Why Dieting Doesn't Work For Runners

How to Lose Weight Without Dieting

Typically, when we hear the word “diet” we conjure up images of a long list of foods we have to avoid, lists of rules and deprivation. That’s because this is how most “diets” work.

Restrictive strategies like this always set us up for failure in the long run. The problem with severely restricting diets is that they jolt your body into starvation mode, preventing you from burning unwanted fat and in effect actually storing more fat and calories for you to survive on. When the body can no longer get its calories from food it looks to get some of its calories from lean muscle.  This results in muscle loss. Less muscle means a slower metabolic rate causing stalled weight loss or even worse weight gain.

Yet, as a society, we’ve been falling victim to the diet mentality for way too long and then blame ourselves because it doesn’t work. It’s not your fault! ANY restrictive diet will have a yo-yo effect. When you deprive your body of the nutrition it needs, it keeps track.  Once you go off the so-called diet, your body knows what it was lacking and your willpower is just no match.  Again, it’s NOT your fault.  This is why diets don’t work long-term, not to mention the damage that can be done to your health with overly restrictive diets. 

Dieting truly doesn’t work for runners (or anyone)…on SO many levels!

So How Do You Lose Weight Then?

It is all about your metabolism

What is Metabolism?

Basically, your metabolism is how efficiently your body is able to convert the things you eat and drink into energy. How much body fat you store and how much you’re able to burn is a function of your metabolism. When you provide your body with the right types of calories (which I get into in the Fat Burning Guide for Runners (which is included inside the RunningMoms Online Training Club), you fuel your metabolism and keep it revved up, which gives you the right kind of energy to lose weight.. or more impoortantly, burn fat.

What is Metabolic Rate?

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to manage weight because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active. The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

  • The thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat is the master controller of your metabolism and can be a massive contributor to your weight gain. When your thyroid gets off course and produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  And when your metabolism slows down you can gain weight.
  • How big you are counts too!  Larger people have higher metabolic rates but your body composition is crucial!  
  • As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you're not working out. This is exactly why I recommend weight training, speed burst training and body weight high intensity interval training as a part of a holistic run training program to get you fit, lean and running STRONG. Muscle increases your metabolism and even increases yoru base resting metabolisc rate for up to 48 hours after you are done a workout. You want muscles to be burning those calories and fat for you.
  • Aerobic exercise (eliptical, walking, steady state cardio like running) also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.
  • The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate! Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF). You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently. Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate. Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
  • Restricting calories and restrictive dieting deprives your body of the energy it needs and when you restrict calories or diet, your body fights back and actually conserves energy in response by slowing down your metabolism. That's why, when you're doing a low-calorie diet, you get tired, irritable, and hungry. Yoru body will burn less fat and you rarely get the results you want. 97% of diets fail and
  • And don't forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate. As runners, nutrition, strength work, hormone balancing, recovery strategies and mindset are key to maximizing your metabolism and setting your body up to burn fat. Running and running and restricting calories is sabotagging all your fat loss efforts. You want to build muscle. Those muscles need good food to build and then will burn more calories at rest between workouts. Not only does it help you hit your weight goals, it helps you run fast and strong.

Want to learn more about how to run to rev your metabolism, burn more fat and boost your running fitness? Join the next session of the RunningMoms 5 Day Get Fit, Lean and Learn to Run Coahcing Program which starts May 21st. I am going to give you my top 5 strategies to becoming a fit, lean and STRONG runner without diets or restrictions...even if you are balancing all the things between life, career and the chaos of motherhood. JOIN HERE.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!


  • http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance
  • https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/