The Rules Of Running For Weight Loss

The Rules Of Running For Weight Loss

It’s not uncommon that those keen to drop a few pounds take up running – only to be disappointed by the results. Sure, this kind of exercise burns serious calories, but it also increases appetite, which can make controlling your weight even more challenging. Here’s how to work out smarter to get the results you want…

Be Mindful Of Calories

It seems straightforward – burn off enough calories and you’ll shed those excess pounds. But when it comes to running, it’s not that simple. Studies suggest many of us tend to overestimate the number of calories we burn through exercise, particularly running, and increase our energy intake, either consciously or unconsciously. “Research indicates the average person burns roughly 100 calories per mile,” explains running coach at KXU and co-founder of Track Life Ldn Omar Mansour. “To keep your appetite in check after a run if fat loss is your goal, fuel up with protein a few hours before your run, especially if it’s over an hour, and top up with both carbs and protein afterwards.” Omar explains this can help maintain muscle, support the recovery process and keep your immune system healthy, which keeps you training more consistently. “If you want to lose weight with running, the main thing is to create an energy deficit,” he says. Just be sure to reduce your calories sensibly and remember you’ll need the fuel for your training – chronically under-fuelling will prevent you from performing at your peak, and can cause muscle wastage.  

Sneak In Strength Training

Cardio alone won’t get you to your ideal bodyweight. Incorporating strength training into your routine will build lean muscle (which in turn raises your metabolic rate to burn more calories at rest) and boost your running ability. A recent study found women who added resistance training to a weight loss regime were able to drop pounds and preserve lean body mass better than those who solely focused on aerobic training. 

Run In The Morning

If you can bear dark winter mornings, it may be worth setting an early alarm for a sunrise run. A study by Brigham Young University found completing 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning both reduces your motivation for food and increases your total physical activity throughout the day. In a nutshell, clock a 5k before you’ve sat down to your emails and you’ll get your day off on the right foot. 

Have A Rest Day If You’re Stressed

Packing in the runs may seem like the best approach, but an excessive regime could be counterproductive when it comes to weight loss. Remember, exercise puts stress on the body, which can be a good thing when it comes to triggering the repair and growth process, but can also thwart any weight loss goals. “Your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone, after a tough or high-intensity run, to help the adaptation process. If you have a healthy diet and are sleeping well, you’ll come back fitter, but if you’re externally stressed, you should think twice before a tough run as chronically elevated stress levels may cause poor adaptation and weight gain,” explains Omar. Studies show high levels of cortisol can force you to store belly fat, and that long-distance running can cause sustained increases in cortisol. If it’s been a while since your last rest day, or you’re having a tough week in the office, don’t be afraid to scale back for a few days. You may be surprised at the results.

If you’re fairly new to running, focus on building up your distance at a slow, conversational pace. This will build a base of fitness and work the aerobic system, which is beneficial for burning fat.
Omar Mansour

Build Slowly

You’re not going to lose half a stone in a week by running ten miles this weekend instead of three – in fact, you may end up injured. “The most common mistake people make when running for weight loss is going too fast, too soon, or running too many miles before the body has had time to adjust and cope with the demands,” says Omar. “Often, our cardiovascular fitness improves quicker than the tendons and muscles that help support running technique can adapt, which can lead to injury, fatigue and muscle soreness.” The key is to build distance slowly – aim to increase your distance no more than 10% per week. 

Run Harder, Not Longer

According to a recent study, interval training could help you lose more weight than running at a continuous, moderate-intensity pace. Research shows incorporating sprints, or faster-paced segments, into your run may make your body more efficient at burning fat. Intervals could also be a good way to control your appetite, with studies showing HIIT-style workouts suppress the appetite due to reduced levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Research on male athletes showed that when they worked to a heart rate of 75% of their maximum capacity, they felt significantly less hungry after their session. Just be wary of interval training if you’re having a stressful week, says Rob McCabe, Tier X manager at Equinox. “Keep your intervals shorter with longer periods of recovery, aiming for a 1:5 ratio of work to rest, and keep your session to no longer than 20 minutes.”

Consider Fasted Training

If you run, say, before breakfast, you’ll tap into your glycogen stores, making the session more geared towards reverting to fat metabolism, explains Rob. “Fasted cardio can be a good way to aid fat loss and get the body used to being hungry, which is an important part of weight loss. A fasted session teaches the body to metabolise more fats as a fuel source than it usually does.” Running on an empty stomach may have its advantages, although some experts warn it’s not always the best approach. Anthony Fletcher, founder of OneTrack run club and biomechanics coach, advises caution: “So many people over-use fasted training sessions. Yes, there may be a time and benefit to doing them every so often, but we are seeing more and more evidence that suggests they don’t help with weight loss and can hinder performance, especially during tougher sessions.”

Think About Your Starting Point

Before you lace up your trainers, give some thought to your current level of fitness, advises Omar. “If you’re fairly new to running, focus on building up your distance at a slow, conversational pace. This will build a base of fitness and work the aerobic system, which is beneficial for burning fat. If you are an intermediate to advanced runner who could cope with the demands of higher-intensity runs, consider incorporating an interval-style session into your week in addition to longer, slower, aerobic runs. If you’re looking to lose weight, try three runs per week with various durations and intensities to challenge the body – a long, slow and steady run; a medium distance and paced run; and a faster, shorter interval session.”

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*DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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