How to maintain muscle mass while training marathon

05 Mar, 2019 • by Admin

It’s frequently reported that you can either gain muscle or do distance running, but the two simply can’t be done together. While I fully agree that they can’t be done at the same time

How to Build Muscle and Be a Runner

Distance running can help to build lean quads and calves, but is not likely to help you build larger muscles. The body wants to remain lean for distance running. You’ll often seen more powerful looking muscles on sprinters because the body is looking for all the strength it can find to propel it quickly forward.

If you want to combat muscle loss during marathon training, step one is to actually build some muscle prior to diving in to the super long runs.

Yes, that’s going to mean spending some time lifting heavier, instead of out on the roads. While not our favorite place to be, we’ve talked a lot about how strength training can improve your running by engaging your core, making your arms more powerful (it makes you faster!) and eliminating potential injuries!

After you have built more muscle, you’ll be stronger for your runs to prevent injury, you will most likely be faster, and you will be able to eat more (which is always a winner).

Here are Katie’s quick tips for getting started:

  • The best route cutting body fat is through high intensity interval training
  • That does not mean that you cannot run
  • No day of working out is wasted
  • That doesn’t mean that you have to workout for 3 hours every day
  • It actually means the opposite. It means that every workout that you do must have a purpose.
  • Run no more than 4 days per week
  • Strength train 4 days per week.
  • Take one rest day

Fueling to Maintain Muscle While Distance Running

Maintaining that muscle you’ve built is totally do-able. And I think it’s important to address the common question of does running burn muscle? Or does running make you lose muscle??

I wanted to share my top three tips for fueling yourself because we all know that food=performance. Or maybe we don’t all know that, so now you do!

Recover with Carbohydrates

Obviously, this can’t be stressed enough. You need to be diligent that after every single run, you are taking in carbs to refill those glycogen stores.

If you don’t refill them, then after they are emptied out, the next place your body goes is for the muscle. My rule of thumb is to add 50g of carb per hour of running on your long runs (so if you run 2 hours then add 100g carb).

Try Branch Chain Amino Acids

Research has shown that these are wonderful for recovery in many different ways, so I make sure to take BCAA’s after a workout. My husband is currently training for an ultra with me and he takes them before and after the runs.

BCAAs is short for branched chain amino acids, which are three essential amino acids that help support protein synthesis:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Eat Enough Quality Food

I think that many people end up not eating enough, which again means eating away at muscles not just fat. Because we often start running to lose weight, there’s a calorie counting mindset that can backfire.

As your mileage increases, if the body is not receiving enough fuel it starts to utilize your muscle for power those runs. Though you might continue to lose weight on the scale, it’s not unusual to start having that “skinny fat” look because you’ve lost muscle tone.

You need to be aware of how much you are putting in, and specifically how much protein and carbs. You’ve got to make sure that you are getting enough and there have been many times that I’m forcing more food at the end of the day sometimes just to make sure that I know I’m properly fueled.

This is where we start to get in to the idea of macros and protein timing for fat loss. I’ve linked to both of those articles, but I think it’s really important that we not get too caught up in measuring food, as that leads to other issues. Instead, our goal is to look at the day and make sure we’ve taken in enough good food!

Are you hitting 7-9 servings of fruits and veggies? Are you eating enough protein for your body to rebuild after all the work it’s putting in?

Be Specific With Training

You shouldn’t do workouts that have no meaning.

Do strength training that makes sense for running. For example, you really don’t have to push sleds or flip tires or kettlebell swing unless you plan on doing those in a competition (CrossFit is a different story).

Every run has a purpose. Your long run purpose is for you to get used to the mileage or you’re increasing your endurance, so that’s its purpose. While your week day runs can focus on speed or strength through hill workouts.


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