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Why Runners Often Gain Weight

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Running is a common activity for people to start up when they are working on losing weight. On the one hand, running can be an excellent form of exercise and can help people find balance in their fitness and weight loss journey.

However, many people also find themselves actually putting on weight. Is that a common problem? Do you find yourself packing on pounds even though you are logging a lot of miles? What is the cause of gaining weight while running?

Is It Normal To Gain Weight When You Start Running?

Actually, for many people it is normal. The first most common problem people have is that they overcompensate for their running. In other words, they tell themselves, “Yay! I just ran five miles! I should celebrate with a donut or two or five.”

You get the drift. You can quickly overestimate the number of calories you have “earned” through your workout.

Why Am I Gaining Weight When Working Out?

The first thing to ask yourself is if your clothes fit differently or better. Do the pants that used to fit snuggly suddenly seem baggier? Can you breathe better in those skinny jeans? Overall if your clothes fit better you are likely toning and gaining muscle mass, which weighs more than fat and flab.

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Sometimes, if you are not losing weight while running and find yourself feeling frustrated, you do need to focus on the bigger picture. In other words, if you look and feel better, should the number on the scale even matter?

However, if you are gaining weight while running and you aren’t feeling better overall, you may be making some rookie mistakes.

Post Workout Rungries

A pitfall that many athletes fall into is that after a strenuous workout, they experience called the rungries. You guessed, it is post-run hunger that can cause a runner to seriously overeat. It is very common for a runner to eat way more calories than he or she has burned in the workout they just completed.

overeating adfter a run

If you are working on weight loss or control, think about your post-run fuel before you hit the road to run. If you have a refueling plan ready and planned out, you are less likely to make big eating mistakes after your run.

Food As Fuel

Some people really need help in finding a better attitude about food. If you look at food as fuel, it takes on a new perspective. Think about what you should eat before the workout to fuel your workout. This helps you to perform to your potential.

If you are working out for a longer period of time, you may need to consider fueling during your workout. For me, the magic number is 90 minutes. I can put forth a solid 75-80 minutes of running and be just fine. However, if I push it longer, the wheels fall off the cart.

I know if I will be out for 90 minutes or longer, I need to start fueling somewhere between 45 and 50 minutes and continue to fuel every 45 minutes or so.

I also have learned to plan my post-workout food. Otherwise, well I do something crazy like run 18 miles then eat an entire chocolate cake. Yes, that happened. Yes, I did regret it (although, in my defense, it was a really small cake…..).

Planning your post-run fuel by balancing a carb and a protein will help prevent overeating when you first walk in the door.

Why Do I Look Thinner But Weigh More?

Sometimes athletes experience the unimaginable horrors of actually gaining weight when they start running or engaging in other vigorous exercises. If you look thinner but weigh more, there are explanations!

  • Water Retention – As you build muscle, the muscles experience micro-tears that need to repair between workouts. In order to aid in this process, your body retains water. This water causes an increase in the number on the scale. Most runners find themselves actually up a pound or two for a couple of days after each long run, so don’t let that surprise you.
  • Glycogen Conversion – Your body will also be converting glycogen to glucose so your body can use it as fuel. In order to become that fuel, the glycogen needs water. As you just read, water adds an increase in the number on the scale.
  • Muscle Gains – Remember, the muscle you are building weighs more than fat. Focus on how you look and don’t be a slave to the scale!

Can Running Too Much Cause Weight Gain?

First, define “too much” running. If you are running all the time without giving your body time to recover, your body is likely to revolt against you!  Over-exercising can also lead to overeating, which can be counterproductive.

Remember: your calories burned need to be more than your calories taken in, if you are expecting to lose weight. It really is that simple. People also expect to lose weight overnight even though they did not gain the weight overnight. That simply is not a realistic expectation.

Why Can’t I Lose Weight Running?

If all of the aforementioned things have not helped you to figure out what is going on with you, and why the scale is not moving in the right direction, perhaps you need to change how you are running.

Some people find that a slow burn type of running is the best way to burn calories and lose weight. This means you should try switching up the intensity of your running. If you run a longer time at a slower pace, you are likely to turn your body into fat-burning mode.

not losing weight running

Although high-intensity interval training is a great training tool, you can overdo it in that regard. Exercise is stressful to your body. Intense exercise is even more stressful to your body. For this reason, no matter how motivated you are to work hard and lose weight, your body needs balance.

You have to balance some easier, less intense workouts with the high rev ones if you want to be successful!

Practice Patience

The last thing for you to remember is that you did not gain weight overnight and you won’t lose it overnight either. Be patient. If you lose the weight slowly and methodically, you are more likely to successfully keep it off.

Join our private, growing community of passionate runners

Inside RunnerClick Pro, runners of all strengths come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, participate in personal challenges, and more.