Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Does Running Make you Fat? Part 1

Isn't that a weird question? If you were a random, non-running person on the street, you'd probably laugh if someone asked you that kind of thing, because du-uh, RUNNING MAKES PEOPLE SKINNY.

Or does it?

Honestly, I don't think there's a straight and easy answer to this question. And actually, it should probably be phrased more like this: Does Running Make YOU Fat?

But I'll start by saying this. On it's own, no--running doesn't make people fat. But their habits around running? Those might do it.

Here are a few things to think about...

1) A lot of people start running because they want to lose a bunch of weight. Either they actually have some weight to lose, or they *think* they have some weight to lose and the totally don't. Either way, this group of people, who make up a huge percentage of the running community, already think they're fat--whether or not it's true. And even when a heavier person loses some weight, guess what? They usually still think they're fat.

The truth is, runners can sometime be a twisted up group of people. They tend to be high acheivers, their own worst critics, and always working toward another goal. So before anything else, take an honest look at your sense of self, and how you interpret your own body. Chances are, you're probably just fine.

2) That said, there are lots of runners our there who I could safely call 'skinny fat.' In other words, they look slender and wear a small size, but have pretty poor muscle tone.When you see Olympic level runners on TV, and their bicep veins are popping out all over the place, I guarantee you that's not from running—those muscles develop in the weight room.

Runners are so incredibly infamous for not being able to do a pushup. Think about this: Most people running in a marathon, probably can't do 10, or even 1 single pushup. The ability to run 26.2 miles, but barely carry a bag of groceries? That's a fitness imbalance, and a 100% surefire way to get injured.

I say it every day--fitness is like a 3-point triangle. Stregnth, Flexibility, and Endurance. If you want an athletic build, you HAVE to focus on all 3.

3) Running burns a lot of calories, so running--especially longer distances--makes you really, really hungry. If you don't properly plan your food, this type of hunger totally opens you up to the overeating--guilt--running--overeating--guilt--running cycle.

Think about it this way: Most normal, grown women should eat about 1800 calories per day. Since we're dealing with [crazy] runner, let's pretend they're on a calorie--restricted diet, taking in about 1500 daily. If that runner goes out and does an 8 mile training run, they just burnt about 800 calories. Now their net calorie intake for the day is 700.

Maybe you're thinking, "Wow, that's awesome. I'd get really skinny."

No, you probably won't. Either you'll completely overeat during the next 24 hours, or your body will freak out, drop into starvation mode, and hang onto every little fat part on your body.

That 8-mile runner up there? They should have refueled with 800 EXTRA calories of good food--not cake, not pizza, not milkshakes. Something like a big old homecooked meal, and an extra mini-meal before bed.

When you refuel, you're not undoing what you just did during your run. You're PRESERVING what you just did in your run.

I'm gonna go ahead and repeat that one more time. When you refuel, you're not undoing what you just did during your run. You're PRESERVING what you just did in your run.

...to be continued.


  1. UGH... guilty. I won't admit to which part(s) but let's just say "more then one". Good info. I definitely have areas to focus on and rethink.

  2. Thank you I needed this today. I'm in the last 20lbs that I NEED to lose to be at a healthy weight. I am doing weights and running. It seems to be going sooo slowly though. So I needed a reminder that CUTTING calories is not what I need to do. I just need to hang on and keep plugging along and things will fall into place. I feel like I should have lost more by now (LOL!)

    I'm doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred and then doing Couch to 5K 3/4 days a week. So this post really hit home for me. Thank you once again Amy for your words of wisdom.

  3. BTW, I've nominated you for a "One Lovely Blog" award. See my post:) I always love reading your blog!!

  4. Thank you so much for bringing this up! So many people finish a run and think, "Wow, I just burned a bunch of calories and my metabolism is up so I should starve myself for the next hour and loose some fat!" Completely opposite of what you should do! Healthy refueling after a run, preferable within 30 minutes, is crucial to muscle building and keeping your body's systems healthy and in balance.