Your Metabolism on Cardio

Finding my email exchanges with clients, family and friends to be great sources for postings. Below I share my thoughts on weight loss plateaus on a high volume steady state running program, and low caloric intake.
Has your weight loss stalled despite a disciplined low calorie eating, and frequent training?  When attempting to lose weight, it helps to have a goal in mind with a deadline. Just like training, fat loss nutrition should be planned and structured. Cutting calories systematically can be an effective fat loss tool to a point. Scheduling refeeds, cheat days, and a return to baseline intake is important for sustaining muscle mass, and preventing your metabolism from crashing.
If you are not taking a multivitamin and fish oil supplement, you should. Its the first thing I recommend anyone change with nutrition. Getting more nutrients from vitamins, and consuming fish oil, naturally elevates your metabolism, and improves the way you use carbs for fuel, instead of fat storage.
In terms of your training, running is not a great way to lose fat. If you run for the love of running, keep it up, but if you have chosen it as a way to fat loss, you could be training more efficiently. The best fat loss plans involve 3-4 days of progressively heavy strength training, combined with 2-3 days of high intensity interval sprint  cardio. Steady state aerobic training would only be used on a 6 or 7th day of recovery training. If you are passionate about running, I suggest less steady state long runs, and more speed work, with a focus on strength training. The stronger you are, the faster you ll run. Longer runs are only building tolerance and aerobic capacity for the distance you are trying to complete. You probably have a base for this already.
Remember, as you become more efficient at running your desired distance, you burn fewer calories to complete it. Running only burns calories while you are doing it , versus intervals and strength training which we are finding have a measurable after burn, and metabolism boosting effect for hours after. Below is a great video interview with John Berardi, Sports Nutritionists, from Precision Nutrition. John discusses the best methods for fat loss, and myths associated with age and metabolism. My favorite fact in the video is the need for runners to run an additional 100 miles every year to burn the same amount of calories they did the previous year of training. Its an unsustainable approach to fat loss. Check it out!

Reader Question - What should I do about posterior leg pain during/after running?

Hard to say without doing an assessment. Could be a muscle strain or a nerve impingement. If pain or discomfort persists at rest for more than a week or two, Id suggest going to see a PT or Orthopedic Specialist. Better to address it immediately, than have it persist for weeks into your training schedule.
Your Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body, running from the lower vertebrae to the feet,  and prone to compression at several spots. Signs and symptoms vary, ranging from sharp to dull pain in the lower back to burning, numbness, or tingling down the legs and into the foot.  If the compression originates in your lumbar vertebrae, you ll just have to wait for the irritation to cool off. Treatment involves rest, followed by glute, hamstring, and core strengthening exercises. I suggest trying some glute bridges, front and side planks if pain free. Begin with 3 sets of 15 for the bridges, and 3 sets of :20-:60 for the planks, until symptom free and then progress back into your lower body strength training exercises.
Sometimes, the Piriformis, a little muscle underneath the glute, becomes tight and or overactive, and can compress the nerve. Foam rolling your lower body, and adding these stretches may also help alleviate symptoms.  Running in the absence of strength training, can create instability and weakness  in the core, hips, and legs. Its a repetitive, quad dominant activity that can lead to muscular imbalances, if not balanced out with strength training, especially the posterior chain, and soft tissue work with a foam roller, and stretching. Give it a rest and then try the following foam rolling and strength training exercises several times per week, especially before runs, and the stretches several days a week, especially after runs.
 Foam Roll each area for :30-:60 seconds, focusing on tender spots. Follow immediately with glute and core activation work. Stop if symptoms persist.


Glute Activation - 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions

Glute Bridge Finish
Lateral Band Walk - Glute Med

Core Activation - Hold for 3 sets of :20-:60 seconds

Side Plank

Pirifomis stretch - Lying supine on the floor, grab your right knee with left hand, and gently pull across your midline and towards your opposite shoulder, until a mild stretch is outer hip/glute. Breathe and hold for :30-:60 seconds, 2-4 sets on both sides. Stop if symptoms are present.

Glute/external rotator stretch - Bend your left knee and place your left foot on the floor, cross your right foot over your left knee. Reach through and grab the back on your left thigh, and gently pull your leg into your chest until you feel a light stretch. Relax your head and shoulders while you take a few deep breaths for a count of :30-:60 seconds, 2-4 sets on both sides. Stop if symptoms are present.


For more information please see my pages on foam rolling, glute and core activation