uh, this wasn't supposed to happen
July 3, 2008 6:39 AM   Subscribe

i started running 2 months ago and have gained 10 lbs. i haven't been eating or drinking more--in fact, i've been eating more healthfully, if anything. and it's not muscle--i've gone up a dress size, and my rings are tight. wtf?

i don't feel bad otherwise--in fact, i've come to enjoy running and feel pretty good. i'm female, 31, in good health although maybe 10 lbs overweight before starting running. (5'8", 170 lbs when i started, 180 today)

the weight seems to be mostly on my stomach (which is unusual for me) and the only other symptoms i've noticed are that i've had some insomnia (well, worse than usual) and have been a bit, er, constipated lately. the gain has been pretty steady, about a pound and change every week.

current diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables, some lean protein, whole grains, and an ounce or so of dark chocolate at night for my heart and soul. a few beers on the weekend, but otherwise i only drink one cup of coffee and stick to water for the rest of the day. i consume about 1700 calories a day, and run/jog a couple of miles 3-5 times a week.

and no, i'm not pregnant.

i'm scheduled for my annual in august but am wondering if this a) something worth making a special appointment for, and/or b) if there are things i should pay attention to and/or patterns to look for so that when i see the doctor, i can give him more meaningful information.

any thoughts would be appreciated!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ok....you are not telling us how much and for how long you are running and how often. Your diet (you say more healthful but is it bigger quantities of more healthful?) are you counting your calory intake? Without this information everything becomes guesswork, you can send me mefi mail if you dont want to put your information here in the open.

My initial thoughts:

1) Your diet is off
2) You may be over-doing it (and your body overcompensating by holding onto fat)

Regards.
posted by The1andonly at 6:47 AM on July 3, 2008


I noticed that when I'm very physically active I take more liberties with food. "Sure, I'll have some cake, I just ran 30 minutes!" Of course running for 30 minutes is no where near the calories of a slice of cake. I also will eat larger portions of "healthy" food because I'm much hungrier.

If you dont have any other symptoms I wouldnt worry about it, but mysterious weight gain is a symptom of a few medical issues.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:56 AM on July 3, 2008


1700 seems a little low for an active person, IMO. Your body could be panicking and going into "starvation mode."
posted by giraffe at 6:57 AM on July 3, 2008


Sorry, 1700 calories.
posted by giraffe at 6:57 AM on July 3, 2008


As a D2 athlete I can make a pretty good guess. Odds are, you just got up and started running one day, and now your metabolism is trying to keep up. You probably feel incredibly hungry, and so those healthy meals are getting a little bigger. Also, your body is probably holding on to that weight for dear life since you just up and started one day (metabolic shock?). On a brighter note however, you are likely gaining muscle which is good!

One think you might want to try is to look at a meal by weight instead of healthyness. Its sooo easy to stretch your stomach because you think you are starving. Thats what I did during college ball. So keep the volume down and the fiber up. Your body will tell you it wants fat and carbohydrates.
posted by evanrodge at 6:58 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


i haven't been eating or drinking more--in fact, i've been eating more healthfully, if anything....current diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables, some lean protein, whole grains, and an ounce or so of dark chocolate at night for my heart and soul. a few beers on the weekend, but otherwise i only drink one cup of coffee

There's your problem. You aren't drinking more, but you changed your diet to food that requires more water to digest and absord. But on top of that, you are sweating a lot more. You need to drink an additional amount of water equal to what you sweat immediately after you sweat it out. Otherwise your body is going to condition itself to retain more water.

Further evidence of this is the constipation.

Don't drink gatorade or red bull or that other crap. Just drink water, an insane amount of water. You should drink at least 32 ounces of water during or right after you jog, and keep drinking water the rest of the day as well. Drink water until your urine is clear.

You want to recondition your body to retain as little water as possible, and the only way to do that is to continually feed it water.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


Also, you should be consuming more calories on the days you run.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:04 AM on July 3, 2008


On a brighter note however, you are likely gaining muscle which is good!

Not sure how she is holding on to muscle and much less even gaining, she is probably eating less than she should (it is impossible to build muscle without having a higher caloric intake than what you need every day). She says she only eats "some lean" protein....which is what an athlete needs in order to hold on to lean mass if they are burning fat. If by a couple of miles she means 2 miles 5 times a week as the max then I dont think the work-out is whats killing her...now that I read her post again she definitely needs to eat more and she definitely needs to change her diet a bit.....
posted by The1andonly at 7:04 AM on July 3, 2008


i started running 2 months ago

And you didn't have any history of rigorous physical activity before that right?

You may be over-doing it (and your body overcompensating by holding onto fat)

There's your answer. It's good news. It means your body is reacting to your exercise.

Stay with it. Let your running moderate your running, not your weight. Don't be in a hurry to increase your distances or your frequency. If you want more from your runs, run faster. Less, run slower. But keep it up.

Buy yourself some good running shoes - two different pair - and alternate them. This will keep you from hitting the ground in exactly the same way in successive runs and lessen the impact of the additional weight over your knees.

STAY WITH IT. STAY WITH IT. STAY WITH IT.
posted by three blind mice at 7:05 AM on July 3, 2008


NO Don't drink an insane amount of water. Your electrolytes will be unbalanced, and you could die. Serious heart chemistry problems. Do drink an unsweetened- balanced electrolyte drink.
posted by Gungho at 7:07 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you're only doing 1700 calories, that's borderline starvation on top of the calorie burn from running. Personally, I'd add some more protein - can of tuna or something, plus a clif bar - to maintain muscle. And seconding what pastabagel said about water. On days you run, a whole gallon. If you're feeling washed out, make sure to take a multivitamin or put a couple Propel powder packs in one of your quarts of water.
posted by notsnot at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2008


There's your problem. You aren't drinking more, but you changed your diet to food that requires more water to digest and absord.

I think she meant she's not drinking more alcohol, which is a pretty common cause of belly fat.
posted by muddgirl at 7:19 AM on July 3, 2008


I don't have the book with me at the moment, but you might want to check out The Complete Book of Running For Women to give you a better idea of nutrition/water requirements for the amount of running you are doing. It also has a section on specific health problems women encounter due to training. I'll check and see if there is anything about weight gain in the book. I agree that it is possible you are going into starvation mode by only eating 1700 calories, since even for a sedentary person of your age/weight you'd need 1800-1900 just as a basal metabolic rate. Calculate for yourself here

And no, don't drink an insane amount of water, but don't guzzle down sports drinks either. Water intoxication is possible, but unlikely. Eat a banana or some almonds along with your water -- basically you just want to keep your sodium/potassium in check and probably what your body also needs after a run is some carbs (also provided in the sports drink as sugar.) Here's an article on the benefits of sports drinks.

I will comment again if I find anything in my book. Good luck!
posted by sararah at 7:19 AM on July 3, 2008


These water recommendations are crazy bananas. I've run > 10 miles without drinking water during the run; you don't need to be suckling a firehose to live while running only a few miles at a time. Drink 10-16 ounces before you go out and then drink however much water you feel like drinking afterwards. It's unlikely your body is lying to you about how thirsty it is.
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2008


Okay, when I said "an insane amount of water" I didn't mean to literally drink an amount of water that would classify you as clinically insane. I meant simply to drink a lot more water than you might think, upwards of 12-16 8oz. glass per day.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2008


Your problem might not be related to your running at all. The symptoms you described (weight-gain, constipation, insomnia) can be signs of thyroid problems. Your doctor can check on your thyroid health by doing a blood test at your next visit.
posted by amyms at 7:28 AM on July 3, 2008


I would get a blood test for hypothyroidism, just in case. It's a really easy quick blood test from what I've heard. Several people in my family have it, and it's always shown up as an unexplained gain of 10 - 20 pounds while they were eating 'normal' or below 'normal' calorie amounts. There are other symptoms as well, but catch it early.
posted by speef at 7:28 AM on July 3, 2008


Thicker middle? I doubt you've gained fat. Could be the constipation, even if there's minimal to no bloating. I sometimes feel like I've lost a full dress size after uhm, getting to read Maclean's cover to cover.

The constipation could also be due to the changes in your diet. The food is healthy but your digestion system may not be used to it, therefore it reacts all crazy like.
posted by Menomena at 7:58 AM on July 3, 2008


..but otherwise i only drink one cup of coffee and stick to water for the rest of the day.
posted by tristeza at 8:12 AM on July 3, 2008


If your rings are tighter but you've only gained 10 pounds, I'm betting it's water retention, too. I put on ~40 pounds in four months and didn't notice a change in my fingers, but if I have pizza tonight I'll have a hell of a time getting my ring off tomorrow morning.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:28 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Guys, she's not running crazy marathons here!

2 miles, 3 to 5 times a week, is only a moderate workout. You really only burn about 100 calories per mile if you're jogging. So when you feel tempted to snack because you worked out, keep in mind that you've only just jogged the equivalent of a couple yogurts or three apples, and resist the urge to reward yourself.

It sounds like you're diet conscious anyway, but the fact that you're constipated despite drinking water says to me that you're not eating healthily enough. Try giving yourself a small salad before each meal and be sure to eat that first. Not only will it fill you up sooner and help you with calorie reduction, but it will "unstopper" you which will also help you lose weight and water. Also try little tricks like putting some flax seeds in your (sugarless) fruit smoothies or oatmeal; put walnuts in your salads. Find little ways to work in extra fiber, as it's the workhorse of losing weight through diet.

Your weight gain does sound like water retention, so cut back on salts. Not even talking obvious things like chips, here, but things with "hidden" high amounts of salt like cheese and tomato sauce too.

If you're only doing 1700 calories, that's borderline starvation on top of the calorie burn from running.

Oh, PLEASE! That's a perfectly healthy amount of calories, especially for an only moderately-active female in her 30s. What's not recommended is to dip below the 1000-1200 calorie range. Google it. (I bet the people in Sudan wish they could get even that many). If in doubt, ask your doctor.

And moderation on the water thing - drink as much as you want to, but don't force your body to drink more than it tells you that it needs. You're not running enough to merit drinking much more than you do usually, and drinking an extra gallon would certainly put you at risk of hyponatremia, or water poisoning. (Studies have even come out lately showing that the traditional 8-10 glasses per day may be too high.)
posted by GardenGal at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would suggest going to a doctor. IANAD but it could be a kidney problem because it sounds like you might be retaining water, the poorly fitting rings is a huge red flag. A puffy face and swollen feet and lower legs are also symptoms.
posted by robofunk at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Purely anecdotal: I (29 year old girl) started running 3 months ago (now up to 4-4.5 km, 4-5 times per week) and I keep to 1800 calories per day, slightly higher if I have wine with dinner. First month I noticed no difference. Then weight fell off me like crazy bananas, and I had a very normal bmi to begin with.

I would see your doctor.
posted by meerkatty at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2008


I don't have anything to add in terms of diagnosis (I agree it could be water weight, or thyroid, or something wrong with your caloric intake). I just want to encourage you not to stop running! I just don't think that the amount of running you are doing could be bad for you. You are doing the right thing as someone starting out (running no more than a couple of miles 3-5 times a week). This is not pushing it. It's just really good for you!
posted by Tren at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2008


I was going to write a longer post but GardenGal pretty much knocked this out of the park.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2008


Take fat burners. See a previous post I made. I had the same goddam problem: I was running a little over 5k every other day, watching what I ate, etc..

Fat burners were the answer (for me).

Drinking a lot of water won't help.

Buy yourself some good running shoes - two different pair - and alternate them. This will keep you from hitting the ground in exactly the same way in successive runs and lessen the impact of the additional weight over your knees.

This nonsense drives me absolutely insane.

Do NOT let people start to tell you to worry about your knees or feet.. whatever. This is what causes all kinds of problems. - Worrying about pain will almost always create the pain.
posted by Zambrano at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2008


Do not take fatburners. There are no shortcuts.

1700 calories is nowhere near starvation mode for an adult female.

My guess is you are eating too many calories. Try recording what you eat for a week and see.

Then go see your doctor. Hopefully your doc is not the OMG RUNNING IS THE WORST --THINK OF YOUR KNEEEEZ kind.
posted by Pax at 10:19 AM on July 3, 2008


but things with "hidden" high amounts of salt like cheese and tomato sauce too.

Seconding this. A lot of "diet" food has tons of salt for flavor. Make sure to double-check the nutritional chart on the package.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:27 AM on July 3, 2008


I echo others who say to question your diet. Are you estimating 1700 calories, or are you actually weighing and measuring your food and recording it in a food journal?

Increased exercise, especially when you just start out, leads to increased appetite and consuming more calories than you may intend or expect. You are running, and that's great, but diet is crucial for the weight loss equation--it's 70-80% of it. You burn so little calories during exercise relative to how easy it is to take them in that you can't simply depend on just exercise to fix it.

I would drink more water, and I would see a doctor if you are recording your food and finding you really are eating 1700 (which I agree is perfectly reasonable for maintaining your weight--I'm your weight and need to be at 1400-1500 to lose anything).
posted by schroedinger at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2008


I'd just like to thank GardenGal for saying what has been obvious to me for years:

Studies have even come out lately showing that the traditional 8-10 glasses per day may be too high.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:21 AM on July 4, 2008


Yes. Water.
posted by gjc at 8:08 PM on July 4, 2008


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