Estimated read time: 7 minutes.
Athletics is a popular sport that attracts people from all walks of life. The most popular types of athletes are marathon runners and sprinters. The latter runners have a well-built muscle mass, while long-distance runners have skinny bodies.
What’s the reason behind this? One of the misconceptions among people is thinking that having buffed muscle equates to covering long distances.
This article answers the question of why professional marathon runners are so skinny compared to other athletes. We’ve shared features of an elite marathon runner’s body, the best exercises for achieving a runner’s body, and much more.
Reasons Why Elite Marathon Runners are Thin
Many factors contribute to why most marathon runners have leaner bodies than average athletes. The main reason is a long-distance runner’s body depletes oxygen reserves of glycogen and uses fat as a source of energy. The result is more enduring and strong muscles.
Marathon Training Plans
The first reason a marathon runner will have a skinny body is because of the training and workouts. Most runners exercise at least 6 times a week, and the training can take more than 6 hours. This training plan allows the body to cut fat and retain lean muscles.
The body of an average runner uses glycogen stores in the first 90 minutes before using fat as a source of energy. Also, the muscles of runners consume all the carbohydrates in the bloodstream. Therefore, nothing is left to be converted into body fat within the first 24 hours.
Presence of Efficient and Leaner Muscles
Elite runners’ muscles are made of fast and slow twitch fibers. As the name suggests, slow twitch muscles contract slowly and persistently. This fact makes them excellent fatigue resistors. On the other hand, fast-twitch fibers produce greater force, but they break down easily.
Long-distance marathon runners rely on slow twitch muscles for endurance and performance. Contrary, sprinters need fast twitch fibers for sufficient energy to take off at high speed.
Not all long-distance runners are skinny. Some runners are genetically predisposed to have big muscle mass. Some people run marathons because their body composition can endure and support them. The genes of a person decide the body weight and physique.
Features of an Elite Marathon Runner’s Body
Running is not just a sport but a passion for many people. They spend many hours training and thinking about how they will maintain energy over a long distance. The unique body is a result of strength training and other factors.
Here are key features that make elite runners fast and efficient:
Enduring Slot Twitch Muscles
As earlier mentioned, long-distance running requires slot twitch fibers to endure and power the body for many hours. These muscles can be genetic or gotten through training to increase performance.
Low Body Fat Percentage
The body of a professional marathon runner has a low-fat percentage because they spend a lot of time training for endurance. They use all techniques and styles to burn all calories and only remain with lean muscles. The low body fat percentage is advantageous to long-distance runners as they stay light and full of energy.
Stronger Leg Bones
Strong bones and lose weight are essential for professional marathon runners. The bones of the legs, pelvis, and spine of runners are supposed to be strong enough to carry the body weight for many hours without breaking down.
Low Resting Heart Rate
A well-trained marathon runner has a lower resting heart rate than an average person. The intense cardiovascular training they are subjected to makes their hearts better at pumping blood throughout their body. Whereas an average adult has a resting heart rate ranging between 60 and 100 per minute, an elite marathon runner’s ranges between 30 and 40 beats per minute.
Better Lactate Threshold
A marathon runner has a higher lactate threshold which enables them to maintain high speed a longer period of time. The body of a sedentary person has a lactate threshold speed of 11 to 13 mph.
Greater VO2 Max
The amount of oxygen a body uses during an exercise is measured in VO2 Max. A high intake of oxygen increases your energy to help you run faster. An average adult takes around 30 to 45 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass. The case is different with elite marathon runners who consume and have a bigger intake of 65 to 85 milliliters, VO2 Max.
Excellent Running Economy
The efficiency and performance of runners determine their economy. Pro marathon runners invest in intense training to improve their economy. They learn how to be economical with their oxygen and only use it when they are about to hit the finish line.
Normal people require around 220 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram to carry the body over one kilometer, while marathon runners take 180 milliliters to cover the same energy.
The Right Marathon Training for Weight Loss
There are steps you can follow to prevent excess weight loss when training to become a professional marathon runner. The following are things that contribute to weight during marathon training:
Take In Enough Carbs
The first thing you must know is that you’ll lose a lot of carbohydrates when you are training for a marathon. Therefore, it is essential to increase your carbs intake in your diet. The best food with natural carbs is bread, beans, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. The problem is that eating rich-carb foods like cauliflower, sprouts, and beans can lead to stomach upset in some people because they have excess sugars, sodium, and saturated fat.
Call Off Recovery Nutrition
Many runners have confessed to adding some weight after ignoring their recovery nutrition diets. The good thing is that you can develop a recovery tactic to avoid these downsides.
Consume More Calories
People looking to gain weight are advised to take in more calories after intense exercising. Remember, marathon exercise tends to give you excess appetite; if you can’t control it, you will consume more than enough.
Program Food Intake
The time of your marathon training exercise will affect your eating pattern. You’ll realize that you eat a lot at midnight if your training is in the evening. You can utilize meal preparation strategies to know the right meal to eat before training.
Increase Strength Training
The fact is that running every day will reduce your body weight significantly. You must take some days off each week to work on strength gaining and stress handling. The recommended Exercise includes lifting body weights to gain bigger muscles.
Go for Alternative Rewards
Other than stuffing yourself with food, you should go for alternatives like non-food treats. The best options are massage, pedicure, or sauna. This will help improve your mental health and physical fitness.
Recommended Food for Runners Trying to Lose Weight
Many runners want to maintain that lean shape during the marathon training exercise. There are different foods you can eat during your training to increase weight loss. The following are top fruits and foods you should take in:
- Eggs: Eggs are affordable, easy to prepare, and rich in protein. Make sure you include an egg in your breakfast or salad to boost your weight loss process.
- Eat Salmon and Tuna: Salmon is a cold water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats will reduce inflammation levels and heart disease risks. Though tuna doesn’t have enough omega-three like salmon, it’s cheap and portable. It’s a perfect meal to prepare after a vigorous marathon running exercise.
- Eat Fruits: Fruits have different nutritional values for the body. Eating bananas boosts your potassium, avocado is rich in fiber and natural fibers, berries are rich in antioxidants, and more. Make sure you know the benefits of each fruit before consuming it.
- Take in more Cereals: Seeds have nutritional value to the body. For instance, chia seeds are a great source of omega 3, pumpkin seeds, and black beans.
Exercises for Achieving a Marathon Runner’s Body Weight
There are different exercises you can do to achieve or improve your marathon body. Follow these exercise for the best results:
Squats: Squats are the best exercise if you are working on your glutes. Note that these squats are performed inside a rack for safety measures. The squats must be performed correctly to minimize injuries and enhance running time.
Lunges: Another recommended exercise for your legs is the lunge. It helps to keep your legs even and prevents injuries and other issues. Though this exercise is similar to squats, it requires more focus.
One-Leg Deadlift: Runners looking to build their glutes, lower back, and balance should practice one-leg deadlifting. However, make sure you balance the amounts of each rep per leg.
Pull-Up Exercise: Though pull-ups are a hard exercise, it is good for your back, arms, and core. Make sure your study bar or ledge is around 12 inches above your head before doing pull-ups.
Benefits of Long Distance Running as an Exercise
There are several health benefits you enjoy from being a long-distance marathon runner. These advantages include:
Ability to Manage Stress
Running can be a great way to manage your stress. Nowadays, runners have medical ID jewels to protect them in case of an emergency. This modern technology helps reduce and manage stress during the exercise or race.
Strength marathon training improves your capacity to retain information and knowledge. Studies have proved that running increases a protein known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that enhances the brain’s cognitive functions.
The advantage of long-distance running exercise is improving your standing and endurance. Proper training can teach your body to run for more than 2 hours without resting.
Better Metal Health
Running can change your mood from bad to happy, which has a more significant impact on your mental health. In fact, it is believed that running is far much cheaper than therapy.
The Wrap – Are Elite Marathon Runners Skinny?
The information we have provided should answer your question of why long-distance runners are skinny. If you are training to run a marathon, stick to the recommended diet to avoid weight gain. Many runners maintain a lean body to improve their endurance and performance in the race. As we’ve shared, you can train for a marathon without losing weight. It depends on your diet and genetics.