What the Number on the Scale Really Means: Weight Fluctuations


Scale Weight = True Weight + Weight Variance 

True Weight: The weight that you would be in ideal conditions

Weight Variance: A value that adds or subtracts from your weight, given changing conditions.


Here are a few things that factor into “weight variance:”

  • Glycogen stores. This amount depends on your current consumption of carbohydrates. For every gram of carbohydrate that your body stores via glycogen, it also stores three grams of water. If you are carbohydrate-depleted, you will be at the lower end of your variance. Conversely, if you consume a lot of carbohydrates (i.e. before a big race), you will be at the upper end of your variance.
  • Water retention/depletion from sodium. If you consume more sodium than usual, you will likely retain water. Conversely, if you consume much less sodium, you will release more water. Your body adjusts to the new levels accordingly via the hormone aldosterone, so don’t think that you can keep this value low just by cutting sodium out from your diet – it all will even out.
  • Cycle bloat. Women will retain water during their cycle. For this reason, it’s best for women to only compare weight from month-to-month.
  • Dehydration. If you are dehydrated, your body will try to reserve as much water as it can as part of a survival instinct.  This can seriously affect hormone balance – so do not become dehydrated.

More on glycogen stores

This is something a lot of runners think about, especially during race season.

The High End: Full Stores 
What happens when people go on a binge? Typically they will retain a ton more glycogen afterwards and see a massive increase in the scale. This is only water weight. Too often, I’ll see people defeated because they “gained all of the weight back.”

If you are trying to lose weight and are defeated by this bloated appearance, remember this:  If you find yourself gaining a ton of weight after a bad day of dieting, remember, this is only temporary. Your true weight has not moved much; it’s still subject to the laws of thermodynamics.

The Low End: Carbohydrate Depletion
Those who go on Paleo or ketogenic style diets usually cite the rapid loss of weight at the very start, as well as the rapid influx of weight when they cease their low-carb diet due to the rapid depletion and replenishment of glycogen.

Similarly, the rapid drop in weight that occurs when one starts a diet can usually be attributed to a drop in carbohydrate intake.

Clients will also often gain lean mass and/or increased glycogen capacity during a diet, especially with a mild deficit. For that reason, scale weight may remain the same even if fat loss is occurring.

Weight Waist Strength Interpretation Recommendation
Decreasing Decreasing Increasing Fat loss is occurring. Perfect spot. Stay the course.
Decreasing Decreasing Decreasing Fat loss is occurring. Stay the course or consider decreasing deficit.
Decreasing Decreasing Same Fat loss is occurring. Stay the course.
Decreasing Increasing Increasing Fat loss is likely occurring. Measurements may have been off or increases in lean mass around the waist are occurring. Stay the course.
Decreasing Increasing Decreasing Fat loss may be occuring, but hard to interpret. If nothing has changed from previous training/nutrition, then stay the course.
Decreasing Increasing Same Fat loss is likely occurring. Stay the course.
Increasing Decreasing Increasing Fat loss is occurring. It is either occurring very slowly or the trainee is getting accustomed to a new carbohydrate intake. Consider increasing caloric deficit unless this was an intentional increase in carbohydrates. In which case, weight will level off and then reverse.
Increasing Decreasing Decreasing Hard to interpret. Could be either erratic measurements, but likely losing strength and gaining fat. Check again in a week.
Increasing Decreasing Same Hard to interpret. Could be either erratic measurements. Use best judgment, but would likely decrease calories with a more aggressive deficit to ensure fat loss is occurring.
Increasing Increasing Increasing Fat/muscle gain. You are likely in a caloric surplus. Increase caloric deficit or switch focus to muscle gain
Increasing Increasing Decreasing Fat gain is occurring. Lower calories and look into training routine.
Increasing Increasing Same Fat gain is occurring. Lower calories and look into training routine.
Same Decreasing Increasing Simultaneous fat loss/muscle gain. Consider increasing deficit to increase fat loss. Good place to settle at for clients relatively close to weight goal but who cannot decrease calories further.
Same Decreasing Decreasing Fat loss with weight lagging behind. Either there is “bloat” occurring or scale will catch up. Stay the course for a week or two. If you feel “bloated” during this time, you’re likely going to see a whoosh in the scale number.
Same Decreasing Same Fat loss with weight lagging behind. Either there is “bloat” occurring or scale will catch up. Stay the course. Check back in a week or two. Weight will likely drop or strength will likely increase.
Same Increasing Decreasing Simultaneously fat gain/muscle loss. Usually occurs during a break, e.g. when on a caloric surplus with little training. Increase caloric deficit and examine training.
Same Increasing Increasing Simultaneous fat loss/muscle gain. Either previous reading may have been wrong or scale will eventually catch up. Use best judgment. Increase caloric deficit if fat loss has seemed slow lately.
Same Increasing Same Simultaneously fat gain/muscle loss. Usually occurs during a break, e.g. when on a caloric surplus with little training. Increase caloric deficit.


Do you weight yourself religiously?  Does your weight fluctuate during training?


Marathon Bucket List

Frankly, I am surprised I have never posted my bucket lists of races I want to run.  It has always been a vague compilation floating around in the back of my mind; but with all the excitement accompanying the London Marathon and the upcoming Boston Marathon, I wanted to put it down in writing.  Or typing for that matter.

U.S. Marathons

Walt Disney World Marathon Dopey Challenge- January


LA Marathon – March


Boston Marathon – April


NYC Marathon – November


Honolulu – December


International Marathons

Paris Marathon – April


London Marathon – April


Do you have a dream race?  A race bucket list?


Produce Spotlight: Beets

Beets are highly nutritious and “cardiovascular health” friendly vegetable.  The unique pigment antioxidants in the bulb as well as in the leafy green tops have been found to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke; lower cholesterol levels within the body, and have anti-aging effects.  In addition to these, it is also important to note the potential health benefits associated with beets – like its anti-cancer benefits and fiber-related benefits.  The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in beets makes it a highly-likely candidate for reducing the risk of many cancer types. [Source



Beet Hummus – MilesForThought


Citrus Beet Salad – A Kitchen Muse


Roasted Orange and Beet Noodle Pasta – Inspiralized


Beet, Rosemary, and Kale Arborio Rice Pilaf – MilesForThought


Big Red Juice – Forbidden Rice Blog


Triple Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake – The Sweet Life


Do you like beets?  What is your favorite way to eat them?


The Growth of the Half-Marathon

There were almost 2 million finishers at U.S. half marathons in 2013.

In 2013, the half marathon was once again the fastest growing standard distance among U.S. road races, according to data compiled by Running USA, an industry trade group.

There were an estimated 1.96 million finishers at U.S. halfs last year, up 6% from 2012′s total, and a new record. The charts and table below, created using Running USA’s data, highlight some key stats and trends about the half marathon’s popularity.

First, the number of finishers in U.S. half marathons has exploded. In 1990, there were an estimated 303,000 finishers. That total had more than doubled by 2004. This year’s record total of 1.96 million means that, in just less than a quarter-century, there’s been more than a six-fold increase in finishers.


Much of the growth has been driven by increased female participation. In 2013, women made up a record 61% of U.S. half marathon finishers, compared to 53% in 2006. Although the percentage of men finishing half marathons has fallen each of the last several years, the absolute number continues to increase. There were more than 760,000 male finishers of U.S. halfs in 2013, which was more than all finishers in 2006.


The half marathon isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Although 14 of the 20 largest half marathons in the world in 2013 were U.S. races, the three biggest were overseas. The 45,126 finishers in Goteborg, Sweden was the most in history for an annual half marathon. [Source]

While I have only ran one half-marathon, I love the distance.  For a competitive runner, it is a feasible distance to train for and race without dedicating yourself to a complete lifestyle change.  I have two more half-marathons on the race calendar this spring and summer and I cannot wait to add to the growing number of female runners that are participating in more and more races at this distance!

What is your favorite race distance?  Do you like half-marathons?


Why Runners Can’t Eat Whatever They Want


This article comes from The Wall Street Journal.  The article talks about why runners cannot eat whatever they want.  It has been a common assumption that many runners — those who log high mileage — can eat anything and everything, but this article goes to say this might not be the case.

As a 10-mile-a-day runner, Dave McGillivray thought he could eat whatever he wanted without worrying about his heart. “I figured if the furnace was hot enough, it would burn everything,” said McGillivray, who is 59.

But a diagnosis six months ago of coronary artery disease shocked McGillivray, a finisher of 130 marathons and several Ironman-distance triathlons. Suddenly he regretted including a chocolate-chip-cookie recipe in his memoir about endurance athletics.

“My first reaction was, I was embarrassed,” he said.

As race director of the Boston Marathon, McGillivray is a high-profile exhibit in a growing medical case against the devil-may-care diets of many marathoners. Their high-mileage habit tends to lower their weight, blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels, leading them (and sometimes their doctors) to assume their cardiac health is robust regardless of diet.

“‘I will run it off’—that attitude clearly prevails among the marathoners themselves, almost sometimes to an arrogance,” said Paul Thompson, a veteran marathoner who is chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital.

A growing body of research shows the error of that thinking. A study published in the current edition of Missouri Medicine found that 50 men who had run at least one marathon a year for 25 years had higher levels of coronary-artery plaque than a control group of sedentary men. A British Medical Journal study published this year compared the carotid arteries of 42 Boston Marathon qualifiers with their much-less active spouses. “We hypothesized that the runners would have a more favourable atherosclerotic risk profile,” says the article. As it turned out, that hypothesis was wrong.

A small body of research suggests that heart problems may arise not in spite of extreme-endurance exercise but because of it. That has led some cardiologists to theorize that, beyond a certain point, exercise stops preventing and starts causing heart disease.

But many cardiologists are skeptical. “The science establishing a causal link between vigorous exercise and coronary disease is shaky at best,” said Aaron Baggish, a Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist who does triathlons and marathons. Even so, he said, “I’ve never once told a patient they need to run marathons or race triathlons to maximize health, as this is not accurate.”

Reports of heart disease in runners are prompting some marathoners to obtain scans of their coronary arteries. Ambrose Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and editor-at-large of Runner’s World magazine, is 67 years old, 6 feet tall and only 147 pounds. A lifelong vegetarian, he subsists mostly on fruits, vegetables and nuts, though he also eats “cookies and all dairy products—cheeses, ice creams etc.,” he wrote in an email.

“Last March I learned that I have a very high coronary calcium,” he said, adding that “I have a condition perhaps similar to Dave McGillivray’s.”

But cardiologists are united in their campaign against the old notion that high-calorie workouts confer a free pass to eat anything.

Those who run several hours a day often dream about cookies and ice cream. When McGillivray ran from coast to coast in 1978, he tended to finish each day at a Dairy Queen. “It wasn’t just replacing calories but a mental thing—that vanilla shake was my reward,” he said.

Replacing thousands of calories with purely nutritious foods can be challenging. Since receiving his diagnosis last October—and radically changing his diet—the 5-foot-4 McGillivray has dropped to 128 pounds from 155, an improvement he celebrates.

Far from cutting back his workout regimen, McGillivray has amped it up, boosting his weekly mileage to 70 from about 60. As race director of the Boston Marathon, which is April 21, he plans to continue his tradition of running that course after the last runner has crossed the finish line. And to celebrate turning 60 in August, he plans to complete an Ironman-distance triathlon.

Although McGillivray says that his cardiologist, Baggish, gave him “the green light” for such challenges, Baggish said in an email that, “I do not give patients (Dave included) green or red lights. We engage in an open discussion about known and uncertain risks and benefits and come up with a collective and very individualized plan about what is reasonable.

“In Dave’s case,” he added, “we did just this and he is leaning toward doing the (Ironman) with full knowledge of the fact this his risk is elevated compared to the general field.”

Some critics say that continuing to engage in endurance athletics despite cardiac disease is evidence of addiction. “I’m not afraid to call myself an exercise addict,” said Burfoot of Runner’s World. “I have always been afraid of dying on a run. But the way I look at it now, it’s not that running will have killed me. Running has enhanced my life immeasurably, but it could also ‘trigger’ a life-ending event that probably would have happened even sooner except for my running.” [Source]

Runner’s World then did a follow-up piece that essentially summed up to say “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  So can runners eat whatever they want?  No they really shouldn’t.  But is a treat warranted every once and a while?  Of course.

What are your thoughts?  Should high-mileage runners have free reign?


Accidental 50+ Mile/Week

So this happened…

March 31 – April 6

  • Monday:Rest
  • Tuesday: 9 miles
  • Wednesday: 5 miles + 3.5 miles
  • Thursday: 6 miles
  • Friday: 9 miles
  • Saturday: 10 miles RP + 2.75 warm-up/cool-down
  • Sunday: 5.25 miles 

Total: 50.5 miles

I honestly think my training plan had me running like 30-35 miles this week, but sometimes it just gets away from me.  I added a couple extra runs with friends and then just kept going when my Excel sheet said I could stop.  This was my first 50+ mile/week ever.  Yep, not even during marathon training did I work up this high.  I had intended to, but injuries kept me away from this elusive milestone.  Now – not even training for anything serious – I hit it without even realizing it.  Not only that, but I feel great!  I was nervous about my race pace run yesterday; but I nailed some solid miles in the 7:30-7:45 min/mile range, which is exactly what I am hoping to keep for my half marathons this summer.  And that was on tired legs – who know what I could do after a good taper?


What is the highest mileage you have done?  How religiously do you stick to your training schedule?


How to Add More Veggies

Now that spring has finally sprung – well almost, we did get flurries this morning – it is time to start taking advantage of the fresh produce and shed that “protective layer.”  I have heard the gauntlet of excuses why people do not eat vegetables, right down to my brother’s friend who claims that he doesn’t like any vegetables.  I mean none at all.  Who doesn’t at least like carrots?  Whether you find yourself in the veggie-haters group, your kids refuse to touch anything green, or you simply want to incorporate more throughout your day, here is a great way to bring in some extra nutrients.  


  1. Frittata it.  If you eat eggs, whisk together some with veggies for a healthy and hearty breakfast.  Some great options are spinach, asparagus, and peas.  Or add finely chopped broccoli to scrambled eggs.  Apparently, this addition does not change the texture of eggs, but it adds in at least a whole serving of vegetables.
  2. Add them to baked goods.  Muffins can easily be packed with veggies, too.  Try these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins or Carrot Apple Muffins (both vegan!)
  3. Veg out on oatmeal.  While the classic might be loaded with fruit and brown sugar, oatmeal can indeed be savory.  Still not sold on unsweetened oats for breakfast?  Here is a recipe for Morning Glory Oatmeal that has carrots, but is still a perfect breakfast.
  4. Try pumpkin or butternut squash pancakes or waffles.  When making your next pancake breakfast, throw in some pumpkin or squash puree into the batter to fit in an extra serving of veggies.
  1. Add greens to breakfast smoothies.  A handful of spinach or kale blends well with any fruit smoothie. Try the classic “Green Monster” by blending 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1 frozen banana, 2 handfuls spinach, and 1 tablespoon of almond butter.
  2. Grab an avocado smoothie. Like the green smoothie, an avocado-based treat is perfect for breakfast or a nutritious midday snack that will keep you going.
  3. Slurp a carrot smoothie. Carrot juice is pretty easy to find, but grated carrots are even easier to fit into any fruity smoothie. 
Pasta and Grains
  1. Green up pasta dishes. When spaghetti is on the menu, add a load of extra veggies to the dish – suggestions include broccoli, spinach, and peas.
  2. Substitute veggie strips. I have been dying to try a Spiralizer to make noodles out of zucchini or squash and skip the pasta all together.  Another great option is spaghetti squash – bonus: it’s naturally gluten-free!
  3. Remember herbs are leafy greens too.  Add fresh herbs to any rice, pasta, or grain dish.  For a flavorful addition, whip up a quick homemade herb pesto or try making it out of asparagus or broccoli.
  4. Mix the potatoes.  Sweet and regular mashed potatoes are a family favorite for sure; but to add some extra nutritional value, try adding mashed cauliflower or parsnips.
  5. Sneak them in casseroles.  Anytime your casserole dish comes out, add some finely shredded zucchini or summer squash to virtually any casserole without changing taste or texture.
  1. Sub greens for sandwich wraps.  Not only is a lettuce wrap gluten-free, but it significantly cuts calories.  For tougher greens like collards, kale, or chard, blanch and pat dry before wrapping.
  2. Try veggie grilled cheese.  Next time you go for grilled cheese and tomato soup, throw in a few layers of veggies like tomato and spinach/arugula. 
  3. Make vegetarian quesadillas.  Instead of opting for a heavy cheesy mess, throw in a variety of veggies and cut down the cheese by half.  
Sauces and Condiments
  1. Add veggies to your marinara sauce. Tomato sauce is a great vehicle for any extra pureed veggies. The easiest? Throw in a can of pumpkin puree.  Sick of tomato-based sauces?  Try a vegan butternut squash cream sauce.
  2. Spice up salad dressing. Say goodbye to the oil and vinegar and hello to veggie-based dressings. Some ideas include butternut squash, tomato, beet, or zucchini.
  1. Turn veggies into fries. Slice zucchini, carrot, or green beans, and lightly bread and bake until crispy. 
  2. Cook up kale chips. Lightly coated in oil and sprinkled with salt, crispy kale chips are a healthier substitution for potato chips.
  1. Serve a colorful pie.  A really great pizza is simply a great vehicle for a big pile of veggies.  Practically anything works, from greens and tomato to roasted squash or root vegetables.  I skip the cheese entirely for a veggie-heavy flatbread.
  2. Prepare a pizza salad.  If pizza is on the dinner table, throw an arugula or spinach salad on top for a fun meal to eat.
  3. Splurge on spinach. Tomato sauce is a great way to get a serving of veggies. Even better? Add pureed spinach to your sauce.
Soups and Stews
  1. Add veggie puree to soup.  This is easy – soup is probably the most versatile recipe in the world and lends itself well to tons of vegetables.  Add a can of pureed tomatoes, squash, or pumpkin and it will make for a thicker soup and will sneak in some extra veggies – like my Vegan Veggie Pumpkin Chili.
  2. Add any leftover vegetables.  Have a few carrots, half a rep pepper, and a bit of squash left from the week?  Dice them up and add to your next pot of soup.


What is your favorite way to add veggies to your day?


Slow to Register

Alright, time to sort out something.

Towards the end of February, I posted about another half marathon on my race calendar – The Red Shoe Half.  I still have yet to sign up.  What is the delay?  The girls I was originally going to run with backed out; so now with a month left until race day, I am wondering if it is even worth it to go at it alone.  The race is pretty much in my backyard and caters to a lot of students here at the University of Iowa.  It is for a great cause – The Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City.  So why have I not registered?  I have no idea.  I mean I ran 14 miles last week, so I know I can do it.  Maybe that’s why – I want a bigger challenge.  But I have a PR in mind to give me confidence about a Boston Qualifying time in Chicago… Looks like I am just dragging my feet to pull the trigger and pay the race entry fee.  This looks fun, right?



Has anyone else ever been slow to register for a race?  


Produce Spotlight: Asparagus

It seems like everyone has spring fever!  The weather is just starting to turn and people are ready for the end of winter.  With the emergence of spring comes the renewal of spring produce – fruits and veggies that I have missed through the bitter cold winter.  One of my favorite vegetables during this time of year is asparagus.



Spring Risotto -MilesForThought



Roast Asparagus Oyster Mushroom Pearl Barley Salad - The Hedge Combers



Tempeh Chimichurri with Asparagus – The PPK



Asparagus Salad – Bev Cooks



Cream of Asparagus Soup – Russian Mom Cooks



What is your favorite spring produce?  What is your favorite dish with asparagus?