William Flew on Exercise to Lose Weight Part 2

April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

On top of the hunger factor, there are the isotonic drinks, gels and energy shots, the jelly beans and the cereal bars that are billed as essential for a runner’s survival but are, in fact, the scourge of many a runner’s waistline. I’ve had to coax myself to drink Lucozade Sport, the official isotonic f luid of the London Marathon, retching on its syrupy sweetness but knowing that, without the carbohydrate it provides, I stand little chance of going the distance.

But Patel says that many runners believe that the more sugar-laden f luids and gloopy gels they drink, the less jelly-legged and more Paula Radcliffe they’ll become. “There is definitely a place for energy products, but it’s important people use them correctly,” Patel says. “You need them on long runs, but on short runs water will suffice. With about 140 calories a bottle, they will lead to weight gain if you take too many.”

Mark Cooper, an ultra-distance runner who is preparing for a world record attempt to cover the most miles in five days, experienced precisely that. “Despite running six consecutive marathons in six days and burning more than 18,000 calories, I still managed to gain weight,” he says. “This can only have been down to the energy drinks and bars I’d been taking.”

How much does it matter? Brewer says that unless you are overweight in the first place, there is no physiological requirement to become lighter to run a marathon. “Not losing weight while marathon training is, in fact, not a bad thing,” he says. “It shows that you are consuming the calories that you need to support training. If you are in energy deficit, which is needed to lose weight, it’s likely that you will be constantly tired and lethargic when running.”

And, of course, running is not all about shedding pounds. It should never be the reason you decide to run 26.2 miles; it would prove a futile goal. For me, running is the ultimate route to stress release and boosted self-esteem. It keeps me sane. And what marathons, in particular, teach you is to shift your thinking from what your body looks like to how it can perform, something you don’t get from image-focused classes at the gym.

Gaining too much weight, though, can begin to make running seem like even more hard work. Researchers at the University of Georgia showed that a 5 per cent weight gain led to a 5 per cent reduction in speed. Another study found that a 12st runner needed to exert 6.5 per cent more effort to run at the same pace as a 10st one.

Between now and next Sunday, the 40,000 of us taking part in the London Marathon can expect our shorts to get even tighter. We are now mid-taper, running minimal miles to prepare our legs for the test of their lives. Over the next few days we will be expending less energy, but consuming more as we carbo-load on pasta, potatoes and bread to ensure that our muscles are primed with glycogen. On race day we can expect to expend a relatively paltry 2,800 calories if we make it around the 26.2-mile route — that’s little more than the calorific value of a threecourse Sunday dinner.

And, of course, we then deserve to celebrate. I am already planning the topping on the pizza I am going to devour after I finish.


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