Losing weight isn’t just about counting kilojoules – choose when and how you eat to lose kilos and still have the energy for running.
If you’re watching the kilos, it’s good to know running is one of the most efficient ways to stay trim. But, as weight-loss is often explained in terms of kilojoules eaten versus kilojoules burned, it’s tempting to simply increase the length of your runs or decrease your food intake. Unfortunately, both these strategies are unlikely to keep weight off in the long-term, and may lead to fatigue, poor health and weight regain. Your body is a complex organism and controlling your food intake sensibly means more than just keeping a tab on kilojoules. After all, if you end up being hungry most of the time, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to maintain a lower kilojoule intake forever, and you probably won’t have any spare energy for running. So read our guide to sustained weight-loss and learn how to keep the kilos off for good.
Golden rule 1:
Eat for appetite control
Eating is normally initiated by hunger signals, sent to the brain by a hormone called ghrelin. When food enters the gastrointestinal tract, it triggers the release of other hormones, including leptin and insulin which, in turn, send signals to the brain to tell it that you’re full.
Eating slowly and chewing food fully will give your brain a chance to receive these satiation signals before you’ve eaten too much. This will not only help you eat fewer kilojoules at mealtimes, it allows you to spread your kilojoule intake across the day, which leads to better energy levels to support your running.
Golden rule 2:
Eat for blood sugar control
Do you crave chocolate or chips between meals? Or fancy a sugary snack in the evening? If you eat in the traditional pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s likely you answered ‘yes’ to both these questions. Recent research from the American Journal of Epidemiology reveals that spacing your kilojoules across more meals and reducing the quantity at each sitting, is a better way to control your intake and is more likely to lead to healthier food choices. So why is this? Larger meals lead to greater blood sugar fluctuations, which rise immediately after eating and dip in the period afterwards. If you eat bigger portions, you’re likely to experience an increase in energy followed by a feeling of lethargy one to two hours after eating. The problem with this is low blood sugar levels lead to sugar cravings, meaning not only will that chocolate biscuit become much more tempting, you’ll also reach for a packet of chips or a bowl of white pasta as well. So it’s not just sugar you’ll crave, savoury refined carbohydrates also contain simple sugars, and, with a high glycemic load (GL), they’ll upset your blood sugar balance even further.
Golden rule 3:
Eat to increase satiety
The classic problem with kilojoule restriction is that it leaves most people feeling hungry. When you’re running, you’re going to be feeling even hungrier. The 2009 Annual Review of Nutrition shows that protein fills you up for longer compared to any other nutrient, so simple strategies, such as eating a protein-rich breakfast, can mean you eat less the rest of the day. Combining low-GL carbohydrates, including wholegrain cereals, bread or grains, with low-fat protein-rich foods, such as beans, white meat, fish and nuts, is more likely to help you manage your appetite than simply eating carbohydrate-rich meals and snacks. It’s also a good idea to eat fruit, salad or vegetables at each meal, as this will help you meet your vitamin and mineral needs and support your health in the long-term. If you follow these three golden rules and eat a healthy balanced diet, instead of spending your day counting how many kilojoules you have left to eat and dreaming about chocolate desserts, you can enjoy the feeling of being sated on healthy, nutritious foods, and still have plenty of energy left for running.
A question of timing
According to research in the American Journal of Epidemiology, eating your largest meal in the evening increases the likelihood of gaining weight, and eating breakfast each morning drastically reduces it. The most effective way of eating for weight-loss is to have small regular meals, ideally five small meals or snacks, three hours apart throughout the day, which drive your metabolism and are easily digested. This way, a small occasional treat won’t increase your waistline.
TOP TIPS TO LOSE WEIGHT
Don’t cut carbs
If you want to run regularly, carbohydrates are an important source of energy, so don’t be tempted to follow a very low-carb diet. Instead, choose low-GL foods, and aim for a fist-sized portion at each meal. Remember to support longer runs with a carbohydrate drink.
Don’t skip meals
It may seem like a simple way to reduce your kilojoule intake, especially if you’ve overindulged the day before, but you will pay for any missed meals with poor energy levels and accelerated muscle loss. Muscle is more metabolically-active than fat, so as you lose muscle cells, your body needs fewer kilojoules – meaning you gain weight even though you’re eating less kilojoules. Not what you want! Simply reducing the portion size of your lunch and dinner to leave extra kilojoules for a sensible mid-morning and midafternoon snack will balance your blood sugar levels so your cravings disappear and your energy levels improve; a great combination for boosting your energy for running and maintaining a healthy weight. Try a small handful of almonds and an apple, low-fat cottage cheese and pineapple or a small serving of sushi. All of these foods have a low GL, so they raise your blood sugar levels slowly and keep your energy levels stable.