Advice For The Runner On A Diet

silhouettes-of-running_peoplesilhouettes-of-running_peopleMany newbie runners first put on their trainers with one primary goal. Dieting and Weight loss.

This post is designed to give you guys a helping hand. We all know why it’s so attractive as a weight loss measure. The stereotypical runner is skinny, has great abs and a tendency to wear less clothes when exercising than your average stripper. If you’ve actually been to a race (in particular the ones with the big entry) you’ll know that runners come in ALL shapes and sizes. Tall, short, fat, thin, muscle bound, waif, the road welcomes you all.

And OK, I’m not going to dispute that running is one of the better exercises for calorie burn, with a 91kg man burning 755kcal in an hour at ONLY a 12 min/mile pace.

Running also utilises the aerobic energy system (rather than anaerobic which is the one the body builders and sprinters use) and one of the favourite fuels of this bad boy is FAT! Yup, why bother to shell out for liposuction and end up with a saggy stomach you can carry a week’s worth of shopping in, when running uses fat cells and tones at the SAME time!

It’s seems to good to be true……well there is a pesky little catch to this energy system. The more adapt your body comes at burning fat, the better it comes at storing it as well. Oh yeah water, running makes your body like to store water as well. The reason for this pesky adaptations is too make you a better endurance runner, however not so good if you are looking to shift the pounds. This is why it’s always best to boost your metabolic rate by adding some resistance exercises as these also encourage a higher fat burn in your day to day life.

Fat just sits there and doesn’t do anything, it’s like walking around with a weighted backpack. Muscle is hungry, needs to constantly eat so imagine that pack is full of fluffy, yet hench pet hamsters instead. Resistance work will also many runner injuries.

However running will help you lose weight…..if you use it correctly. I’m living proof. Here’s my before and after pictures.

3 Years LaterMe + 6 stone

That’s me three years ago and six stone heavier, me now. There’s no photoshop. I didn’t eat cabbage soup for two week, cereal, babyfood or sell my car pay for company deliver ‘meals on wheels’ to my house. I also did not (the list continues) cut out any foods ESPECIALLY NOT CARBS AND DAIRY, eat like Neanderthal man, take any pills apart from the odd vitamin.

So how did I do it………..

Losing weight is a simple equation (assuming you don’t have anything medically or psychologically wrong with you)

If you burn more than you eat you lose weight

If you burn less than you eat you put on weight

If you eat the same as you burn, maintain your weight.


Raise your hand if you are surprised. The secret isn’t in whatever celebrity fad is in the media. You simply have to EAT LESS. BOOM!

Now okay. I have simplified it slightly. There are a few tricks that help. But its mostly stuff you know already. The internet is a vast source of knowledge but a lot of $%&$£ is out there concerning nutrition, and unless you work in this field or have studied it, its really difficult to sort through the rubbish.

The Magic 500

Now I know we all want to get as much weight off as possible. A few programmes out there have conned us into believing that its perfectly normal to go from Supersize to Next Top Model in a couple of weeks.



Losing weight at that rate is not healthy, its not ACHIEVABLE .

YOU WILL FAIL. And when you fail you will beat yourself up and tell you its your fault. This is how diet companies have been making money for so long. They show you magic and promise you a solution that isn’t simply can’t be done. So when you fail you blame yourself. I ask you, what normal person could live off just baby food? Pretty much everyone with a sane psychiatric profile and taste buds will have sacked it off after a week.

Also what they don’t tell you is if your daily intake more than 500kcal less than you need (ie if you need 2000kcal and you take in less than 1500) you enter a famine state. Your metabolic rate slows, muscle is broken down and you store fat like crazy. As soon as you start to eat again you will put on weight quicker than before you began your fast.

For the prospective runner, this is even more damaging to performance as if you do not have the carbohydrates in your system to run, then you will seriously under achieve.  A lack of protein/dairy will also hasten injuries and reduce gains from work outs. Cutting out any food groups on diets such as Dukan, the Elimination, Paleo, and Cabbage Soup might mean you cut out a vital vitamin from your diet and put you on a one way track to a serious injury.

Don’t rush. You can lose weight with this sport, but its a marathon, not a sprint.

The Eatwell Plate.

This is what your plate/daily food intake should look like. And yes, there is a naughty section! No one said you should never eat a chocolate bar again, however it’s about moderation.



Everyone gets excited over wholegrains because they contain a triple whammy of B vitamins, fibre and complex carbohydrates (carbs that do not come from sugar if you are looking at a food label). The B vitamin group are great for runners as they help us convert glucose and fats into energy. Complex carbs produce a sustained energy release rather than causing a blood sugar spike. Its these spikes that make us get hungrier quicker as when our blood sugar reaches a peak insulin is released and the levels then drop dramatically, triggering the chemical to be released that causes hunger (and craving for high fat, high sugar foods). We can only ride this roller-coaster for so long before we end up with diabetes. Complex carbs release slower so our blood sugars don’t spike, but drop slowly over time, hunger is triggered later and in a more controlled manner so we hopefully make better choices.

Fibre also fills us up and adds bulk to the stomach, keeping us full. It also slows down the release of sugars. However runners, beware about eating high fibre foods right before a hard/long run as this could lead to a brown streak down the back of your shorts.

Portion Control

I have no shame in saying this was my biggest problem. For YEARS I thought ‘serves 4’ meant serves 2. No it doesn’t. I just ate too much.

I’m still not great with the whole cheese thing. Did you know the maximum daily portion of cheese is the size of a matchbox! A normal one, not one of those cooks match boxes either! I eat that just while cooking!big gulp

Portions vary from person to person. They are normally determined by age (it might seem obvious that your 7 year old doesn’t need the same portion as you, but at McDonalds I bet they can polish off an adult meal), activity level and muscle mass. However if you want a simplified version look at your hands.

Carbs – size of a clenched fist

Veg – two cupped hands

Meat/protein – palm (yes steak lovers the proper meat portion is only the size of your palm, the bit without the fingers)

Fruit – size of a clenched fist

Fats and Oils – half a thumb

Again, this is only a rough guide. Don’t take anything too literally, but it might show you where one of your food groups is completely out of whack.



There are definitely a few ways you can make things easier on yourself. Studies show that if we give ourselves ‘pause points’ when we eat we are more likely to consume less. Basically if you had a giant bag of Doritos (200g), chances are you’d scoff the lot, how many of us eat 6 packets of normal crisps (30g bags) from a multi pack?

It’s the pause points that slow you down and make you evaluate your hunger. You can do at dinner time by dishing up on smaller plates (so it seems bigger) and keeping the food in the kitchen to create a pause point for when you wish to have seconds.

Another study recently showed that if you leave the evidence of your eating at the table, such as leaving chicken wing bones on your plate rather than clearing them then you will also eat less.

Eating in groups is another danger. This can affect our intake by as much as 30% with studies suggesting the worst group size for scoffing is 6. Now I’m not saying don’t go out with your friends, if some of you kind people HAVE six friends (joke) to go to dinner with then you should get out and share the running love. However keep an eye on the old portions when you do.

Performance VS Weight Loss

Finally newbie once the highly addictive, highly contagious viral sport bites you then you have to be aware of the affect a restricted diet and reduced body fat will have on performance.

Weight loss will speed you up, pound for pound. Especially if you are large to begin with. You will find yourself not only quicker but able to run further. Yes newbies, you will feel less like a asthmatic tortoise and more like a cartoon Road Runner after six cans of Red Bull!!!


However if you ARE not a larger lad or lass and your body fat drops then this could HARM your performance. We actually need some fat no matter what the fashion industry tells us, so if your body fat drops below healthy ( 10-13% for women and 2-5% for men is considered the bear minimum) then best get some cake in. It has an important role in hormone production, vitamin/mineral storage, protection and insulation of organs as well as provision of structural components of cells. A lack of fats means that you are on a one way track to injury and illness as well as a drop in times.

Cutting your carbs could also affect performance, particularly if your one of these stupid people that comes out with fads like ‘I’m not eating wheat this month’. As if wheat/bread was the source off all evil. I’m pretty sure that as recently as the 60’s obesity wasn’t a problem, yet we were still tucking into a sliced loaf. Let me put this bluntly

People it’s JUNK FOOD and MASSIVE PORTIONS that make you fat!!!!!

Unless you have an allergy/intolerance you do not need to cut anything from your diet. What might do you some good is reducing the amount of high fat/sugar foods you eat!

Sorry rant over. But the important thing is, do not cut carbs. It slows your metabolism down and affects how effectively we burn fats. This is why they should be in each meal. Also without them you will not reach your potential on the road, so if you are running to lose weight don’t neglect the pasta.

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8 Responses to Advice For The Runner On A Diet

  1. Hilarious. But oh so true!

  2. TartanJogger says:

    Exactly right. I’ve lost- and kept off- 50lbs by following this simple, basic advice. Energy in, energy out. It’s my big mantra. No cutting out food groups, no ‘diet’ foods. Just eating less and moving more.

    • Exactly moderate not eliminate. Diet foods can be a con as they are often high in sugar, simply smaller or almost exactly the same as the normal product but twice the price. Well done on your weight loss!!!!

  3. mtbader says:

    Awesome and informative post! Gotta always be aware of what you’re taking in–I know I’ve actually gained weight in the past training for a marathon because you get the “I can eat whatever I want because I’m running so much” mindset. Whoops!

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