933The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser

MR9 22Why running alone isn’t enough if you want to shift some of that weight.
Out of the many people who take up running, a large proportion do so in the hope it will lead to weight loss. Generally, this is believed to be a better option than non-weight bearing activities such as swimming. However, even with the calorie burn advantage running has over other exercise, taking up running or training for a marathon doesn’t always lead to weight loss. Good news for us guys, though, is that in general, running seems to be more effective in men than women at reducing body fat. Mention that to your girlfriend the next time she pulls her shorts on.

Is nutrition the answer and does it matter what I eat?

Yes. Diet is the number one intervention to bring about positive changes in body composition, i.e less fat and more muscle. Considering a regular chocolate bar may contain around 450kcal, it is very easy to eat enough to completely undo any ‘good’ that you did through, say, a five-mile run every day. If we can get 3,500kcals out of fat tissue and burn this for energy we will lose 1lb of fat. So, eat 500kcals less or burn 500kcals more and you’re onto a 1lb weight loss over a week.

Does it always work like this?

No. The body isn’t a machine. There are cases of individuals taking up to two hours of exercise per day whilst on a starvation diet of 1,200kcals and gaining weight. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. If you have been running regularly and eating what you term a healthy diet, perhaps it’s time to get more specific and either log what you are eating, or change the foods you are eating.

What should I be eating?

Much of the research in overweight individuals shows that lower carbohydrate, higher fat diets lead to greater fat loss and fewer negative side effects such as hunger and hormonal disruption. In fact, when put on very low carbohydrate, high fat diets, many subjects do not even need to be told what to eat. They just naturally lose weight. Other research has shown that higher protein diets can induce greater feelings of fullness, retention of lean muscle mass during weight loss and may even lead to greater fat loss in the long run.

How much of what foods should I eat?

If you want to get specific with your diet to lose body fat, you should start with a diet containing 25 per cent protein, 30 per cent fat and 30 per cent carbohydrate with the remaining 15 per cent being distributed based on your lifestyle, food preferences and training programme. If you are not trying to set new personal bests in your running and are happy to just lose body fat whilst maintaining your performance, perhaps load up on extra fat. To give you an idea of what a 30 per cent protein, 30 per cent carbohydrate, 40 per cent fat dinner looks like:
  • 1 large chicken breast (200g)
  • 1 small sweet potato (150g)
  • ¼ can of coconut milk (100g)
  • ..Thai green curry spices (no sugar)
  • 25g of cashew nuts
  • Mixed peppers and green vegetables

The bleedin’ obvious

A combination of diet and exercise has shown to have the greatest effect on reducing body fat whilst at the same time retaining more lean body mass. So if this is such an obvious conclusion, why is it we still struggle to lose fat? The answer is that you need to know what you’re doing when it comes to diet. Get that sorted first and then add exercise to the winning formula. If you can’t lose fat without exercise, you won’t necessarily lose fat with it. One great thing about adding exercise is that you can eat so much more and still lose weight. This in turn leads to a lower likelihood of deficiencies which could well stop you in your tracks.

So does running help at all?

Yes, but the idea to take up running should not be driven by a desire to lose weight, but by the desire to live a healthier lifestyle, to be involved in a healthy social activity and simply to do something that leaves you feeling better about yourself afterwards. If a side effect of that is less body fat then great, but perhaps put more emphasis on your diet if this is your main goal and use exercise as a tool to support this.



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