Do you strength train & run, but aren’t seeing the muscle definition you desire?
I got an email this week from a woman in our Run Strong Bootcamp, who is loving the workouts and seeing gains in her strength. However, she admits her nutrition could be improved.
She asked me:
“What changes did you make in your diet that helped you build your muscle? What helped you stay on track? You are looking so much more toned and defined in your posts.”
This is a tricky question to answer, of course. Because it’s a combination of a lot of things.
I am carrying more muscle right now, thanks to being part of the test group for the new bodybuilding program, Dig Deeper! On the other hand, I am not as lean as I usually am thanks to being a lot more lax with my eating. (Which I am OK with in this season).
Ultimately, SEEING muscle definition as a runner comes down to a combination of:
1) Building muscle through weight lifting. Heavier lifting programs like Dig Deeper, LIIFT More and 80 Day Obsession (or even P90X or Body Beast) are going to build the most muscle. But ultimately, building muscle comes down to fatiguing the muscle – you must be lifting challenging weights!!! You can see muscle gain doing any BODI program as long as you are truly giving it your all.
2) Nutrition. For example, you can see in my 4 week transformation below from 4 Week Gut Protocol that it looks like I gained quite a bit of muscle. But ultimately, it’s the 8 pounds of fat and bloating that I lost while eating an anti-inflammatory diet that allowed those muscles to “pop.”
3) Genetics – some people are more likely to show muscle definition. Specifically, the gene ACTN3. This gene codes for α-actinin-3, a protein in fast-twitch muscle fibers. (I will note I used to think I did not have good genes for building muscle or being fit, it wasn’t until I did a proper nutrition + strength program that I realized I could build muscle!)
Why Running Won’t Give Most People Muscle Definition
It sounds counterintuitive, but running itself isn’t actually going to create a lean, toned body (for most people). Our bodies are super smart and they start to adapt to what we give it – and when we do hours of slow cardio (running), it gets very efficient. On the other hand, despite burning less calories running than our smart watch shows us, running makes us hungry!!! And, to perform our best with running, we need adequate carbs. If we are fueling with low fiber carbs and not enough protein, we get MORE hungry and tend to overeat overall. This is why right now, after 4 months of running more mileage on average that I have in the last 7 years, I am weighing in at my heaviest.
This is why I always encourage you to try ask yourself: Is running my number one priority, or is losing weight or looking fit/lean my priority? While you CAN have both ….in order to lose the fat that you would need to lose to get lean, you’ll need to create a caloric deficit . In order to NOT starve while doing this, you need to eat more protein and veggies and fiber. And yes, carbs too! But when you’re in peak training, you need MORE carbs and you need those quick absorbing carbs.
I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist and this is all based on my own research and personal experience coaching hundreds of women & utilizing the professional nutrition resources from BODi that are created by Registered Dietitians. Your experience in this area may be different. But this is my honest answer to my client’s question: If you want to show more muscle, you will need to focus on nutrition and heavier weight lifting. If that’s your goal, I would recommend something like LIIFT More Super Block in December & the new Dig Deeper program in January along with 4 Week Gut Protocol.
If your goal is to run a faster half or full marathon, you could do 4 week gut protocol or a nutrition program but I would recommend doing it before your training cycle begins. Once you do 4 Week Gut Protocol, we can switch to a more balanced diet with more carbs & treats too, to sustain your training.
As an athlete you need to ask yourself what your priorities are. The best solution is having healthy habits day to day that include all types of foods, including treats too, but that mostly include whole foods, veggies, proteins, complex carbohydrates. I want to feel incredible, I want to run fast, I want to love my body…. I WANT IT ALL! But it’s a balance. It’s a balance between all of these things and all of life’s other demands like your job, kids etc!
If you’ve struggled with disordered eating like I have in the past, it can also be easy to get swept up at times thinking you’re not doing well enough with this. Know that you won’t be perfect and no one is. Know that there is no “perfect” way to eat or train.
And there is no “right” or “perfect” way to look as woman or a runner.
I hope this insight helped – and if you want to talk it over to decide what might be the best next steps for you and your goals, please fill out te form below and I’m happy to help!!!