I love training for races. Whether I’m working on a longer distance race like a half marathon or trying to shave some minutes off my 5K time, I truly enjoy pushing myself and seeing results on race day. That’s the upside of training.
The downside of training is that I usually notice my pants end up a little more snug anytime I spend a few months training. Realistically, I know most of that “weight gain” is actually muscle (we all know muscle weighs more than fat); however, I also know I tend to get much more hungry and eat more junk food any time I’m training (I deserve it, right? ha). While I try not to deprive myself of calories if I’m training, I do try to reel things in a bit when I feel weight creeping on. Below are a few ways I (attempt to) counteract weight gain during training.
Go hard on the veggies: Although I always feel like I deserve to eat all the carbs when I’m training, the reality is that a) they don’t fill me up that much and b) they are typically useless calories. When I find myself overly hungry during training, I will try to get as many vegetables in during each meal as possible. This helps me fill up on low-calorie food that is good for me and keeps my carb intake at a minimum.
Treat myself: This may seem counterproductive, but I try to treat myself every so often when I’m training. Whether it’s allowing myself a beer with dinner or a cookie at lunch, I try to let myself have one treat each day and keep the remainder of my meals healthy that way I’m not overeating unhealthy foods throughout the entire day.
Avoid the scale: I don’t tend to weigh myself while I’m training for two reasons: 1) I often mistake muscle gain for fat and 2) I’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past and don’t want to set myself up for failure if the scale doesn’t read what I want it to. Instead, I do my best to eat intuitively and gauge my weight by how my clothes fit (keeping in mind that my legs tend to gain muscle when I’m training, so my pants will be a little tighter inevitably). This allows me to eat when I’m hungry and not be worried about taking in calories when my body truly needs them.
After I’ve completed whatever race it is I’ve been training for, I usually allow myself some down time for a month or so after where I focus on other types of workouts (spin, yoga, circuit training, etc.) so I can regulate my appetite and lose a little bit of that muscle-gain in my legs. When I’m not running as much (or as far), I tend to lose weight based on the fact that I’m not as rungry (ha!).
I hope this helps some of you who, like me, struggle with weight gain while training. I would love to hear how you keep a handle on this as well in the comments section.