Running a marathon, 26.2 miles total, is a major item to cross off your bucket list. While tackling this monster of a race is an accomplishment in and of itself, it can also be a useful tool for achieving weight-loss goals. Cardiovascular activities such as running are your best friends when it comes to torching calories, and training for a marathon will get you running more than ever before.
The amount of weight you can lose during a marathon is largely based on how much weight you have to lose! Depending on your body fat percentage and level of fitness, this can range from 1 to 100-plus pounds. Use a body mass index chart to find an ideal weight range for you, and set your goal within those limits.
Whether you’re looking to do a major weight-loss overhaul or just let go of a few pounds, losing weight too fast can be a recipe for disaster. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s considered safe to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Losing weight at an appropriate rate ensures the majority of the weight you lose is actual fat, as opposed to muscle mass or excess water. In addition, losing weight gradually is sustainable in the long term; that is, the weight won’t just come right back on after the big race.
While 1 pound might not sound like much, a pound of pure body fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose that 1 pound, you need to burn off 3,500 more calories than you consume. According to a study done at Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person can burn 300 to 500 calories in 30 minutes of running depending on pace. To achieve the safe rate of weight loss of 1 pound per week, aim to burn 500 more calories than you eat everyday. When you think about how much time you’ll spend running during marathon training, you may actually need to eat more than you are now for safe weight loss.
Training for a marathon is very taxing on your body. If you want to perform at your best, you need to fuel your body appropriately. In addition to getting adequate calories in a day, make sure you are eating nutrient-dense foods and getting a good balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Ask a sports nutritionist or other credible source for tips on nutrition and diet plans while training for a major endurance event.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories burned in 30 minutes for People of Three Different Weights
Jilana Dennis is a health and fitness writer based out of San Antonio, Texas. Dennis is a nationally certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and holds a B.S in exercise science from Illinois State University.