How to Avoid Overindulging on Too Many Calories After Exercise

running food

I came across this today and thought it was fitting. I always joke that I “run to support my eating habit.”

And honestly, I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Wow, you’re running a marathon? You must be burning sooo many calories. Guess you can eat whatever you want!”

While marathon training is NOT the time (I repeat: NOT the time) to try to lose weight, it also isn’t the time to overindulge. But, with the increase in exercise, it’s easy to get into a pattern of telling yourself “I deserve this because I ran 13 miles today.”

Enter The Nutritionist.

GilleanI asked my friend, Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD, to weigh in on the topic and here’s what the guest columnist had to say …

While serious athletes such as marathon runners do require additional calories to refuel and rebuild throughout the day and especially after a workout, it can be easy to fall into the “now I can eat whatever I want” mode and overdo it. This, of course, leads to lack of results and decreased or stalled performance. There are a few things you can do to make sure you are supplying your body with the additional nutrition is needs without going to far:

1. Choose the right kinds of foods to add to your daily routine as training increases.
Because endurance athletes engage in low to moderate intensity exercise over a long duration, they rely largely on the glycogen (or stored glucose) within the muscles to produce energy. That is often why higher carbohydrate diets are touted for endurance athletes because it helps replace glycogen in the muscles. By including fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, you can provide your body with the carbohydrates it needs. Optimal amounts of high-quality protein (such as whey protein) are also important to repair muscle that becomes damage from the prolonged training. Shoot for about 30 grams of protein per meal.

2. Be realistic about the amount of additional calories you need.
Just because you ran for 30 minutes doesn’t mean you can scarf down two pieces of pizza and a soda guilt-free. If you are casually jogging on a flat surface without much of an increase in heart rate, you aren’t going to be burning the hundreds of calories that you are telling yourself you are.

3. Listen to your body, not your mind.
Are you really hungry or does that maple-frosted donut just sound good? Our bodies are amazing creatures and have all the mechanisms in place to let us know when they need sustenance. Unfortunately, many times we let our brains take over and we eat to satisfy a craving rather than our actual hunger. Listen to your body and only grab food (nutritious food, that is) when your body is really asking for it.

Serious endurance athletes need to provide their bodies with adequate nutrition, but remember that it doesn’t give you a get-out-of-jail-free card. You still need to eat healthy, balanced meals, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and be careful not to overindulge.

Thanks, Gillean!

What do you think? What’s your biggest struggle as a marathon or distance runner? Zip me a comment and engage in the conversation!

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