Odds are, if you took up running in January as your New Year’s resolution, weight loss goals are more often than not part of your motivation. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
When you have a tangible goal to work towards and a step-by-step training plan, racing can be great motivation to drop your holiday weight. But make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself by making some of the most common mistakes, as reported by Runner’s World:
1. Overestimating calorie burn. After a run, it’s easy to feel like you can eat whatever you want. Plenty of people trade a jog for a treat, but in reality, whatever calories you burn can easily be negated (and more!) by a small slice of cake or a handful of chips. Don’t let your run fool you into a binge—track your calorie burn with a heart rate monitor or a running app, and reward yourself with smart snacks.
2. Cutting out fat. It’s been proven time and again that fats are necessary in your diet to help with vitamin absorption, regulating hunger, and maintaining energy levels. So don’t cut fats out entirely—avoid trans fats, but stock up on nuts, avocados, fish, and olive oil.
3. Running on an empty stomach. Don’t believe the urban legend that says a run before eating burns fat first—it’s not true. Running on empty means running without energy, making you slow down and burn less, so have a carb/protein combo snack before any runs longer than a half hour.
4. Not refueling postrun. After a workout, your glycogen levels are low and even if you’re not hungry, your body is. Though experts disagree on how quickly after a run you need to refuel, definitely don’t wait any longer than an hour to do something as simple as drinking a glass of chocolate milk.
5. Too much midrun refueling. The nutrition bar, protein shake, energy gel market is huge, but don’t let the ads sway you: for most runs, you won’t need to refuel in the middle. Runner’s World advises that for runs longer than 60 minutes, consume 30 to 60 grams of carbs for every hour.
6. Drinking your calories. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but it’s true: liquid calories count too! Sugary juices, alcoholic beverages, amped-up lattes—they all add up, and they don’t satiate your hunger. To correct this, drink water, limit alcohol, and seriously, quit it with the soda, even diet.
7. Unrealistic expectations. Unless your plan is easily and realistically incorporated into your life through small changes, it’s unsustainable. Working out for five hours a day or eating only lettuce is way too hard and frankly, unhealthy. Don’t expect to drop 15 pounds overnight, but aim for one or two a week.
8. Not adjusting throughout. The less you weigh, the more difficult it is to lose weight, so reevaluate your training every few weeks to ensure that you’re on the right track when it comes to workouts and caloric intake.
Ultimately what it comes down to is remembering that incorporating running into your schedule is a lifestyle adjustment. Training for a 5K or a half-marathon is a great motivator and can help you focus, but even when you cross the finish line of your goal race, you should still be continually working to make exercise and eating right sustainable—so try not to make these mistakes! Are there any other no-no’s that you would add to this list? Let us know on Twitter at @StrideNBC.