Calling all experienced runners. Please advise me as to how I can lose body fat during a training cycle.

It seems to be a difficult caloric balance to maintain to train for performance while trying to lose body fat. I've tried cutting down on calories, but had some difficulties during hard workouts where I bonked in the middle with no energy.

I'm a 24 year old female and weight about 130 lbs. I run about 40 miles per week, but am expecting to go up to 50-60 in the coming weeks (two marathon training cycles with a marathon next spring at the end). I'm in ~1:38 half marathon shape.

My current diet is very healthy, I have no trouble eating nutrient dense foods, and I rarely eat calorie dense & super processed foods. Fish, grass fed beef, chicken, turkey, pork. Salads 2x per day with homemade lemon miso or apple cider vinagrette dressing. Oven roasted beets, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, minestrone and veggie soups, veggie stir fries, you name it. I love the Run Fast Eat Slow cook books, but realize they are high fat.

A typical day for me would be: oatmeal w/ fruit kale salad w/ roasted veggies and a protein source soup and a salad w/ veggies and protein

I'll have an extra protein snack after a hard workout, sometimes a protein bar or UCAN drink, but I prefer chicken or eggs with some plant fiber. Before a tempo I like to have a UCAN drink which is about 200 calories. But tempo runs will be between 8-13 miles, so that's a lot of caloric expenditure for that day.

Any advice on what to adjust in terms of caloric intake and macros, while also not bonking in my workouts?

  • 1
    How tall? 130 lbs at 5'1" is much different than 5'10". Also, 1:38 half is pretty decent. What do you think losing fat will gain you?
    – JohnP
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 20:34
  • True, 5'2". I think fat is nonfunctional weight. Leaning out will make it easier to run faster
    – montserrat
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


I don't think you need to lose fat, unless you are at the low end of the height I asked in my comment.

I just think you need more distance. 40ish miles is what I would consider to be on the low end for a competitive 5k runner. 50-60 for a marathon I would think would be an absolute minimum, I would recommend in the 80+ miles per week, if you are intending on being competitive in your age group, or going after some like a Boston qualifying time (for your age group, it is somewhere just under 3:40, so you are right on the edge of it.)

Rather than worry about fat loss, I would look more at eating to sustain training and increase your miles. Your fat level will naturally stabilize, and if you maintain a slight daily defect, it will decrease as a natural effect.

I would also look at carrying a small waist pack or camelback, with GU or similar 100 cal energy packets. These can save a workout if you start to droop, and if you haven't already, you need to get used to calorie intake during longer races.

As requested, a semi typical 55-65 mile distance week (Note, this would be part of the off season/build phase. If you are in race season, I'd move the threshold/interval work to Monday/Wed, and keep Sunday as a true rest unless it is a short distance race, 5k-10k for a primarly half or marathon runner):

Sunday - Rest or 3-8 mile maintenance run

Monday - 6-8 miles maintenance run - Easy pace

Tuesday - Pickup/threshold - 3 miles warmup, 2-3 miles of :45 seconds increased pace (85-95% of race pace), :45 seconds recovery pace, 3 miles warmdown.

Wednesday - 6-8 miles maintenance run

Thursday - Intervals - 2 mile warmup run. Depending on race distance, something such as 12-16 x 400, 6-8 x 800 at faster than race pace, long recovery of 1:30-2:00 per interval *See below, 2-3 mile cooldown

Friday - 6-8 miles maintenance

Saturday - Long run, 10-15 miles depending on phase.

On the low side of mileage, that puts you around 43 miles (Counting the rest day as an actual rest day), on the high side you are just under 60 (with the rest day, above 60 if you run that day). To increase, I would increase the maintenance distance before adding much to the interval/threshold days.

Threshold workouts (Tuesday) are generally done at or near race pace, with short recovery. This in theory builds you up to be able to spend more time at a race pace without decay. Interval workouts (Thursday) are done at faster than race pace, with enough recovery time that you can make the next interval. In theory, this pushes your race pace faster. Maintenance/distance runs are easy pace, it's not about pushing, it's about getting the miles/basework in.

So as an example (to make the math easy) if your race pace for a 10k is 6 minute miles, tempo/threshold work I would do between 6:20 and 7:00 per mile. Interval work would be at 5:30 - 6:00 per mile pace. Average training pace would be in the 7:30 - 8:30 per mile range. The biggest mistake an amateur runner makes is going too hard on their easy days, and too easy on their hard days.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JohnP
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 22:31

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