Weight Gain after your race, etc?

Let’s discuss weight gain after your race.  First, I’m not a doctor, just a certified endurance running coach, so please don’t bet your health on my comments below as I can’t see you and don’t know your medical history!

With that said, here is what my experience and training tell me about the weight gain after a long run or race (some experience this more than others): 1) it’s likely water retention which can be caused by a few different reasons (see below), and 2) do not go on a diet to get rid of the extra weight as it will likely go away on it’s own, and you need the proper diet in order to help your body repair itself after your long run/race in order to be better and stronger than before!

The water retention could be caused by being dehydrated (you didn’t drink enough during your race), and/or it could be your body retaining water to help it in it’s repair work, and it could also be made worse by overloading with carbs prior to race day. Carbs at the optimum time and in the proper quantity and quality are important for full marathoners for sure, but many half marathoners can store enough energy reserves via their normal healthy died to last their entire race.  Half marathoners do not usually “hit the wall” for that reason.  Teaching your body to use carbs more efficiently and to be able to store more are parts of a well designed training plan.  If your’ training plan didn’t help you with that, you need a new one, or at least a knowledgeable advisor  who can help guide you in that area.

BTW – The DOMS which many of you are also reporting is a good indication of the water retention being due in some part by the repair process which is underway in your body   (DOMS = Delayed On-set Muscle Soreness).

One word of caution on eating post race. While you do need to eat well after your race to aid in your recovery, you should also make sure that you are adjusting the portions to fit your lower activity level, or the water retention weight will be replaced by fat storage.

In general, the water weight will go away over the next few days/weeks so don’t worry about that.

If you are sore for more than 3-4 days you should see a medical practitioner to ensure that you are not injured, but most times the DOMS will go away on it’s own  (just think of your runners waddle as a badge of honor!).

Oh yes, stay hydrated!  Some athletes think that since they have gained excess water weight they don’t need to drink anything.  Wrong!  Drink if you’re thirsty and make sure that your urine is a pale yellow color.

Your race didn’t end at the finish line, you are still dealing with it and these days can make a big difference in your recovery.

A good training plan will detail a post-race strategy as it’s very important to your recovery and future racing. If you don’t have one, please do some research on the internet, speak with a good sports medicine practitioner or ask here for advise.

I hope the above overview of this topic is helpful.  There’s plenty of general info available on the internet.  Since I’m not your coach (I don’t know any specifics about you from having worked together throughout your training), I can only provide general answers to general topics, but I’d be happy to help guide you with a general discussion of other running related topics, if that would be helpful to each of you.

I ask that you consider engaging with health care professionals (Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Message Therapist, Sports Medicine Specialist, etc. as required to provide specific guidance). You are part of the small number of endurance athletes (many doctors don’t have much experience working with us as our numbers are relatively small – about 1% of the total population and an even smaller portion of that number for full marathoners).

I am in awe of what each of you have accomplished, and even after all these years, your stories, trials and tribulations amaze and humble me.  You are my inspiration and I thank you for that!  I mean everyone, from our race champions to the back of the pack athletes – if you are giving it your all and a bit more, you are a winner and I admire your accomplishments.

Best wishes,

Joe

RRCA Certified Endurance Running Coach
Executive Race Director,
The New Jersey Marathon, Long Branch Half Marathon and Half Marathon Relay

13 thoughts on “Weight Gain after your race, etc?

  1. Thanks Joe!! Been wondering about DOMS and post-long run/ long race water retention for awhile now. Had a feeling it had to do with water retention/ mild dehydration but your knowledge and clarification were super clear and extremely helpful! Thanks so much!!

  2. The worst injury that I suffered during the race was sunburn on my legs, but only below the knee. I put sunscreen on my face and ears before the race, and wore a hat and a long-sleeve shirt (I was cold). I even carried sunscreen with me and applied it to my hands and face during the race. Although I know better, for some reason I was too lazy to put any on my legs, and I regret it now. Learn from my mistakes.

    • Eliot, Sunburn can be painful and something that may not have seemed likely given the cool temperatures on race day! Thanks for being an important part of our race again this year! – Joe

  3. Thanks, Joe. I definitely had DOMS; though it is getting better and better each day. I found that very gentle yoga (along with staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet) is helpful in the process. This was my first marathon. It was a truly humbling and unforgettable experience.

    Hats off to you and your entire team including the volunteers as well as law enforcement and EMTs. Your/their dedication never waned (I know, I was at the back of the marathon pack). The spectators and bands were awesome too, cheering just as enthusiastically for us back-of-the-packers as for the leaders.

    Glad to see that Jersey is getting back on its feet. Its residents truly are Jersey Strong.

    • Julie, Congratulations on your race! I hope that you are enjoying your PR in the marathon! Please join us again soon!

      Thank you for recognising the efforts of the thousand of people who worked tirelessly to make this three day event unfold so well! – Joe

  4. Hello, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, great blog!

  5. I couldn’t figure out what was going on when ever I gain that post race 3 pounds.
    I had a hard time beliving it was the small bowl of moose tracks ice cream I treated myself to after last week’s run down Broad Street.Thanks!!

    • Margie,

      Three pounds gained after the Broad Street Run is not likely due to anything I mentioned in my post. How small a bowl of ice cream was that exactly? A small bath tub sized bowl perhaps? lol – Joe

  6. Thanks for this useful piece of info. I ran my first full marathon y’day. I checked my weight today was surprised that i had gained 2 pounds (181 – 183 pounds) wondering if it was normal – Will wait up for a few days to check the status.

    Conditions were really tough 28C at 93% humidity and it rained on top of that – I thought I was able to manage my fluid intake well during long runs but y’day proved to be an eye opener in terms of how unprepared as I really was – I messed up my pace/ fluid intake since I had not encountered these conditions before (I think I did not take enough electrolyte) – One question – Glucose intake does not replace salt electrolytes right?

    Struggled through the finish in around 5hrs 30mins after managing severe cramps on one leg / stomach. I was looking to finish under 5 hrs (Ran a 21 miler in 3 hrs 55 mins in 26C at ~75% humidity hence was hopeful. Clothing I wore was also a mistake since I did not wear a dri-fit shorts and carried a cotton towel) – Both got soaked and became very heavy likely causing the cramps on one side.

    I wore a VFF – luckily did not get blisters but ankles/ calf became terribly stiff after the run! Came down with chills and a fever post the run. Could not eat normally hence split my portions to eat every 2 / 2.5 hours as and when I felt hungry. Still have a dull headache and soreness which is much better compared to y’day where I was hardly able to walk.

    All in all a valuable experience for me for the future!

    • Hi Amrith,

      Congratulations on completing your first full marathon!!! That’s always quite an accomplishment and while the finish time wasn’t what you had hoped, it was a learning experience and a milestone. Remember, you set a PR that day! That will not likely happen every time you race so enjoy your new Full Marathon PR!

      Now on to your questions/comments

      The weight gain itself shouldn’t be a problem and I suspect that it has gone away by now.

      You’re correct, glucose intake is different than sodium intake and one does not replace the other. Glucose can help to replenish your energy stores or give you a quick burst of energy (depending on the type), and if depleted your perceived energy will suffer, however a sodium imbalance can be life threatening (hyponatremia)! Hyponatremia may result from excess fluid in the body relative to a normal amount of sodium, or it may be due to a loss of sodium and body fluid.

      Muscle cramps during long-distance running are often the result of sodium depletion. It could be that because of the heat and humidity you drank more fluids than you needed, which can result in several of the symptoms you mentioned. Anyone exercising in excess of three hours is at risk for running low on sodium, and the result can range from muscle cramping to more serious problems.

      Each day is different and our bodies may react differently from day to day. You surely experienced that during your training. One day you’re full of energy and want to run forever, and another day it’s a chore to get out the door or your legs feel heavier than normal, or your breathing is more labored then normal, etc.

      The problem with prediction tables is that they typically take one day, and perhaps a good day, and use it to predict how you’ll perform sometime in the future. They are reasonable good at predicting how you’d do sometime in the future, if the conditions are similar. There is plenty to accomplish during training and it’s not just about long runs and speed work. It also should include figuring out possible causes to you different performance levels. For example was it related to: sleep, stress, nutrition, hydration, injury, illness, weather, course/route, etc, and then take appropriate corrective action. Once you can eliminate some of the performance impacts which are under your control, and you learn how to adjust your race plan based upon things out of your control (e.g., weather) the more satisfying your training and racing will be.

      A number of your post race experiences are more common than you may think. For example; difficulty walking, a dull headache, overall soreness, difficulty eating normal sized meals for awhile are not that unusual in new marathoners.

      It seems to me that your post race experience indicated that you pushed yourself harder than you were trained to do, under the conditions on race day. I applaud you for your determination and fighting through the cramps!

      Training is much more than just putting in miles, it should also include testing things such as: clothing and apparel, nutrition, hydration, race paces, and it should also be to run in as many possible race day conditions as you can. For example, running in the rain during training is important to be able to determine how that will effect your hydration and pacing strategy, etc.

      I am impressed with your detailed recount of the issues and positive attitude. That’s a very good sign of a runner who will experience much success. Every runner in the world needs to constantly learn new, better, ways to train and race and you are doing just that.

      Good for you!!

      Joe

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