If you've started a running program, you may be surprised when higher numbers stare up at your from the scale a week into your workouts. But before you chuck your running shoes and throw in the towel, rest assured that it is common for beginning runners to gain weight. By learning what causes the weight gain, you can take steps to avoid it, and continue on your merry way jogging toward a healthier life.
Many runners think they can eat whatever they want because running burns a high amount of calories — about 115 calories per mile, according to running coach Joe English. But the formula for weight loss is burning more calories than you consume, and if you consume more than you burn, you will gain weight. Choose nutrient-dense foods to fuel you instead of empty calories such as soda, desserts and prepackaged snacks. High-calorie, low nutrient foods can add up to extra pounds.
Another reason you may gain weight when embarking on a jogging program is from an increase in your appetite. Your body will need more calories to fuel it because of your increased activity level. The mistake many beginning runners make, however, is not eating more but eating the wrong foods. Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid to help you choose healthy foods that contribute to a well-balanced diet instead of snack foods, fast food or other low-nutrient options.
When you start running, your body composition will shift as you gain muscle mass and lose fat. Muscle weighs more than fat, so even if you are losing fat pounds, you may gain weight from muscle. You can determine if you are losing fat by using other measurements for your weight loss besides a scale. Calculate your BMI — body mass index — using an online calculator. Your BMI gives an estimate of your percentage of body fat, based on your height and weight. Another way to measure your changing body is to measure your waist regularly. As you get in shape and lose fat, your waist will become thinner, even if your muscle weight is increasing.
Your Running Program
If you adjust your lifestyle by incorporating a healthy diet and measuring your success beyond the scale and you are still not satisfied with your results, examine your running program. To burn more calories, gradually increase the duration of your runs. If you are 150 lbs. and run for half an hour at 10-minute mile pace, you will burn about 341 calories. At this rate, it would take you a little more than 10 workouts to burn 3,500 calories, or one pound of fat. If you increase your workout to 45 minutes at the same pace, you will burn about 511 calories, taking about seven workouts to lose a pound.
Consult your doctor before beginning a running program. New runners sometimes push themselves too hard to run farther or faster, which can lead to injuries and burnout. If you want to increase your run times, do it gradually by adding a few minutes to your runs each session. It is important to give your body time to rest and recover by taking a rest day at least once a week.