4 Tips to Combat Marathon (Or Half Marathon!) Training Hunger

Right before running my first marathon, I wrote a post about why I was gaining weight during my training. I didn’t sign up for a marathon to necessarily lose weight, but I sure as heck didn’t think I would gain weight, especially since I was running so much. In the end, I was consuming more calories than my body needed, so I was about 10 pounds heavier on marathon day. When I trained for my second marathon, I didn’t quite gain 10 pounds, but it was pretty close. By the time I ran the Boston Marathon, my third marathon, I finally figured things out. Apparently, third time’s a charm, so be sure to check out what worked for me and why I didn’t gain any weight.

Over the years, I’ve received a number of comments and questions about how to combat hunger while training for a marathon or half marathon. Hunger (or “runger”) is REAL when it comes to training for endurance events, but “combat” probably isn’t the right word. When you are spending so much time on your feet, logging mile after mile, you need to FEED your body.

Without proper nutrition, your body will not recover properly, you’ll feel like garbage, and you can even mess up your hormones. I mean, how many women do you know who have lost their periods when training for an endurance event? I’m getting a little sidetracked here, but I’m taking a hormone certification in mid-November, so I’ll be sure to write a blog post about this in the future. (If you haven’t noticed already, I’m obsessed with all things hormones.) In the meantime, check out the Well-Fed Women Podcast for a lot of awesome information on exercise and hormones.

Anyway… here are some tips for dealing with #ALLTHEHUNGER when you’re training for an endurance event!

1. Reframe your thinking around eating. If you’re hungry and your body is telling you to eat, EAT! Consider your food choices, how much, and pick WHOLE foods first. Eat as much of the good stuff as you want – just keep an eye on the “fun” foods. Those can definitely add up, and they’re likely not giving your body the macro and micronutrients that it really needs to fuel and refuel from your training.

No idea how much to eat? I always went with the 100 calories per mile estimate for refueling after any long run more than 60 minutes. Sure, I could have grabbed a couple of slices of pizza and a beer to refuel and hit my calorie goal, but I finally wised-up to proper recovery nutrition. For best results, the calories should come from a combo of carbohydrates and protein in approximately a 3:1 ratio.

Some favorites: Protein smoothie made with fruit and yogurt, sweet potato hash, banana mini muffins, egg sandwich or eggs with toast/home fries, pizza cottage pie, protein oatmeal, pumpkin spice protein bake, and hummus chicken salad.

2. Take the time to truly balance your meals and snacks. That way, you hit all of your hunger reward systems (more on this —> Mind Pump Podcast #620). Every meal you eat should have a combination of protein, carbs, and fat to fill you up and keep you satisfied. My go-to trick for a quick balanced meal is envisioning my plate cut into quarters:

  • 1 quarter is protein (3-4 ounces)
  • 1 quarter is startch-y deliciousness (sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, parsnip fries, squash, etc.)
  • 1/2 is whatever veggies I want (usually, I pick 2-3 different ones). After that, I’ll add a serving or two of fat – a dressing or sauce, avocado, cheese, or straight up butter.

I find if I really balance out my food choices, I feel much more satisfied and less likely to want a zillion snacks.

Still feel like an eating machine?

3. Make sure you’re properly hydrated. Dehydration can mask itself as hunger, so chug some water before you reach for snacks.

4. When all else failsprotein, protein, protein. Protein was so important to my training, obviously for recovery, but also for keeping my hunger and cravings at bay. After almost every workout (both runs and KFIT/CrossFit workouts), I drank a protein shake (made with SFH Recovery) within 30-60 minutes. I also made sure that all of my meals and snacks had some sort of protein in them. I absolutely think this helped my body recover more quickly, helped me build muscle, and kept my hunger in check.

Question of the Day

What are your tricks for fighting the training hunger?

 

13 Comments

  1. When I wanted to get into shape I focused on hydration, protein and portion. It’s hard to stay away from the treat yo’self mentality after a long run, Burbank for me, moderation is key.

  2. That’s exciting about a hormone class! The marathon training hunger is soooo real. I’d do protein smoothies after every long run, but the hunger really hits me the following day. I tell all my clients to drink extra water, it’s difficult to “catch up” to all the fluids you lose.

  3. I used to drink coffee to pre-occupy me when I felt hungry — after developing GERD, that’s no longer an option. A fun water bottle helps encourage me and trying to be with others (distraction = less snacking). Also making sure there’s protein in my meals helps me feel fuller.

  4. Great advice! Everything you said was pretty much spot on. Make sure you fuel during your runs and then properly shortly after your runs.

    When you feel hunger strike grab something higher in protein, with a mix of carb and a little fat.

    I have to admit, when you said pizza and beer it spoke straight to my heart. Nothing better than that combo after 13.1 + miles.

  5. Now that I started weight training, I feel like I’m hungry all the time but I never get full! I made sure to up my protein and 90% of the time I’m just thirsty 😉
    Thanks for your tips!

  6. This is such a critical topic! I think a lot of people go into a marathon with the hopes of losing weight, and in reality, it’s actually a very inefficient way to lose body fat (but a good way to catabolize muscle). I have been experimenting with low carb endurance training recently. There’s a good book by the same name (or it might be the art and science of low carb performance) that talks about it.

    Have a great time in Isreal! I’m jealous!

  7. “You don’t need to do anything extra to refuel for runs less than 60 minutes”

    I think you mean you dont need anything to fuel during your run for runs less than 60 minutes? If I go on a 45 minute tempo run, I am surely going to refuel afterwards. You might want to rephrase because what you’re stating is not very clear.

  8. I’m vegan and I often find that carbs are what help me fight through the workout hunger! If anything, they actually fuel me up really well for a workout so I’m excited to try the sweet potato hash both before and after. Thanks, Tina!

  9. Workout hunger (wunger?) is REAL, specifically if I work out first thing in the morning, which is my usual. It also depends on my cycle, I’ve come to find. Again, hormones! Crazy little things. I like to choose a protein first and then add veggies like you suggested. I also looooove making smoothies and loading them up with the good stuff, especially berries! I need all the antioxidants I can get in this cooler weather, especially with training for the DC Rock n Roll Half outdoors!

    http://www.poweredbysass.com/2017/10/25/the-importance-of-having-gratitude/

  10. These are great tips! I’m getting back into long distance running and will be running my next half marathon in April (it’s been a couple years since I’ve run one) so I’ll have to keep these tips in mind when I start ramping up my distance!

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