Contrary to the rumors I stirred up when I first mentioned writing about this topic, there is not an official Weight Watchers for Athletes plan (that I”m aware of, at least). My intention was more to discuss how I approach Weight Watchers when training for an endurance event, and this seemed like the perfect Weight Watchers topic to discuss this week with my quickly approaching half marathon (on Saturday!!).
Before I get too deep into it, I will say this:
It is hard.
It is hard to balance the goal of weight loss or maintenance in conjunction with the goal of running an endurance event.
It is hard to control the inevitable rise in hunger levels that result from long runs.
It is hard to not feel like you can justify eating everything in sight after running double digits.
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to dive into how I tackle WW coupled with training.
I think the big difference for me when I am training is that I really have to tune into my hunger signals, which is something that I still struggle with a lot. Pre-run, I always have a variation of the same thing – an english muffin or bagel thin or sandwich thin, with peanut butter and a banana. Depending on how much PB I have, this can be anywhere from 5-8 Pts+.
During my run, I always fuel with my GU of choice – Vanilla Bean. It is 3 pts+ per packet, and I earn 3 pts+ for 15 minutes of running. I usually only take a GU every 30-45 minutes, so I am almost always earning more Activity Points than I am taking in during my long runs.
Post-run is when I struggle the most.
As mentioned above, I have a hard time not justifying wanting to eat everything I can get my hands on, so my normal approach is to plan some good high protein options for after a run and to space them out a little bit so I can try to pay attention to my hunger signals. Some of the best ones I have found are:
- Smoothies – Skim Milk, Banana, Strawberries, Spinach, Vanilla Extract, and peanut flour or protein powder for an extra protein kick. This can be anywhere from 2-4 pts+. One of my favorite things to do is to make a smoothie pre-run, and put it in the freezer while I’m out. This way, when I come back, it’s basically like a delicious slushie that I can eat with a spoon.
- Eggs – I love eggs (one of the main reasons I could never go Vegan). A lot of times I’ll have an egg + cheese on an english muffin with some fruit post run. This is usually 5-6 pts+.
- Deli Meat – I also like to have a super quick option, so I always have turkey, ham, and/or roast beef deli meat on hand. A quick sandwich with turkey, cheese, and veggies is a great option, usually in the 5-6 pt+ range.
Since these are all relatively low-point options, I can have one, two, or all three of them and not go over my points. I usually try to have something almost immediately when getting back inside after a run, and then try to wait an hour before having something else. This gives me time to make sure I am really hungry and not just eating to eat or because I feel like I “earned it”.
I do feel like it’s important to note that I cannot stick with just my daily points – I have to dip into my weeklies, activities, or both when I’m training to truly feel satisfied. My approach is to always have at least the number of activity points that I earn, but usually I go into my weeklies as well after runs depending on how I feel (and how far I went).
One technique that could work really well for athletes following Weight Watchers is the Simply Filling Technique. I don’t quite trust myself enough to follow it completely and not track, but the basic premise behind it is that you eat healthy foods until you feel satisfied, so for someone who is good at listening to their bodies and their hunger signals, this could be the perfect solution.
The last thing I will say is this… while training for an endurance even does NOT justify eating everything in sight, it clearly DOES justify eating more.
You earn a lot of Activity Points (burn a lot of calories) through running, and almost always burn more than you’re taking in while running. I think it’s important to realize that training does give you extra flexibility, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of why I do it! If there’s something that I really want (like french fries and/or nachos!!), I’m going to have it! Otherwise, I will inevitably eat everything else, and THEN what I originally wanted, and basically undo the good I did for my body.