Anyone getting fatter instead of thinner?

Did anyone else put on weight after taking up running, or is it just me? image

I originally took up running because I wanted to get healthy, and to drop a bit of weight. My initial spurt of runningness took me to the Berlin marathon in 2007 (my aim was to run a marathon by the time I was 30) but various other factors got in the way since then and I kind of let it slide. I'm now back into training for the VLM next year and am enjoying it, but my main issue is that I keep putting ON weight instead of 'the fat just melting off' like all the runners say. image

As background: I know I'm not fat. However I used to be skinny (and probably a bit unhealthy - smoked etc) and now I'm probably just 'normal'. I'm not particularly happy with normal, and not just this - I know I ran better/faster when I was lighter. I ran better times as a beginner than I do now I'm a few kilos heavier. (I get told I'm not fat but my BMI is 'normal' nudging into 'overweight' territory - but I'm very short so don't carry it well.)

The problem is that when I took up running/marathon training in 2006-7 I actually put on weight. People said they didn't notice (and I'm not sure whether to believe them) but it did gall me that I was putting in all the hours and actually put on a few kilos. In the intervening couple of years since taking time out, I have still been quite sporty (part of the reason I gave up marathon training is that I wanted to do other stuff like biking and not concentrate solely on running) but I have waxed and waned with weight. I'm now heavier than I've ever been (despite being okay for our wedding a few months ago - post-wedding paunch!) and feeling quite demotivated.

I don't think I overindulge a lot of the time but obviously I must have done a bit to have put on weight. I expected to put on some weight over honeymoon but it's been a few months now and I still seem to be putting it on at an alarming rate, even though I'm now running a lot more each week and I haven't changed my diet that I can notice. It varies but I'm running about three times a week and my long run at the weekend was 3hrs so I must be of reasonable fitness.

What am I doing wrong? I'm getting quite depressed at the thought of having to starve myself but I don't think I've been eating any differently since running training started and at this rate I will be the size of a house by the time I do the marathon! I'm also getting the dreaded 'thigh rub' which is just horrible. I know there is no magic pill but I'd like someone to explain to me why I'm putting on weight rather than losing it, and before you say it, I know it's not all muscle! Is it possible that the running is giving me a larger appetite? Or are my previously unhealthy eating habits (not eating regularly/the right things/smoking) catching up with me, and I'm destined to be fat?



  • Running can't make you fatter, only eating too much, and not burning enough calories can make you fatter.

    How many miles are you running at the moment?

    Also, start a food diary, you may be suprised.......

  • Are you gaining muscle and shedding fat?
  • What Dano said.

    Plus nicotine is both a stimulant and an appetite surpressant.

    You may well be heavier, yet healthier?  You might need to have a think what's more important to you, health or image?

    But Dano may well be right.  Perhaps you're not training at the right intensity or overeating.

  • Nara, Danowat is right.  It is DEFINITELY worth keeping a food diary, and being absolutely rigid about maintaining it, even for a couple of weeks.  So if you have toast, record the butter /spread you put on; if you have tea, record how many cups, how much milk, how many sugars.  Even a smoothie, don't think of it as not counting because it is just can still be a couple of hundred calories.  I might be stating the obvious, but it is SO easy to genuinely forget about something you've eaten earlier in the day, or on the hoof, and also it is easy to underestimate how many calories are in foods.  Now, i need to listen to my own advice....when I kept a food diary, I lost 2 stone.  Since I stopped, i've wavered between adding /losing 1/2 stone, but i've never managed to continue losing past 2 stone.  I need to kick myself up the ass!  Anyway, I did the FLM this year, didn't lose an ounce....I was too happy to 'reward' my long runs etc.  You need to make sure you're getting enough energy, carbs etc etc, but I think the diary will be an eye opener...

     Good luck!

  • p.s. don't worry so much about the scales.....I great incentive is to cut bits of string that measure the circumference of your waist, hips, arms etc, and label them, but DO NOT measure them in inches.  Then every couple of weeks, check to see if you've lost any measure the difference.  That way, you don't have to deal with the full horror of what the circumference is (well, it was horrific for me!) but you can rejoice in the lost cm/inches image
  • I gained half a stone during Ironman training cos I was permanently stuffing my face. image
  • More running makes me hungrier - so I eat more! And don't really worry about what I eat much because I am feeling virtuous enough about the running that I don't deprive myself of the enjoyment of good food. I am a healthy weight, and my weight is similar to what it was before I started running (I feel better though).

     I guess burning more calories inevitably encourages you to eat more calories - and to some extent you will need to. But if you want to lose weight, you need to start counting calories burned versus calories eaten, and make sure the former exceeds the latter!

  • Old habits may be catching up with you a little. But like everyone else says - you will be eating more than you think..

    Your hunger will have increased more than your activity and although you don't feel like you are over eating - you must be. Are you using sports drinks/gels etc - these can make your sweet tooth run rampant after a while - i know they kill me and leave me craving sweets 24/7.
  • I don't know what I run in miles. It's between 5-10k on shorter runs and 10-17k on longer ones (my schedule is a bit hectic as I work in different places a lot).

    I must be overeating then but I don't feel like I am eating more than before. I don't eat breakfast - am usually out too late. I quite often have a sandwich or sushi for lunch, and I have different things for dinner, like soup and bread, pasta etc. Maybe I'm eating too many carbs? I have more tended to go for the low fat diet than the low carb way (gave me bad breath! haha). I guess my weakness is cheese and chocolate but I don't think I eat loads of it. I rarely use energy gels - I did at the weekend as I was out for 3hrs and feeling faint but don't usually.

    I'll have to try the food diary thing. I did do that for a while but I found it a bit obsessive. But maybe easier than starving myself!

    I know it sounds stupid but could someone give me an example of what a healthy daily diet would be for someone looking to lose weight? I think I tend to be a bit extreme and don't want to obsess about it.

  • Skipping breakfast is a big mistake IMO.
  • Nara wrote (see)

    I know it sounds stupid but could someone give me an example of what a healthy daily diet would be for someone looking to lose weight?

    have breakfast for starters!

    and I'm a hypocrite here cos I'm terrible for skipping breakfast, but there's something to be said for "front-loading" your diet, i.e. huge breakfast, generous lunch, very light dinner - rather than nothing for breakfast, pittence for lunch  and scoff after 6pm...

  • I'd have thought it was nigh on impossible to give an example of a healthy diet looking to loose weight, without knowing what height and weight you currently are and how many calories you burn in a typical day.
    Have a look at, yup it is calorie counting again, but it does a pretty reasonable job of keeping track of how many calories you burn too.
  • Ian Munro wrote (see)
    I'd have thought it was nigh on impossible to give an example of a healthy diet looking to loose weight, without knowing what height and weight you currently are and how many calories you burn in a typical day.

    A healthy diet is a healthy diet regardless regardless of your height and weight, the principles of healthy eating are the same.  What you're talking about is basal metabolic rate.

    Nara, you might find some of the info here helpful for starters.

  • Don't know if this is a controversial point of view but I really don't think it's necessary to actually count calories in order to achieve a weight loss/maintenance objective.  IMO, to change from where you are now to where you want to be, you should make incremental changes based on tried and tested principles of healthy dieting and exercise.

    I like to think I've got a good knowledge of nutrition but I can't honestly give you an accurate estimate of how many calories I eat each day. I reckon I could sit down and work it out and be accurate to within a few hundred calories, but that's beside the point.  What I do know is that I stayed the same weight whilst training for both my previous marathons and whilst this was a weight I was happy with at the time (having come down from over 16st to 12st 2, BMI 24) it wasn't optimal for my running performance.  I've since learnt that I was over-compensating for the additonal fuel requirements of training by carb-snacking all over the place, probably due to paranoia about 'hitting the wall'.  Through trial and error (and not calorie counting) I've worked out how much I need to eat to feel full and to train effectively, whilst gradually shaving off a bit more weight (11st 5) - although I'll stress that the weight-loss is a by-product of the training, and not an objective in itself.  I may well continue to lose a touch more, but if I don't and my running continues to get quicker, then all well and good.

    So I'd basically recommend making changes from where you are now which you know will be good for you.  Eat a healthy breakfast. Cut down on cheese and chocolate. Up your training gradually, but always have a healthy refuelling snack after a work-out or a run.  Mix your training up to provide your body with a different stimulus...  And definitely monitor your waistline rather than the scales.

  • I'd agree that counting calories is not something that you "need" to do, however, tracking in for a few weeks can be a very big eye opener.

    I'd suggest anyone looking to lose a bit of weight to do a food diary and track calories for a few weeks to get a true picture of what and how much they are eating.

  • dan - fair point.  I probably underestimate my food knowledge compared to the average punter, so I guess a food diary initially is a good way of getting to grips with what's going into your body, and longer term you can keep an eye on things without getting bogged down in the specifics.
  • starts putting on weight after your honeymoon - any feeling of sickness in the morning ?

  • i agree with what most people have been saying. i find that sticking to the government guidelines (unexciting as they are) does the job for me. so lots of wholegrain stuff, lots of fruit/veg, water!!! (remember you may think you're hungry when really you're thirsty)

    but you have to find out what works for you through trail and error (e.g. i tried brown rice, don't like it so i have white rice instead, everything else is wholegrain - they're just guidelines image)

    and if there's one thing you CANNOT live without (like, for me, chocolate image), have some! but just a little bit. i've found having a kit kat at lunchtime satisfies my cravings and stops me having too much later in the evening

     good luck!

  • There's a really smart (and quite arrogant) guy by the name of Lyle McDonald who has done a lot of writing on metabolism, energy expenditure etc.

     I'm still getting my head around his stuff but one of the things I learned from him was about what happens post exercise. Exercise obviously increases metabolism but when I first started doing long slow runs (which I did too quickly), I'd end up crashing out for the rest of the afternoon, or being a lot less active than I'd normally have been ie less fiddling, etc. I think he calls it the play dead factor. In other words, while I had burned extra calories exercising, I was actually less active than I would have been normally so my body didn't need as much calorie replacement as I thought it did.

    Are you still doing much cross-training ie weights? That may also make a difference. 

  • There's SEVERAL things I cannot live without.... chocolate, cake, wine, plain crisps, guinness, curry image

    Run / move about enough and you can eat 'em though! image

  • Hi there!

    I'm a nutritional biochemist myself, and totally appreciate where you're coming from.

    I am currently running 15 miles a week. Since I have been running, I have been eating healthily and have gained two pounds.

    My body is more toned, my muscles more defined....... so there is every argument that I am gaining muscle mass....

    The fact that running makes me have the appetite of a horse could be another!

  • In response to your original question - yes, me!  Maybe due to age, hormones, hedonism (prefer this word to "greed"!).  It is strange and seems wrong.  I've been reading up about this, a popular topic in USA apparently, and some say that calories in/calories out isn't as reliable as we think as our bodies aren't bunsen burners; some say cardio is bad and we should lift weights instead to lose fat.  All I know is I gained a stone while doing a marathon, why?
  • Beer and curry. On expenses.

    = Fat F*kin basted

  • I usually put on weight during marathon buildup
  • The basic equation cals in - cals out is basic, but it does work (but the calorie deficit needs to be enough to facilitate weight loss, but not so much as to force the body to change its metabolism), however, there are a number of other, complicated factors that can be hard to factor in.

    Age is obviously one, we get fatter as we get older, and there is little you can do to stop it, also, our metabolic rates change which is why people plateau in weight when trying to lose weight.

    Muscle burns calories, even when not in use, however, muscle is denser than fat, so it weights more volume wise.

    Personally, I try to ignore the scales, and just focus on body shape / size, but it is worth remembering the age thing.

  • Breakfast is a must, it kick starts your metabolism. Agree with calorie counting for a while, just to see your income/expenditure. I've used in the past. It's free for 24 hours and will give you a guide as to how much you are actually eating, so long as your are honest!
  • Does a home made smoothie count as breakfast?
  • Could do, but its worth remembering that even fruit is packed with sugar (although its the "good" sort), alot of people make the mistake thinking that glugging on loads of smoothies is good for you, when in reality, it really isn't that good.
  • yep was reading about this the other day, how more smoothies are being consumed (bought and homemade) in the belief they're 'healthy'.

    They are.. up to a point, but as Dan says they're LOADED with sugar (fructose). So you should have them in moderation. I liken it to the boom of fruit juice in the 70s - suddenly everyone was having juices. Just find a balance.

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