Post Ultra Weight Gain- It’s totally Normal.

Phew, October was a busy month for me. I feel like it has been ages since I put up a blog and for those of you who like to follow my progress and life happenings I just want to assure that I am still alive and on the earth!

So, many of you know that I have been training for the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race in December. I am officially five weeks away now and in my “taper” phase. I wrapped up my last 50k before and have a few longer training runs for the rest of November before I start winding down and getting some fresh legs again. So far this training cycle I did Stump Jump, The 12 hour dirt Circuit (3rd overall female at 41.3 miles) and then last weekend Norris Dam Hard 50k (2nd female and 10 minute course PR!!!!). I have mostly trained on trails, but every other week I still to a 10-12 mile long run and have hit up the greenway where I like to give my legs a break and to also work more on speed and leg turnover. I feel like my training is finally going good. I have been consistent with my plan, having to tweak some workouts here and there, but overall have seen some major progress as an athlete this year.

The first year that I did ultra-marathons, I really did not know much about how to properly fuel before, during, and after races. I lost a lot of weight and took a long time to recover between each race and long run. This year, I have learned some new lessons. While, overall, I have lost about 6 pounds since the summer, my weight has fluctuated a lot around each hard race. After experiencing it and also consulting with other athletes, I have learned that it is not uncommon to gain about 5-7 pounds after an ultra.

Many of you may be shocked by this, as I was. How can you burn 3-6,000 calories (or more), not even come close to putting that back in, and gain that much weight? For someone who has always been self-conscious about their weight and body, I gave myself a hard time and literally sent myself into panic mode. When I didn’t fuel properly the first year of ultra-running I experienced significant weight loss after each race (10lbs after my first 50k), which was not healthy. Now that I am taking in approximately 100 calories each hour during an ultra, I am gaining this much weight? It didn’t make sense. Also, I had felt so bloated and puffy like I couldn’t fit my legs in pants (hello dresses and leggings for about a week after each race).

After doing some research and also talking with other athletes, this amount of weight gain is perfectly normal and does eventually go away. For instance, before Stump Jump I weighed about 126. The first day after I weighed about 132.5, second day 128, and eventually went down 2 pounds from my original weight to 124. The same occurred the next two events. Apparently, this weight gain is a combination of electrolyte consumption from the sports drinks, gels, and salty snacks runners take in. It can cause your body to retain excess water weight. Additionally, your body goes into a panic mode where it starts to store everything you eat because it doesn’t know when you are going to stop running or if it will need the calories for a few days. Thirdly, you are literally wreaking havoc on your joints and muscle tissue so your body holds on to excess fluid (in the process of inflammation) in order to repair the trauma it is experiencing. Eventually, the puffiness will go away and if you kidneys are functioning properly will “pee it out”.

So basically, while it is annoying and somewhat shocking, it is perfectly normal and even healthy for your body to hold on to a few extra pounds for a few days. If you are doing the right workouts (adding in intervals and weight training mixed in with slow long distance runs) as well as eating the right foods, you shouldn’t be gaining weight and keeping it on during your race cycle.

I am not afraid to admit that I am a little self-conscious about weight, but overall this year I have learned to love my body for what it can do and its strength. It is easier said than done when we live in a society that demands for women to look a certain way to constantly check their weight so that you are in the lower range of a “healthy BMI”. However, I am trying to challenge my negative thoughts associated with weight with “look at what you have accomplished and survived”.