Running For Weight Loss: 3 Myths Debunked


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In this blog post, I play myth buster. The diet industry is constantly bombarding us with misinformation about nutrition and weight loss. As runners, this makes it very difficult to separate fact from fiction. I set the record straight on 3 common myths for those who are running for weight loss.


Myth #1: Carbohydrates Are Bad for You (and make you fat).

This myth has been around for a very long time due, in part, to the popularity of low carb diets. However, nothing could be further from the truth.carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes


Carbohydrates are an important energy source for your body, especially runners. Unfortunately, all carbohydrates are not created equal. Carbohydrates that should be eaten sparingly are highly processed and contain a large amount of refined sugars. These foods provide little or no nutritional value. Examples of processed foods include sugary cereals, white bread, syrup, cakes, and cookies.

The only times simple sugars are encouraged would be during and after longer training sessions.


Complex carbohydrates, often called starches, are need, to help runners fuel up before long or hard workouts, as well as during high mileage weeks.  Complex carbohydrates are found in foods like brown rice, oatmeal, and products that contain whole grains (cereal, bread and pasta). The truth is that these foods are low in calories and fat.


The problem arises when we eat too much of these foods or when we prepare these foods with sauces high in fat, added butter, mayonnaise, or sour cream. For example, there is nothing inherently fattening about pasta. However, when you prepare it with alfredo sauce it becomes a pretty unhealthy dish.


TRUTH: Carbohydrates don’t make you fat. Confusion exists because most Americans eat too much simple sugar. Runners should consume nutrition products like sports drinks and Gu only during and after long workouts, limiting them almost any other time. Finally, remember to manage your weight, all nutrients (not just carbs) should be eaten in moderation.

I talk about how to properly fuel with carbohydrates in a previous blog post. To read it click here.


Myth #2: Success is Only About the Scale

As you set out to run your way to weight loss be careful not to get too caught up on the movement of the scale. Scales can be used to indicate your general progress over the course of weeks and months, but shouldn’t be your only indicator of short-term success. Realize that day to day fluctuations in weight are normal.


As runners, there are lots of factors that affect weight, most notably fluid loss or retention. You shouldn’t get too excited or disappointed by changes in your daily weight.



For example, don’t let your morning weight determine how you will feel for the rest of the day. Also, you shouldn’t let a lack of weight loss over a short time period frustrate you or cause you to think about giving up. It is in these moments you need to look at the big picture. Are you making the small steps needed to reach your goal of achieving an optimal race weight (and ultimately running faster)?


When you focus on the positive behavior changes you are making the weight loss will follow but you have to be patient. If you have more energy, sleep better at night, are eating better and having better training runs then you have cause to celebrate. Don’t let the scale control your life and serve as your only barometer of success.


TRUTH: The scale is only ONE indicator of weight loss success. Other metrics like your confidence, how your clothes fit, your running mileage or pace, body composition, are some of the other ways to track success. Stick with it, you got this!



Myth #3: Record Keeping Doesn’t Matter

There are a lot of diet strategies that suggest you can eat all you want and still lose weight. Or that eating intuitively will solve your weight loss woes.  There are a lot of so called “experts” that tell you ‘don’t count calories” and that “calories don’t matter.” I can tell you from experience that calories DO matter! And you can’t control what you don’t measure.


How many of you track your weekly running mileage? I’d bet almost all of you do, right.  What if I asked you not to track your mileage or put together a training plan for your next a big race? First, you’d think I’m crazy and second without a plan you’d feel lost.


In my experience, tracking your nutrition is just as important as your weekly training mileage. Most of shutterstock_96454826us run about 4-10 times per week. Contrast this with eating. Depending on how many times you eat a day this might be 25-35 opportunities to make healthy choices or to sabotage your progress.


Keeping a food log is an essential ingredient for weight loss success. You can learn a lot of things from your food records. I feel you don’t have to track your food intake forever but it definitely helps in the first couple of weeks.


The more detailed your records the better. Keep track of what you eat, how much, how often, and when you eat. It may seem tedious and time consuming but record keeping will pay off….trust me on this one.


Most successful weight losers cite self-monitoring as a key reason for their success. Self-monitoring will help you in several ways.


Increased awareness of current habits

Keeping records increases awareness of your eating patterns. Once patterns become clear you can work on changing these habits. For instance, you believe you are eating 1,500 calories per day only to find that after self-monitoring it turns out you are actually consumed 2,400. Based on this information you can work on controlling calories.

Another poor eating behavior caught through record keeping is inappropriate meal timing. Maybe you eat most of your calories in the evening.  Recording when you eat your meals will make this pattern more noticeable.


Improved Adherence

You are more likely to make positive behavior choices because you are accountable to your records. This is one reason many don’t keep records; they would rather forget how much they are eating and how little they are running.  Just knowing that you are writing everything down helps avoid overeating or skipping workouts.


Track progress

Self-monitoring is an important way to tracking progress towards your eating and weight goals.


Problem solving

Self-monitoring can provide insightful information to help overcome your nutrition challenges. Your records can be used to break through a plateau or assist you in avoiding high risk situations.

TRUTH: Keeping food record are important in the early stages of changing your diet. You need to gauge you current habits and the effects of the changes you implement. Plus, tracking is easier now than ever with popular apps like MyFitnessPal.


To Summarize

These are just of few common myths that flood the internet and popular magazines. Now that I’ve debunked 3 of these it’s your turn. Comment below (or over on the facebook page) and tell me your favorite nutrition or weight loss myth. And if you have a nutrition related question you’d like me to tackle let me know.

Finally, if you’d like to get more information about nutrition basics, be sure to sign-up below for the FREE 7-part video course below.

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  1. Jenny Christopher says:

    Thank you for your Blog. I needed to hear all of this. Each Area is something I am currently interested in. I’ve been wondering about carbs, I have taken to keeping a food diary, but also I have also become a slave to the scale. Thank you for insight and perspective into all of these subjects and thank you for taking the time to share HEALTH!

  2. Lori Dather says:

    This is very helpful as I give quite a few presentations to running and sports groups…and I always direct them to your web site!

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Learn the exact steps I used to become a 9x Ironman finisher, ultramarathoner, and Boston Qualifier. Take the guesswork out of race-day nutrition.

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