Failure to lose weight is a common concern for many new runners. It can be frustrating if you don't see immediate results after putting in so much hard work. But the answers can be found in investigating other areas of your routine that might be undermining your quest for a leaner, lighter version of you. Ask yourself these five questions, and be honest.
1. What am I eating?
An often-heard refrain from amateur runners is that they run so they can eat what they like. The truth is, this is bunk. Another cliché that can be used to shoot this theory down is ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’. If you’ve dedicated yourself to a new regime of running regularly, but have not sought to improve what you eat and drink, you will struggle to see the benefits of your exercise.
It’s time to take stock of what’s in your cupboards and also to start keeping a food diary. This is one of the best ways to take a wider view of what you’re consuming and how to improve it. Timing your intake of the right foods will also make a difference, as sports nutritionist Laurent Bannock explains here.
2. Is my food intake out of balance?
If you’re eating whole foods, cooking from scratch and feeling particularly virtuous about your intake, but still not seeing the results you crave, dig a little deeper. It might all be good stuff, but the balance between carbs, fat and protein could be completely out of whack, and that could be holding you back.
3. What does my running plan look like?
If your food is dialed in, you might need to review your running routine. A week that includes only long slow runs will not prove as helpful to your fat loss goals as a varied programme that combines speed sessions and other exercise circuits, like this eight-week schedule. High intensity sessions will help your body attack that fat more effectively and also prevent you getting stale with the same old running regime.
4. Am I sleeping enough?
How many hours a night of unbroken shut-eye are you getting? The importance of sleep can be overlooked by many recreational runners from a performance perspective, but it’s also true that a lack of quality sleep can inhibit fat loss.
According to this study by the University of Chicago published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reducing the amount of sleep you get can affect weight loss. The research found that when dieters got adequate sleep, more than half of the weight they lost was fat. But when they cut back on their sleep, only one-fourth of their weight loss came from fat. 'If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels,' said study director Plamen Penev.
5. Am I stressed?
Stress is one of the biggest factors that can put the brakes on fat loss. In a stressed state, your body will unleash a hormone called cortisol which degrades muscle tissue and encourages the storage of body fat, particularly in the abdominal area.
Cortisol also boosts hunger and carbohydrate cravings, ie you’ll go hunting for comfort food. There are easy ways to lower stress levels, including the act of going for a run, which will help your mood as well as foster a whole heap of other benefits.