Running for Weight Loss

How to Boost Your Weight Loss Efforts With Running

close-up of runners legs
Jacob Lund/Stocksy United

As one of the most vigorous exercises out there, running is an extremely efficient way to burn calories and lose weight. Although some runners drop pounds and are able to maintain their weight, others fall victim to common weight loss mistakes. If you're hoping to use running to lose weight, here's some advice on how to be successful and stay on track.

Healthy Eating Is the First Step

If you want to lose weight by running, keep in mind that you'll only shed pounds if you burn more calories than you consume.

To lose a pound, you have to burn, through exercise or life functions, about 3,500 calories. So you'll need to combine running with a healthy diet. Runners do have special nutrition needs, but the basic principles for healthy eating still apply. Try choosing smaller portions of high-fat and high-calorie foods and eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

One common eating mistake among runners is that they overcompensate for the calories burned by exercise with extra calories from more food and beverages. Some runners even find that they gain weight or hit a weight loss wall, despite their regular training.

One way to prevent "stealth calorie" consumption or mindless eating is to write everything you're eating in a journal for a few weeks. Seeing a record of your food intake will help you see where your diet needs improvement. It will also keep you on track because you'll think twice before putting that chocolate-covered donut in your mouth.

Runners often find that they constantly feel hungry, so you'll want to try to plan your snacks and meals to avoid going overboard. Get ideas for 100-calorie snacks and more tips on how to avoid overeating by controlling your portion sizes.

5 Smart Eating Rules for Runners
Best Foods for Runners
Healthy Snacks for Runners
Six Simple Changes for Healthy Diet

Follow a Training Schedule

Sticking to a training schedule is a simple way to stay motivated to run. You'll know exactly what you need to do every day and each run builds on the next, so it's much harder to postpone or skip workouts. Following a schedule can also help you avoid a running injury by not increasing your mileage too quickly. If you're new to running, here are beginner training schedules to check out:

4 Weeks to Run One Mile - for those brand-new to running
3 Weeks to a 30-Minute Running Habit - for beginners who can run for a minute
4 Weeks to Run Two Miles - for beginners who can run at least a half mile
5K Run/Walk Training Schedule - for beginners who can run for 5 minutes at a time
5K Beginner Runner Training Schedule - for beginners who can run at least one mile
More Training Schedules- if none of the above schedules work for you

Run Regularly

Consistency is key, according to runners who successfully lose weight and keep it off. If you don't want to follow a schedule, you still need to make sure you're running regularly because you won't lose weight by running once a week.

It's best to get some activity every day, but if that's not possible, try to shoot for at least 3-4 times per week. If you find that your motivation to run is suffering, follow these tips to get inspired. One trick to staying motivated is to give yourself little rewards when you reach a milestone, such as running a specific race or reaching a certain distance. Just make sure that you use non-food rewards, such as a pedicure, massage, or cool running gear.


Keep it Challenging

Incorporating speed work or interval training (running at a very fast speed for short intervals of time) into your running routine can also help your weight loss efforts. Speed work burns a great amount of calories in a short period of time. You'll also increase your muscle mass and improve your resting metabolism, causing you to burn more calories throughout the day. Try to add fun challenges, such as running a 5k every month for a year, to improve your motivation.

You may also want to consider adding strength-training to your routine. Some runners find they can boost their weight loss efforts (and performance!) by doing strengthening exercises 2-3 times a week.

Speed Workouts:

Get more tips on how to boost your metabolism and how to burn more calories during your runs.

Eat for Performance

If you're running regularly and you're training for a long-distance event, proper nutrition is especially critical for your performance. Skipping meals doesn't allow you to train with adequately fueled muscles. You shouldn't skimp on calories before, during (when necessary), and immediately after your very intense and long workouts. These are crucial times when nutrition is important to performance and recovery.

Running and Weight Loss FAQs

Here are some common questions from runners who want to lose weight by running:

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