Weightloss Tips & Nutritional Advice For Runners

January 1, 2015

Happy New Year - New Year, New You?

Today marks the start of 2015, and for many of us it signifies a new beginning Whether it means cutting out specific habits like smoking, drinking, eating junk food or inactivity, or adapting an altogether healthier lifestyle.

Nutrition is a cornerstone to any healthy lifestyle and with this in mind, we've shared a selection of tips - covering weightloss, maintenance and nutritional advice for runners.

Read on to find out more about how you can reach your weightloss goals in 2015...

Weight or fat reduction is generally motivated by a desire to optimise running performance. In an attempt to achieve weight loss, runners are exposed to much misinformation about weight loss and dieting. In some cases, the methods used to reduce weight become extreme in nature, increasing the likelihood of decreased performance and the risk of psychological effects.

Low energy availability can result in irreversible loss of bone and hormonal imbalances.

Safe weight loss is 0.5-1 kg a week. This is achieved by a combination of a balanced calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise. Regular exercise is exercising at moderate to high intensity levels for at least 30 min five times a week.

To lose weight:

A food diary is the way to start. Make a true reflection of the runner’s daily eating patterns for three days; one day must be a weekend. From there, identify the nutrition pitfalls.

These include sugary foods, desserts, sweetened drinks, alcoholic beverages, savoury snacks, biscuits and crackers. Depending on how quickly you wish to lose weight, you can either eliminate them completely or make an honest effort to reduce the quantity. E.g. if you usually have two cans of sweetened drinks a day such as ice lemon tea and a cola drink, reduce to one can a day first for a week and gradually eliminate it completely.

In the food diary, it is also important to note the mood and place of the person’s meal. Emotional or stress eating can play a huge role in hampering weight loss. Stress eating requires more discipline and self control as it is your mind that can cause mindless eating. Vent your stress out either through exercise or take a breather outside. A five minute walk around the block is better than wolfing down a bag of chips in five minutes.

Eliminate triggers that can sabotage weight loss efforts such as going to a fast food place after a workout or eating in the pantry during mid afternoon in the office. Stay clear of ‘danger zones’.

Remove visible fat from the diet such as butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream and fresh cream. Learn to eat breads plain or potatoes with salsa instead of sour cream. These fat laden spreads pack a bundle of calories in a tiny amount.

Remove fat from meats and poultry. Discard the chicken skin and beef fat trimmings. Too much excess fat makes you sluggish and slows you down. The reverse is also true, when you remove excess fat, you will feel energised.

Prepare your post-run food. If it is still a few hours away to your main meal, prepare a healthy snack so you do not get tempted by unhealthy snacks or tidbits. Healthy snacks include a fruit or low fat yoghurt, a half sandwich or low fat milk. Your post workout snack must be less than 150kcal, if needed. This is so that you do not inadvertently consume the amount of calories you have just burned. If it is time for a proper meal, make sure you order one main course, no appetiser or dessert. Post-run, you might be ravenous and ready to gobble down what is in front of you but you need to eat slowly! Savour every morsel of food as that is all you will be having for that meal.

Water should be your beverage of choice most of the time. You do not need fruit juices, milk, malted beverages or cultured milk drinks. You can easily drink your calories. Stick to water.

Once you have trimmed off those inches and gotten rid of the excess flab, here comes the weight maintenance.

To maintain weight and keep the weight off:

Healthy Eating

Have a healthy balance of low glycemic index and high glycemic index foods. Brown rice, wholemeal bread, multigrain grain bread, high fibre cereals can be balanced with potatoes, pasta and even white bread. Please do not write off white bread completely. They are extremely useful when it comes to recovery as they are a quick delivery of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. Just plan them wisely in your diet.

Eat leaner cuts of meat such as sirloin and tenderloin where the fat contents are lower than the chuck and ribeye. Chicken breast and chicken thigh are fine, just remove the skin. It is fine to cook with some oil; pan-fried, stir fried, grilling, baking and roasting are healthy cooking methods. Just avoid deep-frying or having a layer of batter or crumbs around it.

Other healthy protein foods that should be spread out over 3-4 meals a day include fish, seafood, tofu, beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, low fat dairy: milk, yoghurt and cheese. Recent evidence shows that adequate calcium intake promotes weight loss. Ensure you get at least one serving of low fat dairy into your daily diet.

Fruits and vegetables are essential to your weight maintenance phase. It provides you with the fibre, minerals and vitamins to keep hunger at bay and repairs your muscles and tissues to prepare you for your next run. You need to eat 2-3 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Eat different colours of each to get a spectrum of antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables provide both soluble and insoluble fibre that keeps you full and maintain healthy bowel movements. Healthy bowel movements are important to a runner as it makes them feel ‘light’.

At this weight maintenance stage, sports drinks can come in handy but use them wisely. You only need them for runs longer than 60mins and it should be drunk on workout days. If you drink them on non-workout days, you can gain unnecessary weight. Water should still remain your beverage of choice.

To accelerate fat burning post-runs:

Hydrate with 300-500ml sports drink if your run is longer than 60min. If it is less than 60 mins, water is fine. Hydration is important in fat burning. A dehydrated state will reduce efficient metabolism.

Next, ensure your next meal is very low in fat. It should contain low glycemic carbohydrate foods and lean protein foods so that your body and muscle can absorb immediately.

Examples: Wholemeal sandwich with grilled chicken breast and tomatoes as opposed to a beef steak with fries and chilli sauce. Other healthy post work-run meals are brown rice with salmon, wholemeal pasta with chicken and vegetables.

On a special note, female runners should pay particular attention if they miss their periods
as it is an indication of a too sudden reduction in body fat which is unhealthy and could have detrimental side effects. Should that happen, see a physician or sports doctor.

A runner should always aim to be of a healthy weight and achieve that weight in a sensible manner. There is no need to count calories or be obsessed with counting fat grams. Look at the portions served and use common sense to make an informed decision. To know the exact portions for his/her weight and height, do see a sports dietitian who can plan his/her menu specifically to meet his/her needs.

Thanks for reading!

This post has been written by Jaclyn Reutens, qualified dietician (http://www.aptima-nsc.com)

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