jackie Dikos, Indianapolis-based sports dietician, tells womensrunning.com that insufficient sleep can leave you fatigued during the day, causing the body to crave extra calories as a quick source of energy. Crush these cravings by giving your body more quality shut-eye time, even if it means recording the new Game of Thrones episode to watch another night.
Your body is storing water
When you first start running or if you increase your training to prepare for a race, it is likely that you’ll see your weight bump up. Seems unfair, right? Don’t worry, your body isn’t trying to punish you after all of that effort. In fact, your body is trying to help you by storing more water to repair muscle fibers that get damaged from the stress of a new exercise regimen.
Dr. Gary Calabrese, PT, DPT Senior Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy at the Cleveland Clinic, explains, “That stress and micro-tearing damage to the muscle fibers induces water retention in the body. There may be a small amount of inflammation around the micro tear, and your body retains fluid there to try to heal it.”
Another reason why you may be gaining weight running is due to how your body provides energy to muscles. When you run regularly, your body holds on to more glycogen (the storage form of glucose in the muscle cells). According to the Cleveland Clinic, glycogen has to bind with water as part of the process of fueling muscles, which can add to the weight you may be gaining.
Luckily, this water weight is temporary. The more you run the more efficient your muscles become. Dr. Calabrese explains that efficient means the muscles “begin to need less glycogen to maintain the same level of energy output. Thus, your water retention becomes less, so your weight will start to go down.”
You aren’t supplementing with other forms of exercise
While running is an excellent way to workout, it’s not going to give your body everything it needs for maximal strength, optimized efficiency, and healthy weight loss. That’s why supplementing with other forms of exercise can be helpful if you are gaining weight running.
To improve your running and also prevent injuries, try incorporating another form of exercise along with your running routine, such as strength training. “With a proper strength-training program, this muscle breakdown can be assisted, and strength can be maintained through long-distance and endurance training,” Klein suggests.
You aren’t fueling yourself properly
Running, and exercise in general, can cause you to feel hungry afterwards. Although this is a normal feeling, eating the wrong types of foods post-run can render your entire workout as a waste of time. This is especially problematic with avid runners who may find it easy to justify eating an extra cookie or drinking a soda after completing a 10 mile run. While enjoying dessert every once in awhile is perfectly fine, eating clean post-run should be a priority.
Registered dietitian Kate Davis, owner of RDKate Sports Nutrition in Naperville, Ill., advises that when you finish a long run, “Focus on getting good nutrition to replenish glycogen stores and stimulate muscle recovery.”
It’s also important to fuel with protein post-run. Runner’s World explains that “Adequate protein intake accelerates muscle growth and speeds recovery by helping rebuild muscle fibers stressed during a run.”
Furthermore, ingesting a high-protein snack or shake post-run can help you to lose weight by reducing your hunger. According to Authority Nutrition, “A higher protein intake actually increases levels of the satiety (appetite-reducing hormones) GLP-1, peptide YY, and cholecystokinin, while reducing your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.” Therefore, fueling yourself with protein after a run can enable you to lose weight by decreasing the amount of calories you consume automatically.
To sum it up
Fortunately, many of the reasons mentioned above as to why you might be gaining weight running are temporary or have simple fixes. If you think the cause of your weight gain is due to water weight, try to be patient while your body adjusts to your increased level of exercise. Weight gain not caused by water can be controlled by ensuring you are getting enough sleep, supplementing with other forms of exercise, and fueling yourself with proper carbs and protein after a run.
One way to ensure you are getting the fuel your body needs after a challenging run is with Performance Inspired Nutrition’s Performance Whey protein powder. With its all-natural, high-quality formulation, it gives runners and any kind of athlete the protein they need to build their muscles, prevent injury, and improve their overall performance.