Running For Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, a calorie deficit is key. While the best way to create a calorie deficit is by changing your diet, studies show that those who exercise regularly lose more weight and are less likely to regain weight than those who don’t exercise.
Running is a free, easily accessible form of exercise that you may be considering to help with your weight loss journey. Here, PureGym Leeds based Personal Trainer Alin, who also has a Masters in Sport & Exercise Nutrition, answers all your questions on running and weight loss.
Running For Weight Loss
Running can be an excellent form of exercise to help with weight loss as it helps to burn a significant amount of calories and fat. While the exact number varies depending on your weight and speed, you can expect to burn around 280-520 calories for 30 minutes of running. If you are running 2-3 times a week, this can help to increase your calorie deficit without having to eat even fewer calories.
It’s worth mentioning that running has tons of other benefits too, like improved cardio fitness, better mood, better sleep, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. You can learn more about the short and long-term benefits of running here.
Does Running Burn Fat?
Our bodies use both fats and carbohydrates as fuel for running, and this can change depending on the intensity of the run. Exercising with a heart rate under 65-70% of your maximum heart rate puts you in the fat oxidation zone, meaning your body uses fat to fuel the movement. Above this, carbohydrates provide more of the energy.
In terms of running, an easy and sustainable jog will likely burn fat, while faster, more intense runs will burn more carbohydrates. However, it’s not as straightforward as choosing a slow run if your goal is to burn fat, as more intense runs burn more calories and can help with that all important calorie deficit.
If you’re running a few times a week, try doing some lower intensity longer runs, as well as shorter, faster runs or intervals. Sprint and interval runs can be great for improving your overall speed too!
Is Walking Or Running Better For Weight Loss?
Both walking and running can be great for weight loss, but like for like, running is better as it is much more energy demanding than walking, so burns more calories and fat over the same period of time or distance.
That said, when it comes to exercising for weight loss, the key is to pick an activity that is sustainable for you, and aim to progress this over time. If running seems far out of the question, start with just 30 minutes of walking and aim to increase the pace to a brisk walk. This will build the endurance needed to start running if that’s something you are interested in.
Sustainable also means something you enjoy doing, so if you find you prefer walking to running, that’s fine! We’ve shared a guide on walking for weight loss here.
What Time Of Day Should I Run To Lose Weight?
Weight loss depends more on energy balance over time, than the time of your workout, so choosing a time to run comes down to what is most sustainable for you. If you can be more consistent with running before work, morning workouts are best. Likewise, if you have more energy for exercise in the evenings, aim to run then.
I would advise against running first thing without eating, as fasted cardio can increase appetite later in the day and actually make it harder to stick to a calorie deficit.
How Much Should I Run To Lose Weight?
There is no one perfect running weight loss plan, and the amount you should run each week to lose weight depends on a few factors, including how much a calorie deficit you have in your diet, and whether you are doing other forms of exercise. That said, running for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week is a great starting point. For beginners, this might be 30 minutes of slow jogging with walking intervals, which can be built up to 30 minutes of running over a few weeks.
If you’re already a runner and you want to boost the calories burnt in your runs, try increasing your distance, or incorporating speedwork and hills.
Will Running Reduce Belly Fat?
Running, like many cardiovascular exercises, can be a great tool for reducing body fat, including belly fat. However, if you’re only running to lose belly fat, you may be disappointed by the outcome!
Weight loss occurs when you eat less calories than you burn, and most people will need to create a calorie deficit by eating more mindfully, if they want to see significant weight loss. Picking up running in addition to reducing your calories will help you to reduce your fat more efficiently.
That said, it’s important to remember that you can’t spot reduce fat. Where you lose fat from first is genetic, so you may find you lose weight from other areas before your stomach.
I’m Running But Not Losing Weight, Why?
If you’ve just started running, or any exercise for that matter, you may find your weight goes up initially. This is due to increased fluid and nutrient retention, and will drop off after a few weeks. Scale weight can be fluctuate for a lot of reasons, so it’s better to measure fat loss through a few different methods like progress pictures and body measurements.
If you have been going for a while and still haven’t seen any weight loss from running, but you feel fitter, but your weight and body shape is the same, it’s likely that you’re not eating in a calorie deficit. The good news is this is easy to address, and you don’t have to cut huge chunks of your diet out. Cutting out a few biscuits or chocolate bar a day, or a croissant and latte, can easily see you lose 2lbs a week. We’ve shared some healthy food swap ideas here.
You can learn more about why you could be gaining weight from running and how to avoid this here.
The Best Way To Lose Weight?
If you’re serious about losing weight, it’s important to approach it holistically. This means taking a look at your diet, whether you prefer to track your calories or simply eat more mindfully, up the veg, and swap calorie dense foods for lighter options.
With regards to exercise, there is no one best workout. If you don't like running, why not try cycling for weight loss instead. I also recommend including some form of strength training, like weightlifting. Strength training helps to build muscle, which means you’ll burn more calories at rest as well as running, which can help with weight loss and maintenance. Building muscle and strength can help to protect against running injuries as well as improve your running performance, among a lot of other benefits. You can learn more about weight training and it’s benefits here, and learn how to combine both in our running and strength training workout plan here.
For more tips and advice, check out our weight loss hub here. Working with a personal trainer like Alin can be helpful when you are trying to lose weight, as you’ll get expert advice, motivation, and encouragement. Ready to start? Find your nearest gym here.