Distance running makes you fat — a remarkable breakthrough in human physiology

Some chick found some blog by some guy who is apparently a fan of “manning up” through heavy lifting, and makes certain that visitors are aware of this by posting GIFs of flexed biceps and remarking on the utility of the purported testosterone-induced “swagger” of youth. (I’m surprised that the blog advertises only his training services and not a link to ExtenZe.) In his first blog post (he only started the thing last Thursday), he’s claiming that running long distances makes people fatter, in terms of the percentage of their body weight accounted for by fat, because it slows their metabolisms, reduces testosterone, and lowers muscle mass, mostly because of the effects of cortisol.

I posted a comment, but it is temporarily or maybe permanently in the moderation queue, so I will reproduce it here, with a few additions that occurred to me after I commented. (Please excuse my self-aggrandizing style; I was aiming for pompous on purpose.)

It would seem that the real world does not lend support to your contentions here, and that is being more generous than necessary.

First of all, look around at elite or even serious local-caliber distance runners in their thirties or older. How many of them are awash in adipose? (Todd looks around, scratches head) That’s correct — none of them. Well-trained sprinters and distance runners both have very low body fat. The idea of a “plateau” is moronic; people’s metabolic rates don’t slow as a result of exercise of *any* kind. (Well, OK, I plateaued once my body fat was around 4%, but I figure that wasn’t overly bloated.)

Second of all, you don’t say how much running is “too much continuous aerobic exercise,” but I can tell you that having run a 5K in the fourteens and a marathon in the low 2:20s, and having coached many runners at various levels, and having also had graduate-level course work in endocrinology, the phenomenon of widespread adrenal insufficiency in everyday or even elite runners does not exist. If one is ever found, it will revolutionize exercise physiology.

Now, if you are merely talking about what happens at the extreme, as with the wackos who run ultramarathons in the hot-ass sun, that is a different consideration. That kind of stress and the resultant cortisol response can have deleterious health effects, especially if these “races” are undertaken repeatedly. However, these specimens have about as much in common as your average person running to lose weight as a gutter drunk living on a half-gallon of Zhenka vodka a day does with someone who has two beers with dinner every night.

So yes, while cortisol levels tend to be higher and testosterone lower in trained male distance runners, they still fall in the normal range and are not associated with any pathological processes. You also left out the fact that, believe it or not, some people run AND do strength work — even a womanly man like me managed to score a 371 on his APFT. So in summary, this article is a pile of misinformation.

Shorter version: Don’t write with your conclusion in mind and hunt for evidence to support it. Read with objectivity and THEN blog about what you learn.

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