Pro Allie Kieffer addresses a reader-submitted question on how to balance maintaining a healthy body weight and eating to fuel long workouts.

Rising Above The Scale

Have you seen or experienced binge eating in running? You speak of being a ‘bigger’ runner and I wonder how you’ve managed the pressures to drop weight while also wanting to fuel workouts. I know it’s a personal journey, but I’m in a similar boat and wonder how to manage hunger but [continue to] eat right and avoid the guilt around it.

I’ve talked often about being called a “bigger” runner. It’s kind of a ridiculous statement, because I don’t think of myself as being big or overweight. I have a different physique than the quintessential elite runner, but I don’t see that as a negative. In my opinion, it just doesn’t matter. The number on my scale may be larger than my competitors, but that’s not what determines who wins the race.

In the running world, weight and how to drop it seems like a constant topic. In college I had teammates that suffered from eating disorders, and unfortunately, little was done physically or psychologically to help them. Instead, doing well in races reinforced the idea that losing weight would help them garner more awards and better finish times. This destructive path ultimately left them perpetually injured, emotionally overwhelmed and unable to do what they love.

After seeing others lose their passion and future in running to unhealthy habits, I made the decision to educate myself on proper nutrition. As much as not eating starves our dreams, a quality diet can fuel our ambitions. Below, I describe the what, when and why of my daily food choices.

Immediately after brushing my teeth I run to the kitchen for coffee. Within 90 minutes of getting out of bed I eat breakfast. I always start my morning with lower glycemic index foods which, although research is inconclusive, may improve exercise capacity, stabilize blood sugar levels and lower the chance of chronic disease and obesity. I also drink a collagen and water mix, which helps protect and rebuild joint cartilage so I can handle the repetitive steps of 100-mile weeks.

My morning meal go-to is steel-cut oats. (This is one of my favorite recipes.) I typically do my longest runs and hardest workouts in the morning. Within 10 minutes of finishing I have a carbohydrate-heavy snack to replenish glycogen stores. The higher the intensity of my run, the higher glycemic index food I’ll eat. Some of my favorites are:

  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Granola bar
  • Ezekiel bread with jam
  • Banana oat pancake (from Shalane Flanagan’s Run Fast Cook Fast Eat Slow cookbook)

Lunch is usually my biggest meal of the day. I like to pair protein with a vegetable and grain salad to ensure I’m getting a wide range of nutrients. I prefer an equal ratio of vegetables to grains, so I usually increase the vegetable portion of recipes. Below are my current go-to meals:

Five to six days a week I run an easy 40-minute double. After my second run, I have another carbohydrate-heavy snack within 10 minutes of finishing my workout. (Usually it’s a banana.)

For dinner I make sure I get in my leafy greens! A kale salad with protein is my absolute favorite. (This recipe is incredible.)

Dessert is my favorite meal of the day. Lately I’ve been making banana ice cream (to make it, mix banana and whatever kind of milk you like in a blender) and topping it with cacao nibs, hemp hearts and granola.

Happy eating, friends!