Running for Weight Loss: What You Eat Counts

If your goal for lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement is weight loss, the right foods and proper timing is very important. Skimping on meals or snacks to save calories will not only make you hungrier, but it will sabotage your weight loss efforts. It is important to create the calorie deficit and the right timing of meals and snacks will help avoid the cravings for junk food. Studies have shown skipping meals will cause you to eat more throughout the day. When your blood sugar drops, you start craving anything sweet. If you cave into the cravings, you can end up eating several hundred empty calories, i.e. foods that provide no nutrition benefit. Eating three meals with snacks throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar stable and reduce these unhealthy cravings.

The plate method to portion control is a favorite for setting up lunch and dinner in the right portions. What would you normally put in the largest area of a three-sectioned plate? Ninety percent of the time the answer is the meat or carbohydrate which is where the excess calorie intake occurs. The largest section, or half of your plate, should be non-starchy vegetables (starchy vegetables are potatoes, beans and corn); a quarter of your plate should be carbohydrate while the other quarter should be your protein. Setting up your plate this way, you are still eating volume from the vegetables, but eliminating excess calories. The vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs along with fiber to help keep you full longer. If you are consuming a casserole or a pasta dish, always think of the vegetable. I recommend adding the vegetable to your plate instead of using a separate dish. This still gives the illusion of having a full plate while saving calories at the same time.

Fluid intake is also important not only in exercise but also in weight loss. If you are not consuming enough water you are hindering your exercise performance and you can also end up over eating – our bodies can confuse dehydration with hunger. When you think you may be hungry, think of how much water you’ve had for the day. The goal is to aim for 2 to 3 liters per day.

My favorite saying is “you can have all foods in moderation.” The key word being moderation; when you restrict yourself to the point of being miserable, your plan will not last. Diet and exercise come hand in hand in successful weight loss. You are already starting with the exercise piece by hitting the road, so complete the lifestyle change and incorporate a healthy diet at the same time! As you become more comfortable running and able to increase your mileage, your diet becomes even more important as the fuel for your training.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas (200 to 250 calories):

Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt + ½ cup frozen fruit + ½ cup bran flakes

Mini whole wheat bagel + 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (Substitute 1 tablespoon of PB2 in place of the peanut butter to save 60 calories)

3 egg white omelet (tomatoes, onion, spinach and 1-ounce of goat cheese) with ½ of an whole wheat English muffin and 1 tablespoon of jam

Snack Ideas (100 to 150 calories): Pair a carbohydrate and protein for a well rounded snack!

Apple + one low fat cheese stick (140 calories, 8 grams of protein)

Celery sticks + 1 Tbsp peanut butter (120 calories, 4 grams of protein)

Vegetables (sliced bell pepper, carrots, cucumber) + 2-oz hummus (130 calories, 6 grams of protein)

Homemade trail mix (raw nuts, dried fruit and bran cereal = 1 oz or the size of the palm of your hand)

Fat Free Greek Yogurt (100-140 calories, 15-18 grams of protein)