Running to lose weight successfully
Running is an excellent way to burn calories and lose weight in a healthy way. It’s a great way to get active and increase your overall fitness, while also helping you slim down and tone up your body. With the right approach and dedication, running can be an effective part of any weight loss program.
In this blog post, we'll explore:
#1 The science behind running to lose weight.
Running is a great way to burn calories and lose weight, and the science behind it can help you understand how it works. According to Harvard Health Publishing, running for 30 minutes will burn approximately 250 calories – which can add up over time to help you reach your weight loss goals.
The higher the intensity of your run, the more calories you’ll burn though.
For the record, there are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat.
So, 7h hours of low-intensity running will help you lose 1 pound of fat. Assuming you keep your diet the same. Then you can play with two variables: intensity of your run and food intake. Read more in this article from Harvard Health Publishing.
Wait! Running to lose weight is not that simple.
When you run, your body uses glycogen (or sugar) as fuel at first. This is because glycogen is easy for the body to access and use, so it’s the body’s first choice for energy. However, if your run is of a longer duration (after 30 to 60 minutes) and is of low intensity, your body will eventually transition to using fat as fuel.
This is because fat takes longer for the body to process, but is a more efficient form of energy – meaning you can keep running for longer distances with less energy.
That said, if you are a beginner, it’s best to start with a low-intensity fat burner like jogging or walking. This will help your body slowly transition from using glycogen as fuel to using fat. As your fitness level improves, you can then increase the intensity and duration of your workouts for further calorie-burning and weight loss.
Eating and running.
Running in the morning on an empty stomach can also be an option. This will help your body to use fat more efficiently as fuel instead of relying on glycogen. Some people find that running on an empty stomach helps them to achieve better results in terms of weight loss, so it’s worth giving it a try. I do that all the time.
It’s important to eat after a run. Eating a meal or snack after a workout will help replenish your body’s energy stores and provide your muscles with the fuel they need to recover and rebuild. Stay hydrated as well. After a run, try to drink plenty of water and opt for nutrient-dense snacks or meals to get the most out of your run and maximize your weight loss results.
Confused? Keep reading...
Despite the common misconception, eating after a workout doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight. On the contrary, eating the right snacks and meals after exercise can actually help you reach your weight loss goals by providing your body with the fuel it needs to recover and rebuild. When selecting post-workout snacks or meals, it’s important to look for healthy sources of carbohydrates and proteins in the correct ratio to give your body the nutrients it needs without adding unnecessary calories.
When it comes to eating after a workout, it’s important to approach it as a functional activity rather than a way to take in extra calories.
Eating after a workout should consist of carbohydrates and proteins in the right ratio; 4:1 for athletes trying to gain muscle and 1:1 for athletes trying to lose body fat. A snack after a moderate workout shouldn’t add weight, as long as it doesn’t exceed daily calorie needs. It’s also important to be mindful of indulging in too many calories after a workout and to opt for healthy post-workout snacks such as lean proteins, low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. To calculate post-exercise calorie needs, use an online calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs for weight maintenance and add an extra 200-300 calories after your workout for refueling.
Though running can help you burn calories and build muscle, it’s important to remember that diet plays an equally important role in weight loss. To achieve your desired results, it’s essential to make healthy dietary changes as well. This could include eating smaller portions, cutting back on unhealthy snacks, reducing refined sugar intake, increasing protein intake, and adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals. Combining a regular running routine with a balanced diet can be an effective way to reach your weight loss goals.
Sadly, women and men are not equal when it comes to running to lose weight.
For women, it can be a little more difficult to lose weight by running than for men, due to the effects of hormones like estrogen. Estrogen can decrease the amount of energy burned during a run and can make it more difficult for women to lose weight through exercise. Women may also have to take into account the extra time they need for recovery, as their bodies need more time than men to repair and replenish after a workout. However, don’t let this discourage you. Women can still reap the same weight loss benefits from running that men can. It may take more time. Be patient.
“Men typically lose weight faster than women,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lowden, bariatric endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine’s Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois. They have more muscle and a higher metabolic rate than women and typically consume more daily calories than women. Men usually have more visceral fat, which surrounds the internal organs, and when people lose this type of fat it improves their metabolic rate. Women typically have more subcutaneous fat, which is fat around their thighs, rear, and hips. Read more here.
Menopause is not helping with weight management either.
The hormonal changes of menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen. The American Heart Association recommends moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week and vigorous aerobic activity for at least 75 minutes a week, as well as strength training exercises at least twice a week. As for nutrition, reducing calories by choosing more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help, as can limiting meat consumption. Added sugars account for nearly 300 calories a day in the average American diet, so cutting down on them can help with weight loss. Additionally, alcoholic beverages increase the risk of gaining weight, so moderating consumption of these drinks is key. Finally, having support from friends and loved ones to make lifestyle changes together can make a huge difference in helping you to reach your goals.
Bottom line, running can help cut weight when a change in diet is also implemented. Running only, especially for women during perimenopause to post-menopause won’t be enough to cut weight. More so for beginner runners. Experienced runners who have been running for a very long time will be better positioned to maintain or reduce weight.
But don’t despair. With determination, discipline, and consistency you’ll see positive results. And for some, maintaining their weight means success.
#2 Guidelines for making running a sustainable part of your weight-loss journey
If you’re just starting out, don’t try to run a marathon right away. Begin with shorter distances and work up to longer ones. Make sure to mix up your workouts so that you’re not doing the same thing every day. Adding a strength workout to your routine will help you lose weight. At first aim for 3 runs a week. At the very beginning, alternate walk and run. As you progress add one run. And eventually, run 5 times a week.
When you increase your weekly mileage, always increase it by no more than 10%.
Start with a 5-10 minute run a few times per week and work your way up from there.
Set realistic goals
It’s important to set achievable goals when starting a running routine. Try to start with a goal that is manageable and can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time.
For new runners: ramp up to progressively be able to run a mile, then two… up to a 5k.
For more experienced runners, you can either set a goal to race a new distance or to PR a distance you are familiar with.
Find a running buddy
Having someone to run with can help keep you motivated and accountable. Ask a friend or family member to join you on your runs or join a running group in your area. Running with a friend or a group is often easier mentally. Time goes faster. For the accountability part, a friend with similar goals or a coach can be helpful.
Track your progress
Keeping track of your progress is a great way to stay motivated and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Tracking your progress will also help you identify areas where you can improve. Don’t only track your weight, track your mileage as well. Or how you feel when accomplishing a specific distance. Every step forward is a reason to celebrate. You decided to make a significant change in your life. That itself is a reason for celebration.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for staying hydrated and healthy while running. Make sure to drink water before, during, and after your runs. Drinking water daily is even more important than drinking during your run.
Eat a balanced diet
When you’re trying to lose weight by running, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Eating healthy foods such as lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains will provide your body with the energy it needs to perform at its best during a run. Avoid processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats as these will hurt your weight loss efforts.
Take rest days
Rest days are just as important as running days. Make sure to take a day off from running at least once a week to give your body time to recover. Especially when you follow a weight loss diet. As I explained in my 5 tips for runners at any distance blog, recovery is part of your training.
Stay motivated for running to lose weight even when you don't see results right away.
When things get tough, look at the big picture: changes don’t happen overnight and it takes time to see the fruits of your labor. Patience is key, as any results should be seen over weeks or months, not days. Therefore, it’s important to set small goals for yourself and celebrate each milestone. If you have difficulty reaching these goals, focus on the compounding effect that comes with running regularly. Even if you can’t see the difference right away, running will slowly add up and pay off in the end.
#3 Case studies of people who used running to lose weight. From Runnersworld.com
Meet Sharif Aboelnaga, a 48-year-old from New Jersey. He had been running sporadically for years, but his lifestyle changed drastically when he left the field and started working in an office. He made a New Year’s resolution to start running five or six days a week, to lose weight and lower his cholesterol.
Sharif used a combination of tools to monitor his progress, including Garmin Connect, MyFitnessPal, and AllRecipes. This enabled him to track his runs and measure how many calories he was burning, as well as to figure out healthy meals that fit into his diet plan.
To keep himself motivated, Sharif decided to run a marathon. He chose the New York City Marathon, which took place in November 2018. In the 10 months leading up to the marathon, Sharif ran religiously six days a week, with his longest run being 14 to 24 miles.
When Sharif crossed the finish line at the NYC Marathon, he had lost over 100 pounds since starting his running routine. Thanks to running, his cholesterol levels had also dropped significantly. He now looks back on that moment as one of the proudest moments of his life. Read the full story.
Meet Amanda Brooks, a 27-year-old behavioral health supervisor from Waterville, Maine. Amanda’s starting weight was 265 pounds, and her end weight was 164 pounds after she started running regularly.
She started off slowly, using the MapMyRun app to track her pace and distance. She then signed up for a 5K race and trained for it by running three to four times a week. On the day of the race, Amanda was nervous at the starting line but was motivated by the thought that she had trained for the race and was ready to do it. She felt so confident after the 5K that she decided to sign up for a half marathon instead of a 5K.
After she crossed the finish line, she felt accomplished and decided to keep running and exploring her beautiful state of Maine. Amanda continued running and after a year she had reached her goal, 100 pounds lighter! Read the full story.
Meet Tanisha Crichlow, a 38-year-old general manager from Brooklyn, New York. At 265 pounds, Tanisha’s weight had started to affect her health and mobility, so she decided to make a change.
She started off slowly by running three days a week, two miles at a time. When the weather warmed up, Tanisha began running more frequently and longer distances, often running four or five miles each day. She mixed in other sports and activities like yoga, cycling, and swimming to give her muscles a break.
She also participated in races like 5Ks and 10Ks to challenge herself and stay motivated. After one year of running, Tanisha was able to reach her goal weight of 167 pounds. Read the full story.
Meet Teresa Asper Anderson, a 62-year-old epidemiologist consultant from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Two years ago, she decided to start running after a medical appointment where she discovered she weighed 173 pounds with a blood pressure reading of 153/90.
Today, Teresa runs three times a week, choosing different routes depending on her mood, the weather, and the day’s planned distance. What’s even more remarkable is that Teresa and her husband started running because their adult children encouraged them to enter a 5K at Disneyland.
Teresa has come to appreciate races for their fun themes and costumes, new routes, the comradery of other runners, and the motivational push to keep trying to run a little faster and longer. To avoid injury, Teresa also engages in other sports or activities such as yoga. Read the full story.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Whether I coach you, I will always be happy to help you.
Motivation Running Coach.
RRCA Certified Run Coach.