When you’re training for a marathon, you will want to eat all the things…all the time.
With less than six weeks until the Richmond Marathon, my training is nearing its peak. I’m currently running six days a week and hitting 48 miles per week. In a couple more weeks, I’m scheduled to peak at 53 miles (two weeks of this in a row) which will be more than I’ve ever run in a week. And at this point, my appetite cannot be satiated, I’m constantly hungry. Even when I overeat and feel bloated and gross, my body is still trying to tell me to put more food inside it.
At first, you may think it’s a good idea to give in to what your body is asking for. After all, as runners, are we not constantly reminded “listen to your body?” And not to mention the fact that training for a marathon can easily burn an extra 3,000-5,000 calories each week, even for a medium-mileage plan. These calories need to be replaced in order for your body to properly adapt and grow as a runner. I should just keep eating right?
Not really. My body is good at keeping a steady weight as long as my general eating habits are reasonably on the healthier side (still not super healthy) and I maintain some aspect of moderation. However, I can still get into trouble when I start giving into my increased hunger. Calories can add up surprisingly quickly and, if I’m not careful, it’s easy to overshoot what I should be eating. An extra 5,000 calories a week isn’t as much as it seems when you completely give into your hunger.
The older I get, the more interested I am in eating healthily. I don’t know if it’s the understanding of “food is fuel” or just some sort of natural maturation, but healthier foods are becoming much more appealing to me than crap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way trying to say I don’t enjoy junk and fast food. I still love it, but I don’t crave it as much and, when placed next to something a bit healthier, a lot of times the healthier option is just more appealing to me. This is probably also helped by the fact that I’m married to a vegetarian who also enjoys eating right. We don’t let much junk food enter our house.
Every once in while—okay, at least weekly—I’ll give in and get Chipotle or eat half a pizza. I’d eat the whole thing if the wife wasn’t there to eat the other half before I get to it. I also partake in Bagel Friday at work and usually will have a bagel one day for breakfast over the weekend too. This gives into the craving a bit so I’m not completely torturing myself and not enjoying life. While I do have these “cheats,” I tend to have them either the day before or the day of a long run. I just consider it fueling up or replacing massive amounts of burned calories to justify it to myself to keep from feeling guilty.
Those cheats aside, I’ve developed the habit of snacking on fruit and veggies instead of chips or other things. When my body is telling me it’s hungry outside of a meal, I head to the kitchen and grab an apple, celery, tomato, broccoli, carrots, a jalapeno, cucumber, or whatever else we have. I know it sounds boring, except for the jalapeno, but I actually enjoy these as snacks. Usually, I’m even happy just having them as they are, but sometimes I’ll pair some peanut butter with the apple or a little Frank’s RedHot with the celery.
All totaled up, I think my habits work out reasonably well, I get the calories I need and find ways to fill my stomach with low-calorie veggies that I love. I have my cheats and indulge from time to time, but it keeps happy and the cheats don’t define my diet.
With this being my fifth marathon, I’ve kind of got this whole runger thing figured out, but seriously, someone get me a White Castle Crave Case immediately!
How do you handle the runger?