How To Running For Weight Loss

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Running For Weight Loss

Running for weight loss is one of the most popular choices for those who want to shed extra pounds quickly. Running can burn a lot of calories and many runners claim that you lose weight faster than with other methods. Even so, there are still many myths and mistakes when running for weight loss. This article looks closely at running for weight loss, its benefits and also provides tips to help you get started.

So you’re running for weight loss. There are many different ways to approach your diet. Whether you want to focus more on cardiovascular exercise or strength training exercises, the hardest part is getting yourself off the couch and into the gym. Whether you want to drop a few pounds or have a larger goal like training for a marathon, getting that training effect can make a huge difference to your success long-term.

Will Losing Weight Also Make Me Faster?

Weight loss isn’t just good for your general health (and great for your mental well-being), but it can also help you run faster.

Watch this video, which answers the question How much faster could I run if I lost weight?

We also have several in-depth articles that cover how to run to lose weight:

  • Is weight loss possible with running, or just a way to “die tired?”
  • How to Lose Weight While Running a Lot (hint: it’s not by dieting)
  • The Three Pillars of Exercise After Burn

It’s important for us to stop worrying about DIETING and cutting calories. You won’t accomplish your goals because these strategies don’t work very well for runners.

If you’re training for a race, then you shouldn’t be running for weight loss at the same time. Those are conflicting physiological goals!

Reduced carbohydrate intake or calories, couple with training for a race, will result in a host of problems:

  • sluggishness while running
  • poor recovery after long runs and hard workouts
  • less ability to tolerate higher workloads – resulting in slower race times
  • trouble finishing your most challenging workouts
  • reduced energy throughout the day, leading to depression and low motivation

So if you don’t want to run poorly and feel terrible, stop dieting, cutting calories, or restricting carbohydrates.

Here’s why some people may lose weight from running. 

This can happen in a few different ways, but they each largely come down to calorie intake vs. expenditure as Rachel Pojednic, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of exercise science at Norwich University in Vermont, and former research fellow at the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF. (Remember, that’s not the whole story when it comes to weight, but it’s a big part of it.)

If taking up running increases a person’s overall physical activity, and they don’t make any other changes to the way they eat, then they may start to lose weight from now expending more calories than they’re taking in. It’s also possible to lose weight from the combination of running and other simultaneous changes. “Oftentimes what you see is that people are combining some kind of positive health behaviors around [running],” Dr. Pojednic says. For instance, someone who has fallen in love with a running practice may start sleeping more, drinking less alcohol and more water, and loading up on nutrient-rich foods to have enough energy for chasing those endorphins. All of these factors can combine in a way that causes weight loss, at least while these behaviors are maintained. 

Most of this weight loss will come from adipose tissue (otherwise known as body fat), but some of it may also come from lean mass (otherwise known as muscle tissue). One way to hang on to this muscle mass during any new workout plan is to make sure you’re getting enough protein, “so your body has the building blocks to rebuild that muscle tissue that you are naturally breaking down from exercising,” Dr. Pojednic says. Another strategy is to add some resistance training to your workout plan too, which is a great way to maintain or add muscle.  

How to avoid the running/weight gain danger zones

To prevent overeating when you’re in a running groove, you have to be smart about what you’re eating before, during and after that workout.

Before a run. “For a 45-minute run, you don’t need to have something ahead of time,” says Bonci. “A two-hour training run is different—you need to have some fuel in the tank. But if you’re only exercising for an hour, there’s no need to have anything other than water.

During the run. “People only need to fuel during long runs if they are training for a marathon or ultramarathon.” Often, people consume lots of calories from sports nutrition products during shorter runs “and then wonder why they’re not losing weight,” Karp says.

After the run. Start with a big glass of water. That helps you rehydrate and takes up “stomach share,” says Bonci, which can help you avoid inhaling everything in the kitchen at once. If you want something before you shower, think of it as an hors d’oeuvre, then shower and come back and have a meal in a more relaxed way, she says. “Think of water as the shooter and the chaser is a little bit of something to eat.”

Ideal for post-run: “I like the idea of eating something that requires a utensil, because then it at least takes a bit longer to eat,” Bonci says. “Yogurt with granola can be good, because even if you’re tired from running, most people have enough energy to lift a spoon to their mouth.”

Here’s why some people may gain or maintain weight from running. 

Similar to the above, a lot of this comes down to calorie intake vs. expenditure. 

A 2019 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people often increase their calorie intake when they exercise. It’s certainly not uncommon to start a running plan and realize that you’re suddenly way more famished than usual. And, what’s more, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, even though weight gain tends to be demonized. Bodies need fuel, especially for increased exercise! 

“You’re often going to eat more than you have burned simply because it’s really hard to burn calories in that kind of massive sense,” Dr. Pojednic explains. 

Also worth noting: Just as pairing running with other healthy habits can lead to weight loss for some people, it can lead to weight gain for others. Let’s say your newfound running habit is part of a decision to stop overly restricting food to the point of having no energy; a way to find joy in movement as you start fueling and treating your body in the way it needs. For some people, those changes could lead to a net gain in weight.

And, if a new running habit generally evens out with other new lifestyle habits—maybe you join a running club to make new friends and excitedly partake in post-run drinks each time—it’s possible that your weight could pretty much stay exactly where it is. 

6 ways to run your way to weight loss

Does running help you lose weight? Absolutely, but you need to be sensible about it. Here’s everything you should know about running for weight loss

running for weight loss

Does swimming burn calories? Yes. How about cycling? Yes. How about a fancy fitness retreat in the south of France? Oui.

All of those things are great for weight loss, but they have a higher barrier to entry compared to running. You need a pool, a bike, and a six-figure salary, respectively. But if you can afford a pair of running shoes (like these affordable beginner shoes) then you can run. You can run in hot weather. You can run in cold weather. You can run in the snow. You can run in the rain. You can run with a friend. You can run by yourself. You can even run every single day if you’re smart about recovery.

It’s that kind of accessibility that makes running one of the best workouts for weight loss. ‘You just need a pair of decent shoes, some creativity, and maybe a friend or two to develop a walking or running plan,’ says Dr Daniel O’Connor, professor of health and human performance at the University of Houston. ‘It’s less expensive than joining a gym or having a personal trainer.’

MORE FROM RUNNER’S WORLD

Run it off – how to use running to reach your goal

8 common mistakes that can stop weight loss

That’s a big deal considering time and opportunity are some of the biggest hurdles people face when trying to make fitness a priority. ‘Everyone is dealing with full schedules and competing priorities, so it’s often difficult to add something new to your routine without trading something else out,’ O’Connor says.

Is running good for weight loss? Absolutely – possibly more so than any other exercise, in fact, due to the number of calories it burns. Still, running for weight loss is a little more complicated than hitting the pavement and hoping the pounds melt away. There’s a strategy involved, and we can help. Here’s everything you should know about running for weight loss:

1. Pay attention to your diet.

There are a billion benefits of running—including weight loss—but running isn’t a reason to ignore your diet, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, you could find yourself gaining weight if you over-fuel your runs.

‘Most people overestimate the calories they burn on a run,’ says Angela Rubin, USAT Level I triathlon coach and studio manager of Precision Running Lab at Equinox in Boston. As a very general estimation, you burn about 100 calories per mile. So if you run two or three miles, you’ll burn about 200 to 300 calories—a solid workout.

The problem is, lots of people add a 400-calorie brownie or extra slice of pizza to their diet because they ‘earned it.’ While we’re all for treating yourself, the reality is that you need to create an overall calorie deficit if you want to lose weight.

‘Weight loss is about creating a caloric imbalance, where you’re using slightly more calories than you’re consuming, say 200 calories per day,’ O’Connor says. So while it’s totally normal to crave something sweet or carb-heavy after a run, you need to keep your indulgences in check if your looking to lose weight by running/

2. Push yourself but don’t overthink it.

Yes, athletes are constantly optimising their training plans and race-day strategies, but you don’t need to go crazy if you’re just starting out. ‘When it comes to weight loss, moving and burning calories are what matters,’ O’Connor says. ‘If you like sprints, which have a higher rate of calories burned per minute, then go for it; but if you prefer walking or slower jogging, you’ll just need to spend more time to burn those calories.’

That said, a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study found that runners lost more weight than walkers over a six-year period, possibly because of the afterburn effect. ‘Running at a high intensity will create an afterburn, which is when your body continues to burn calories when you’re no longer moving,’ Rubin says.

3. Work towards that runner’s high.

The runner’s high is real: a Journal of Experimental Biology study shows that running releases endocannabinoids, which are associated with pleasure and could keep you coming back for more. But don’t worry if the idea of a runner’s high feels more distant than a marathon finish-line. You just need to move past the phase in which running totally sucks.

‘Your body is made to run, but you won’t have the conditioning if you never do it,’ Rubin says. ‘Work your way up by running regularly (see: the three times a week we mentioned above), and it should start to feel more natural over a month.’ Before you know it, weight loss may even become an afterthought, too.

4. Don’t forget to strength train.

Weight-training is important for a few reasons: first off, it makes you a stronger runner and reduces your risk of injury. ‘Running is only hard on your joints if you don’t have the muscle to support them,’ Rubin says. Secondly, lifting will help you lose weight. ‘The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest,’ she says. That’s right, more muscle means more burned calories when you’re just sitting around. That’s one weight loss tip that’s often overlooked – don’t ignore the kettlebell; getting stronger doesn’t mean getting heavier.

5. Stay hydrated

It’s fairly commonplace to confuse feelings of thirst for feelings of hunger. So when you return from your run, start with a big glass of water. That helps you rehydrate and takes up ‘stomach share’, which can help you avoid inhaling everything in the kitchen at once. Think of water as the shooter and the chaser is a little bit of something to eat.

6. Run before breakfast – occasionally

There’s some evidence to suggest that running before breakfast – known as ‘fasted’ running – can help to increase fat burn. In a 2019 study, researchers found that those who exercised before breakfast burned double the amount of fat compared with those who exercised after breakfast. However, there are some important caveats: fasted runs should be performed at an easy pace for a relatively short amount of time (less than 75 minutes).

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