Last week, I received an email from a reader asking for suggestions with how to deal with her cravings during marathon training:
I am writing because I read that you gained weight while training for a marathon. While I know I’ve built muscle, I feel I also put on a good 5 pounds of unwanted weight. How do you not fall into your cravings?
After gaining weight while training for my first marathon, I vowed not to gain weight the second time around. During my current training for the New York City Marathon, I still experience intense cravings every now and then, but I’m better able to navigate them, so I haven’t gained much weight (if any) during my training.
Here’s how I’ve managed to not fall into my cravings (as much) this time around:
Limiting calorie overcompensation
During training for my first marathon, I gained nearly 10 pounds because of eating above and beyond what I needed for recovery. Basically, my thinking was: I ran 16 miles, so I ‘deserve’ to eat whatever I want. Of course, the foods that I picked weren’t the healthiest ones (i.e. beer, pizza, cupcakes), so this time around, I’m really trying to pay attention to what I eat and make smarter choices.
Eating more balanced meals
When I trained for my first marathon, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted. I didn’t really put much thought into my food choices, which eventually showed up on the scale (and with none of my jeans fitting). For my second marathon, I’m trying to eat more well-balanced meals with a mix of whole grains, fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Drinking a ton of water
According to Runner’s World, “optimal hydration can improve performance and reduce hunger,” so I’ve been chugging down the water. I always hydrate before and after my workouts and sip water throughout the day, which helps keep my cravings at bay. As you probably already know, thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, so I drink up!
Picking my carbs wisely
When I trained for my first marathon, I was all about sugary carbs, like cupcakes and cookies. Obviously, they were delicious to eat, but they did nothing for my hunger (or my body’s nutritional needs), so this time around, I’m eating more whole grains, like quinoa, couscous, and fibrous bread, which are more filling, nutrient-dense, and keep my cravings in check.
Eating more meat
There are plenty of marathoners out there who don’t eat meat, and I know there are tons of quality vegetarian calorie sources available, but, for me, incorporating more meat into my diet has been essential for controlling my cravings and keeping the weight off during my training. The protein and fat in the meat takes longer to digest, so it helps keep me full for longer and wards off crazy cravings, especially with regard to sweets.
Ok, this one is kind of random, but it works for me. When all else fails with my cravings, I drink a smoothie with protein powder mixed in. Smoothies are filling and nutritious (and delicious), which makes them great for controlling my cravings and keeping me full until the next meal.
What are your tips for controlling cravings during training?