Running a Half Marathon Required to Burn off Thanksgiving Day Calories

So just how much running are you going to need to burn off your favorite Thanksgiving food? Generally, a 150-pound person running at an average pace will burn about 100 calories a mile. Here’s a breakdown of typical foods found on holiday menus and how long you’d have to run to burn them off.

Turkey – 6oz for 350 calories = 3.5 miles
Mashed Potatoes – ½ cup for 150 calories = 1.5 miles
Stuffing – ½ cup for 180 calories = 1.8 miles
Gravy – ½ cup for 180 calories = 1.8 miles
Cranberry Sauce – ½ cup for 190 calories = 1.9 miles
Rolls – 1 roll for 155 calories = 1.55 miles
Pumpkin Pie – 1 slice for 180 calories = 1.8 miles

You’ll need to run slightly more than a half marathon after Thanksgiving to burn off a standard meal, or 13.8 miles! In other words… yes, the workout is that important. If the stats are true that the average meal has us eating well above 3,000 calories, you’ll have to run further than a marathon to eat guilt free on Thursday.

This holiday is the biggest calorie bomb of the year, as Thanksgiving meals are known to be anywhere from 3,000 to 4,500 calories. While eating that much at one time is not recommended, it’s pretty much a given that there will be some over indulgence this Thursday. But, you don’t have to take these facts lying down, you could put on your running shoes and burn some serious calories and maybe some guilt, too.

In my running community, there’s an ongoing tradition of meeting for a run Thanksgiving morning. Most of us can sneak away for an hour or so in the morning and attack the calories before they get the chance to swing first. But, is it better to run prior to the meal or would it be more effective to go for a run after?

My first thought was to always go before, simply because, it’s more likely to take place. After an afternoon of preparing food and chatting with relatives, and then eating too much, a nap is typically the only thing most of us want to do, not go for a run.

Deb Burchardt, M.S., R.D, L.D. shared her thoughts on this subject and pointed out some helpful reminders. She thought running before a meal seemed like the better option too, primarily because she feels exercise helps you remember that you’re making good choices for your health and running as a big precursor to dinner may help you make more sensible choices at the table.

While there’s no real major health reason to run prior, Burchardt mentioned that your body could utilize the protein after a run. Our bodies always need a good protein source after exercise, especially running. If you timed your run just right to sit down and replenish with high protein turkey, your body will get to work more so than your non-running counterparts. And while the run will burn calories to help make more room for indulgence at the feast, Burchardt mentioned how no one should go run on an empty stomach. Even though the calories are going to come in a big wave afterward, your body should not try to perform on an empty stomach.

Another professional suggested “bookending” your exercise this holiday to make certain you got some quality burn in. Dr. Sherry Pagoto of suggested running in the morning and then taking a walk after the meal. While the walk post-meal may have no added benefits, Pagoto feels one may refrain from stuffing themselves if they know a walk is on the schedule after dinner.

Enjoy your holiday, indulge a bit, but be good to yourself. If you can view your plate as the miles you’ll have to run, you might not fill it quite so high this year, unless you’ve got the time to run an ultra-marathon that morning instead of the usual 5K turkey trot!

View Runner Holiday Gift Guide 2012 Slideshow

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