Finding my inner runner supermodel and answering one of the most commonly asked questions …

May 3, 2016 • By

I got a lot of great feedback after last week’s post.  I had lots of messages and emails asking me more questions and I just want to reiterate that I’m not an expert.  I also don’t want to turn this blog into a nutrition blog, my goal is to chronicle my journey to Boston, but I do think my readers would appreciate this post because most, even my runner friends have struggled with one of these problems – whether it be losing weight or building muscle.  And that was a question I got asked several times after last week’s post.  CAN YOU LOSE WEIGHT AND BUILD MUSCLE AT THE SAME TIME?

People may debate with me on this but I did a lot of research on this (I’ll explain why below).  The answer is no.  We read fitness magazines who’s covers state “lose weight and build muscle” all the time and we live in a society where the focus is on being the leanest you.  But if you actually have weight to lose, you must have a calorie deficit.  Focus on fat/weight loss.  Weights and strength training are necessary tools for your weekly workouts in addition to a healthy nutrition plan and routine cardio.  During the weight loss period, do not expect to see huge muscular gains or definition.  Your body will be going through the catabolic phase if weight loss is approached properly (requiring a calorie deficit).

Building muscle is anabolic (requires a surplus of calories).  If your body is only getting enough calories to survive, you do not have enough calorie surplus to use as weight gain (in the form of muscle growth) assuming you are following a rigorous strength training plan.  If you want to gain muscle, you must have a calorie surplus (ideally about 125 calories for women/250 calories for men).  Focus on strength gains via well-planned workouts.  For both weight loss and muscle gains workouts don’t need to vary much.  You can lift with both but the key is your calorie expenditure.

If you’ve been wondering why you have been doing abs for years but haven’t seen a six pack, it’s may be in part to genetics but is largely due to the fact that you’ve been trying to build muscle and lose weight at the same time.  Focusing on weight loss first would be my suggestion.  That may mean ramping up your cardio (more calorie expenditure) and cutting back on portions or dessert to create a calorie deficit so that over a month’s time you start to see weight loss.  As pounds creep off, so too, does body fat.  Then muscles will start appearing (that you can still keep working but hopefully aren’t getting frustrated with) .


The flip side is true for very thin people who have a hard time building muscle.  If  you are already burning so many calories every day just living or through exercise, your body has a hard time having anything left to put to use as “gains.”  So even though you may work so hard at your sport or in the weight room, unless you eat more, your efforts don’t show, sadly.

Are you following?  What is your priority?  Weight loss? Muscle building?  Which is it?  And whichever it is, plan your calories accordingly.  Stop running in circles not seeing results!

That brings me to why I researched this.  Last year I hired a running coach.  It was prior to me getting my RRCA certification but even now, I get coached.  I was struggling with my running at the time and like any sport, running coach’s can be great for keeping you on track, holding you accountable and giving you workouts that are beyond your scope of thinking.  To help with my training my coach did a complete metabolic assessment on me where she measured my VO2 max, gathered my heart rate zones, assessed my body fat, etc.  I tell you this because just like many of you, I struggle sometimes with body image.  I had a lower than ideal body fat for elite runners (this is great right? Not for running injuries and not that I am elite) but a higher weight than an elite/ideal runner body.  Basically, I didn’t have a runner’s body.

I bring this up because I would love to have a runner’s body.  The ideal female runner has 13% body fat and weighs 110 lbs (The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald).  Obviously height plays a part but statistics show that those numbers contribute to greater efficiency and speed (more advantageous).  I remember researching weight loss and muscle gain/loss.  Which ultimately led me to realize I’m S.O.L. unless I want to let my muscles atrophy for 6 months and lose a lot of fitness and gain a little body fat, and then work really hard to lean back up in the attempt of changing years and years of where genetics and athletics has led me.

I mean there are small boned people (like elite runners), medium boned people, and large boned people.  We can’t change our bone structure but we can do what we will with the mass that we have on those bones.  I mean supermodels don’t have tiny bones.  You aren’t a 6′ tall woman with small bones.  You are just a large boned woman with very little mass on those bones, right?  And as I sit here post run cross legged typing this, staring at my muscular calves that give my thighs a run for their money, I realize I just happen to fall in between the two categories. I’m like runner supermodel.  What an awakening! 😃