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Running (cont.)

Running and Weight Loss

Individuals don't typically lose lots of weight with exercise. The reason is that running and any other aerobic exercises simply don't burn that many calories. Exercise is the single best predictor of maintenance of weight loss once you lose it (you won't keep the weight off without exercise), but to effectively lose weight, you need to reduce your calorie intake to the point where you burn more than you consume. We've all been there -- you burn 450 calories in your 40-minute workout at the gym, but you overconsume calories afterward. Just one 6-ounce bagel has 480 calories all by itself! Think how quickly you can put back all those calories.

But not all the news about running and weight loss is bad. It's important to know that (1) you still do burn calories when you run (a 150-pound person burns approximately100 calories per mile), and so it will contribute to weight loss if you don't compensate for it by consuming extra calories, and (2) there is an interaction between exercise and how many calories you consume. By interaction, I mean that exercise can have an effect on your appetite and your satiety (how full you feel). Running reduces appetite for some people, while others figure that they've just done all that exercise so why spoil it by overconsuming? But if running does make you hungry, then I suggest the following tips to gain back control.

  1. Have a snack 30-45 minutes pre-workout if you last ate more than three to four hours before your run, because you're probably just plain hungry. Good choices are half a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, or an energy bar with carbs and protein.
  2. Drink water before you reach for food; sometimes individuals eat when all they are is thirsty.
  3. Gauge the intensity of your workout, because intense workouts can make you hungry. You don't need to cut back on your workout if you're starving afterward, just make sure to have a snack 30-60 minutes before the workout.
  4. Avoid sweetened beverages and sports drinks unless you do aerobic exercise for more than one hour. Juice, Gatorade, and other sports drinks do have calories, and these can add up.

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