Many people who generally keep themselves in good running shape might relax a little over the Christmas and New Year festivities. Perhaps at other times of the year too, what about those two weeks on the beach (there’s a thought).
The dilemma: getting back into running or training, losing a little weight, but — and here’s the important bit — not allowing any of that previously hard-earned and valuable muscle to disappear with the fat.
So, how do you do it?
Here are some useful tips, to shed the fat — whilst keeping the muscle.
- Do it gradually!
Whilst training, the body still needs a good supply of calories to build and maintain the muscle, running too far with too little fuel sounds like a tempting way to do it, but it will have an adverse impact on your shape and physical ability. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of running as a fuel and body tissue burner.
- Remember the output v input ratio.
Input = food consumed (and calorific drinks). Output = energy expended.
To lose weight the input must be less than the output. As a very rough guide (for an average sized person, whatever that is), one mile run = 100 calories (or kilocalories for you scientists out there). But, don’t go too mad, the active body needs plenty of fuel to maintain an effective training schedule.
- Keep the protein up.
Your muscles still need feeding to repair and rebuild as normal, and they like protein, so do not cut protein intake.
- Don’t make drastic short-term changes to your diet.
The reason diets don’t work is that they are temporary, after the diet, not only do dieters often return to their old eating habits, but their bodies have adapted to operate with less fuel, i.e. their metabolism has slowed. The result? The weight piles back on. By all means, cut out a few beers, cakes and especially biscuits (that might be the culprit after all), but don’t start eating like a rabbit.
- Don’t train when ill.
Infections alter the way muscles respond to work. When ill, the body’s main concern is getting better, not building muscle. In fact, muscles can lose the ability to rebuild and will atrophy — no matter how much you eat.
To compound this, the chemicals the body needs to fight infection come from muscle protein. The fuel that the sick body uses is derived from existing muscle and cannot be obtained from fat. If you train with an infection, like flu, you’ll deplete your muscles rapidly, and you’ll almost certainly delay recovery and could develop secondary and more serious infections.
Studies have shown muscle strength decreasing by a quarter after a bout of flu, so it’s not just bulk we are talking about here. Hence why getting back into full training too soon after illness an result in injury.
- Increase the weight training.
Remember, you do not want to lose muscle, so give them something to do that will maintain their bulk. Weight training (and this doesn’t have to involve the gym), will help. For runners, this can include lunges, steps, and even hill work. Of course, you should be doing this anyway!
Above all, be sensible, and do not deplete yourself too much. Do not go for the 1-week fix because although it might make you lighter, it will also make you weaker and more injury prone.