How to run and gain weight: reduce carbs?

Yesterday was my off day, so I went for a 2 mile walk (part way with HM before he had to go to work) and then TJ and I drove a new 8 mile course he mapped out in our neighborhood.  I really can’t imagine that it was only a year ago I was pushing it to run 2 miles every other day and now I am working toward 7-8 a day.  How things have changed in such a short time!

Now to the subject of this post: I have written in the past on this blog about my struggles with running and losing weight.  I have been really perplexed as to the reason I can run 35 miles a week and eat well and still not lose (or even gain) weight.  I found an article the other day that really seemed to nail my issue.  It is from and deals with people who workout  and have an issue with weight (in this case body building, but I know it could apply to running also).

Here is a quote: “Our bodybuilder suffered metabolic damage: a drastic slowing of the metabolism that is caused by excessive caloric restriction, cardio, and stress on the body.”

Essentially, working out hard, eating low carbs and pushing your body can kill your metabolism.  What is confusing is that I can run 10 miles and my app says I burned 1,400 calories.  Wow, then I should be able to eat a bit more than normal.  NOT.  I gain weight.

Metabolism Massacre: 7 ways to avoid undermining your fat loss

Here are some highlights of the article:

It’s All about Survival 

Let’s clear one thing up right now. It is normal for the metabolism to slow down on any diet or calorie restriction. This is all due to metabolic adaptation.

As soon as our hypothetical competitor cut calories from 3,000 to 1,600, his metabolism began to downshift. Many people do not realize that the body uses calories simply through digesting and processing food. This is described as the thermic effect of food. The simple act of eating less causes lower energy output.

Once the body senses a loss of body fat, it will begin to lower thyroid levels and diminish nervous system output in an effort to stop the weight loss. Once further calorie cuts are made and cardio is increased, fat loss will resume again, and the body further lowers thyroid levels and nervous system output. It also lowers testosterone levels and raises cortisol levels, both of which eventually lead to muscle loss. Since muscle is a metabolically active tissue—it consumes calories simply to exist—the metabolism will drop even further.

So why does the body sabotage effort like this? It’s simple: survival. If our bodybuilder ate 3,000 calories per day, cut his calories to 2,500, and his body did not have these adaptive abilities, he would lose weight continually without stopping until he eventually died. Luckily, nobody starves to death on 2,500 calories per day—even though it may feel like it sometimes. These normal adaptations are necessary for survival.

The human body is an amazing adaptive machine that always strives for homeostasis. Whatever condition the body is put in, it will strive to survive within that new norm. For a successful prep, you need to understand how to work with your body as much as possible, and understand that your body will automatically take measures in response to calorie intake or expenditure.

5 Tips to Prevent a Slowdown

Luckily, there are several ways to prevent serious metabolic issues from occurring. The metabolism will slow a bit on any diet, but this does not and should not lead to extreme calorie deprivation and hours of cardio.

This isn’t healthy, and in the end it won’t get you lean enough. Here are the rules to follow for a better prep.

1 / Practice Patience

Fat loss should not be rushed. It takes time, and plenty of it. Aim to lose no more than two pounds of fat per week, and preferably closer to a rate of 1-1.5 pounds. This ensures that muscle loss is minimized. Muscle tissue consumes calories all the time. You don’t want to cannibalize this metabolically critical tissue.

2 / Keep The Carbohydrates

If you want to get lean, you sometimes have to drop carbs to low levels. This does not mean that you should eliminate them.

Carbs increase cellular hydration, and therefore cell volume. When muscle cells are hydrated and have greater volume, this signals the body that it is in a satiate state. The body, sensing it is fed, keeps the metabolic rate raised. Obviously if carbs are too high, fat loss cannot occur, but for continued fat loss, carbs should remain in the diet.

This next tip was very interesting to me:

3 / Utilize High-Carb Days

I believe carbohydrates are essential to keeping an elevated metabolism. Leptin is a primary reason for this. Leptin is a fat-burning hormone; its release is directly related to carbohydrate intake and body fat levels. Leptin serves many functions, including the control of energy expenditure.

As carbs get low and body fat levels dwindle, the body inevitably lowers leptin levels. You can combat this to an extent by adding in high-carb days. A high-carb day once every 4-8 days can boost leptin levels; leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism.

Add high-carb days to boost leptin, and it will lead to a more positive hormonal profile in general. High-carb days can lead to higher levels of the thyroid hormone t3, as well as help to keep testosterone levels elevated, both of which can further your fat-loss efforts.

4 / Don’t Cut Fat Too Low

Fatty acids must be available in the body to create cholesterol, which is eventually converted to testosterone. If fat intake is too low, there won’t be enough fatty acids available for optimal testosterone production.

This leads to lower testosterone levels, which lead to greater muscle loss during prep. The two combine to lower your metabolic rate.

5 / Reverse Diet

A reverse diet is where you add calories back into your diet slowly, much the same as when you cut them slowly in order to get lean. This will prevent copious amounts of adipose tissue from collecting within the first month or two after a show. Reverse dieting is essential to prevent the cycle of metabolic slowdown, or stop it if you are already in the situation.

I’m going to stop here.  The article mentions two more tips (even though it says there are only 5) but these were the most interesting to me.  I cut a lot out of the article to get across the main point, so go there and read if for yourself.

This article rang true to me and my experience, which is what this blog is about.  I began to run to lose weight.  I now run because I have an ultimate goal of the Boston Marathon.  Either way, I know I need to keep my weight and diet in balance and anything that explains this complex body to me is helpful.

The perfect end to a long day – Run, eat pizza (surprise ending)

Yesterday was a long, but productive day.  After a 10 hour work day, I headed home planning on my 6 mile run and then PIZZA.  Okay, I have a problem with eating too much pizza, but I wanted to find a way to eat it and not gorge myself.

First the run!  TJ and I ran together again.  I enjoyed the time running and talking.  The run began rather slow as I was very sore from my hill run the day before.  I still am not taking any Ibuprofen for soreness since it is just muscle soreness and not pain in my hip or back.  So, we began our run and shortly into it I decided to cut it back to 5 miles.  It was getting late and, need I say again, pizza was needing to be bought.

About half way through the run, TJ mentioned he read that it is good to run the last part of an easy run day fast.  This has two benefits.  You get the mileage of an easy run and you get the workout of a tempo run.  Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, new research has shown that running hard, even in short intervals, burn more fat in one hour than 7 hours of regular running.  I had that thought in mind as we began our last mile.  So I picked up the pace (my tempo pace is TJ’s easy run pace).

As we began the final leg of our run home, it began to sprinkle.  Since I run with my phone to track my pace, I thought I should run even faster to beat the rain (rain and iPhones don’t mix well).  As we were a quarter mile from home, TJ asked if I wanted to sprint the last part of our run.  My reply was, “Arn’t we already sprinting?”  He smiled.  So, we got to the last turn before our home and we sprinted.  I don’t know where I found the energy, but I think I ran faster than I ever have.  I had nothing left by the time we hit our street, but I still had to go a little farther to make the 5 miles.

We started the run at an 8:26 pace and ended the last mile at a 7:15 pace.  It was exhausting for me at the end, but very rewarding.

To finish this up quickly, I got home, took a shower and we to Dominos and got our pizza.  This time I listed to my brother Jeff and ordered a cheese pizza for me and stayed away from my favorite (fattening) white sauce pizza. Plus I stopped at 3 pieces rather than my normal 5 or 6.  Now to the amazing part of this story.  Saturday mornings after pizza night I always weigh a pound or two more than Friday.  BUT, this morning I weight a half pound less!!!  In fact I was one tenth of a pound below 180.  Wow, eating pizza and loosing weight.  Who would have thought that was possible!

Life is good.  I am thankful.  Keep running, it really pays off in many ways!!!

Hill runs, Carbs, Bagels and Pizza. What could go wrong?

As I promised I want to explain what I have figured out in regard to dieting, running and carbs.

But first, hill runs!  Yesterday was my first hill run day since before the half marathon (over a month ago).  The day overall was a long day.  I woke up at 4:00am as usual and didn’t get home until after 5:00pm – not usual.  So needless to say, I wasn’t in the mood to run up a huge hill, let alone several times.  Fortunately TJ was home and asked if I wanted him to come with me.  That was a huge help.  We ran a couple of miles and then headed for the hill (or mountain as I call it in a previous post).  In the end, I ran up and walked down (to preserve my knees) 3 times.  The hill is really steep for an eighth of a mile and then medium steep for another eighth.  We ran up the whole way the first time.  The second we only ran up the steep part, but ran as fast as we could (I’m sure TJ had no problem keeping up with me).  Finally we ran the whole thing again.  It was tough, but the benefits outweigh the incredible effort that I had to exert.  The last time up, I stopped at the end of the steep hill and said I couldn’t go on.  It was only for a second and then I continued.  TJ reminded me that you are never to make a decisions while running up hill.  Good advice.  So it was a good run, made much more fun with TJ along for encouragement.

Now on the carbs.  My love hate relationship with carbs has been well documented on this blog.  If I eat them I gain weight.  If I don’t eat them I can last a couple of days, but finally I crash and devour half a pizza.  My question has always been, how to run, not gain weight and still eat carbs for energy.

The answer…

I thought to myself, what if I eat carbs every day?  If I can eat some carbs, that will help my running and maybe I won’t crash at the end of the week.  So I went to the grocery store and looked down the bread isle.  I looked at the bagels.  I’ve always been warned that bagels are the worst food for anyone trying to loose weight.  They are great before a long run or a race, but not on a daily basis.  Then I found what I wanted.  I picked up Thomas’ Hearty Grains 100% whole wheat bagels.  I scanned the barcode with my fooducate app (great app BTW) and it came back as an A-.  Wow, very few foods are ranked that high, let alone bagels.  These bagels had only 2g of fat and 49g of carbs.  They are not heavy.  In fact they are rather light for a bagel.

So I eat one on Tuesday morning as a snack.  It helped.  I didn’t feel like I had to eat junk that night.  I eat one each day this week and felt great.  It took the edge off and I lost the 4 lbs I had put on last weekend.  I am back to 180 and feel so much better.  Tonight will be the test.  Pizza night…  I’ll try to report the results, but pizza is my favorite.  I may end up doing what my brother suggested and just eat plain cheese pizza so that I don’t get too much junk in me.  Also I have to stop at a piece or two and not go on to eat 5.

On to my busy day at work and then a 6 mile regular run this afternoon.  Looks like rain all weekend.  I guess I’ll be running in the rain.

Life is good.

The running/carbs balance – Ugh

Today is a much needed day off.  I ran a lot last week and I feel it.  The good news is that my hip hasn’t been hurting much and I am still taking no meds for pain!!!  The bad news is that I carbed out over the weekend.  Yes, I eat Pizza and a couple cupcakes and…  I won’t go on, you get the picture.

As I was running Thursday and Friday, I could feel that my carbs were low.  Those runs we not easy and I felt like I was doing everything I could just to keep going.  Friday night I bought the family some pizza.  I was famished. I had 5 pieces.  The rest of the weekend, I didn’t do much better.

I gained 4 lbs over the weekend.  I assume some will leave if I eat well this week, but with 2 work lunches and a work breakfast on the calendar this week, it is going to be hard.

Anytime I hit a wall, I try to figure out how to get over that wall.  My plan this time is to eat my low carb diet this week, but eat 1 whole wheat bagel each day.  These bagels got an A- on my Fooducate app, so I thought I’d give them a try.  My thought here is that one bagel a day will give me enough carbs that I won’t go crazy by the weekend and I can continue running without feeling like my legs are going to collapse.  Since today is my day off, I won’t eat one today, but starting tomorrow, I am going to give it a try and see if I can’t reach some type of balance.

I hate this whole running/dieting thing.  According to my app, I used up 1,400 calories in my run yesterday, and I still gained 2 lbs from what I eat.  This is crazy if you ask me – which you didn’t – which is why I am writing about it in my blog in order to blow off some steam.

Thanks for listening – reading – whatever.

Ultimately, balance is the key.  It is the key to life, running, eating, sleeping, just about everything.  I hope I can figure out the balance between eating and running.  If anyone has ever been successful in this area, let me know.