Marathon Memo – Weight Gain

Marathon Training.

When I hear that phrase images of ridiculously fit, toned and lean people pop into my head.


Just re-living my glory days. No big deal.

So naturally, I was surprised to read that a lot of people actually experience weight gain while training.

With the mileage you run during training, it’s pretty normal and natural to expect you’d lose weight, or at the very least, stay right around where you are- you’re burning that many calories, that you’re obviously going to be fighting to keep weight on, right?



A lot of runners actually experience the opposite and find themselves gaining anywhere from 5-10 lbs over the course of training.

The most common reasons?

  • Over-estimating the amount of calories you’re burning

Yes you just ran 5, 10, 15, whatever miles but you fueled before, you (hopefully) fueled during with GU, shotbloks, what-have-you, and you had a post-run recovery snack/meal to restore energy to your muscles. Even though you’re logging a lot of miles doesn’t mean you get a free pass to feast on anything you want once the run is completed. (Le sigh. I wish it did. I don’t call this blog Running on Hungry for nothing!)

Eating as you normally would (adjusted depending on the calories you’re burning on your longer runs) is a better bet. Make sure you have a healthy ratio of:

  1. Lean proteins – helps to restore and rebuild your muscles – Salmon, Chicken, Grass Fed Beef (lean cuts),  Organic Eggs, Greek Yogurt (plain – the flavored kinds load up on sugar), Tempeh
  2. Whole grain (slow digesting!) carbs – Whole Wheat Bread, Quinoa, Farro, Barley, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Whole Wheat (or Brown Rice) Pasta
  3. Fruits/veggies – Great source of fiber and antioxidants
  4. Healthy fats – Avocados, Nut butters (almond butter is the best bet)

Think of the food you put into your body as fuel– what’s going to help you run your best and give you the most energy?

You burn roughly 100 calories per mile that you run… so a 7-mile run isn’t burning enough to be able have that bacon cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake. For breakfast. (Trust me, I’ve rationalized up and down the street, it’s just not enough caloric expenditure vs caloric intake.) 😉


  • Gaining Muscle

You’re logging a ton of mileage, incorporating hills and speed work, so naturally your muscles are going to expand and get bigger (STRONGER) in order to carry your body 26.2 miles across that finish line.

I find that yoga and pilates are great for this. . . they keep you long and lean, without sacrificing any strength. They also have added bonuses of strengthening your core and give you a great stretch!


Which way to the gun show?

  • Cutting Out Variety

Pre-Marathon Training, you probably had a whole slew of workouts you did – weight training, spin classes, aerobic classes, etc. You lifted, strengthened, toned and worked all of your muscles. It’s no secret that weight-training is great for you and complements a cardio program nicely. But strength training also boosts your metabolism, with some exercise physiologists estimating that the body continues to burn calories for up to 36 hours after your workout. Source

When you start a training plan for a race it’s pretty normal to focus on your runs, but don’t forget about cross-training and weight training – it’ll keep you in the shape you were in before… and then some!


**Sidebar: I am not a fitness professional. nutritionist or personal trainer. The above post is solely based on previous experiences (running three 1/2 marathons), and also on ways of eating, workouts and tips that I follow and have seen success with personally. Not meant as anything else but some helpful ideas.



15 thoughts on “Marathon Memo – Weight Gain

  1. yeah ive definitely heard about the weight gain stuff too. it is kinda annoying when youre training bc you kinda hope you’ll lose weight…i have lost weight training but also stayed the same other times. i also noticed my hamstrings and hips weakened while training since i wasnt doing any strength training…but what can ya do? theres only so much time in a day!

  2. So true. I am hardcore struggling with my weight right now. I gained 8 lbs (which is a ton for my height and very obvious) since I started marathon training and am struggling to fit into my clothes. But nothing I do seems to work and it’s making me miserable! I do have to accept the fact that at least a few are muscle and at least another few are probably gonna stick around because hey, I’m not okay with going hungry. It is not something I ever expected, however!

  3. I’ve heard that before but that’s really interesting! What a bummer that running all those miles and don’t get a free pass on eating what you want! And omg only 100 cal per mile? I would have totally over calculated that!

  4. Pingback: Friday Eve « runningonhungrydotcom

  5. I just wrote an article ALL about “train gain” and the endurance athelte! such an interesting topic and so true. One of the main reasons endurance athletes gain weight while training for an event is because they stop strength training or dont hit the weights as much as they normally would. Weights are cruicial in keeping lean muscle mass and in keeping the metabolic rate (rate that you burn calories 24-7) active and efficient. Without weight training/lean muscle mass you dont burn as many calories before/during/after workouts – no matter how long your runs/bikes/swims are. But because the athlete is typically so busy training for the actual event, weights are the first to get cut out of the workout routine. sooo much to say/share on this topic – but its a subject I am passionate about! I have known one too many women decide to do a triathlon / marathon because they want to loose weight…. only to end up a bit heavier and very dissapointed. THANK YOU for bringing more light to the topic – people need to know that endurance events are worth training for… but they are NOT a fast track to weight loss.

    You rock Kristine 🙂

    And if you have any female friends who need to know why weights are the secret to “lean, toned” physique…. send em here!

  6. Could not agree more with u. My nutrionist tells me to add a grain about 100 calories for every mile after 4 miles usually that ends up being a shot block consumption during the run pre run food and post run. I eat it all up somedays and some days it is enough and some days not. Ooo marathon training

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