She does say that runners have half the weight-control puzzle solved by exercising regularly – but that the other half, eating less, is even more critical. Damn.
‘There’s no magic bullet,’ says the sports nutritionist, instead offering a barrage of bite-size tips (below).
Adopting even a few can help you shed kilograms, and if you stick with them, you won’t gain the weight back. But she cautions against overreaching: ‘Don’t set a goal like becoming as thin as a supermodel. That’s unrealistic and can even hurt your running, because below a certain weight you’ll lose lean muscle and become more susceptible to injury or illness.’
It would be nice if you could lose weight by simply running more. But most of us neutralise the 400 or so kilojoules we burn per kilometre by eating more.
‘We reward ourselves by thinking, I’ve earned it,’ Larson-Meyer says.
The key is to reduce kilojoule intake gradually so that you’re dropping just 250 to 500 grams per week. ‘That’s consuming 1 000 to 2 000 fewer kilojoules a day, which isn’t a lot,’ she says. ‘Don’t think of it as a diet, because you can’t diet forever. Think of it as permanent changes to eating habits that you can maintain.’
Include protein in every meal. A 2010 study found that athletes were more successful losing weight with a diet that was 35% protein than one that was 15% protein. ‘Protein preserves lean muscle mass and controls appetite,’ she says. But it should be lean, such as poultry, fish, lean meats, beans, lentils, soy food, and yoghurt.
Eat a meal within an hour after running. ’This aids recovery and makes high-fat snacks less tempting.’
Don’t skip meals. Doing so almost always leads to excessive snacking.
Stay hydrated before, during, and after running. ‘Some people perceive thirst as hunger, and water dampens hunger.’ Don’t bother with sports beverages except during intense workouts or on runs of 90 minutes or more because you won’t need the extra carbs.
Eat food, don’t drink it. Guzzling a 250ml glass of apple juice, for example, won’t fill you up as much as a large apple. The real deal also has five more grams of fibre and takes longer to finish.
Run from fast food. A database of people who have lost significant weight and kept it off for at least a year shows that most consume only one fast food meal per week.
Some ‘duh’ tips you’ve heard that bear repeating: Eat only when you’re hungry. Eat smaller portions at meals.
For more simple weight loss tips, click here.