Run and Get Fat?

Posted by M ws On Friday, October 14, 2011 0 comments
Not long ago, a friend called me on a Sunday morning, flushed with fresh air and pride after completing an early run. "I can already smell that lunchtime burger," she reported. I wasn't going to deny her the pleasure of a good burger.

I probably had one lined up myself. But after jogging for 40 minutes, she would have burned off around 400 calories. Even if she cooked a burger herself at home, chose a healthy bun and passed on the butter and mayo, the minimum possible calorie intake would cancel out those she used up running.

It's much more likely, given the sort of treats we like to indulge in after exercise, that she went out and ordered a cheeseburger with fries on the side. The result being that she consumed far more calories than if she hadn't gone running.

The idea that exercise, and running in particular, will lead to weight loss, is a common misconception. I have been running for years. Net weight loss: zero. When I ran a marathon, under the extremely naive apprehension I would cross the finish line looking like Paula Radcliffe, I put on weight. At the time, this seemed astonishing. In fact, it is quite common. This is partly because muscle is denser than fat. But there is also a more subtle connection. Getting up at 6am for long runs demands an increase in calorie intake. My response? Two breakfasts, minimum, and then protein-based snacks before and after runs. Ah yes, and the cake.

"It is possible to lose weight with dietary changes alone," explains Laura Clark, a registered dietician with the British Dietetic Association, "but to lose weight just through exercising is very difficult. You would have to exercise at high intensity for three to four hours or more a week, and not many people can fit that in."

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