8 Running for Weight Loss Questions, Answered – Women’s Health

8 Running for Weight Loss Questions, Answered – Women’s Health

So you’ve decided running for weight loss is the way you’d like to feel fitter, healthier and stronger. Good on you. After walking for weight loss, running is one of the most common and accessible (and free!) ways to start a fitness journey.

And, while you may think it’s as easy as throwing on some running shoes and heading for the park, running specifically to lose weight well (or lose body fat) is a more technical affair. Fortunately, we’re here to help set you straight on a) what you need to do and b) how to do it safely and sustainably.

While we can’t lace up your trainers and go striding out for you, we can get you up to speed on the basics of running for weight loss. Ready? Course you are.

1. Is running good for weight loss?

How running will help you lose weight, though, is more nuanced.

Here’s how to calculate a calorie deficit

So, to answer the question of whether you can lose weight just by running – remember that your fuelling choices are just as (if not more) important. Exercise will help keep you in a calorie deficit but don’t rely on it as the be-all and end-all, OK?

Losing fat is a different kettle of fish to losing weight; learn how to lose body fat safely. Spoilers, you’ll need to get familiar with resistance training!

2. How much should I run to lose weight?

How much you need to run to lose weight is a bit of a tricky question. Healthy weight loss comes mostly from smart nutrition and a little bit from how you exercise. Saying that, to lose weight well (around 1lb per week) you’ll need to create a daily calorie deficit of, around, 500 calories per day.

‘To do that with running alone [no change in diet] would likely mean taking on a 45-minute run every day of the week for a woman who’s 11st 4lb, for instance’ says Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist and running coach. But, for most, that’s just not realistic or injury-safe. Plus, exercising every day is categorically not the one.

Something a bit more doable, a 30-minute run, for example, done four days a week, would burn about 350 calories per run for the same woman. According to Hamilton, this would result in weight loss of about 0.2lb per week.

Remember, though, these numbers are calculated with no change to her food. Get your daily diet in check and you can combine four 30-minute runs per week with a conservative nutritional calorie deficit and lose weight steadily.

3. Does running help you lose weight on its own?

Muscle tissue is important as it burns more calories per day than fat tissue; crucial if you want to maintain a healthy weight for good.

‘When you’re burning calories, that energy comes from fat stores, glycogen stores, and then protein – which is essentially muscle. The higher your muscle mass, the higher your basal metabolic rate,’ explains Lindsay. Basal metabolic rate is a technical way to refer to your metabolism – how quickly you use food for energy and what gets stored as fat.

‘In other words, less muscle means you need to eat less to stay in a calorie deficit.’

If you love to run, Lindsay says it’s a great way to increase overall calorie burn, as long as you also focus on preserving muscle through resistance training, too. ‘Three strength-training sessions per week, along with one or two runs, is ideal,’ says Lindsay. ‘Stick to 45-minute workouts to ensure it’s manageable.’

4. Is running the best cardio for fat loss?

‘If the idea of running for weight loss makes you feel horrible, don’t do it,’ says Dr Charlie Seltzer, a weight-loss doctor and exercise physiologist.

There are plenty of ways to move your body that have nothing to do with running; skipping workouts, dance workouts HIIT classes and cycling for weight loss are all viable options.

The best part? They all come with a host of other benefits – think a stronger heart, better bones, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, better mental health. Things that have very little to do with numbers on the scale and will help keep you on track when motivation wanes.

5. What type of running is best for weight loss?

In fact, one of the reasons HIIT’s so good for fat loss is because of something called the EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) effect – also known as the “afterburn” effect. This is when your body keeps burning calories at an elevated rate, post-exercise. Basically, you get more bang for your buck.

6. Why am I always hungry after running?

Namely, because you’re burning more calories. A 2019 study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that, after doing moderate-intensity cardio five days a week (to burn 500 calories a day) for 12 weeks, women who were overweight lost body weight and fat, but, in the process, their hunger levels went up and they ended up consuming more calories.

A great way to assess if your hunger is physical or emotional (perhaps a response to knowing you’ve exercised) is to employ a mindful eating approach. This is when, before eating, you take a minute to assess your hunger levels before swinging open the fridge. It can help you to tune in to what you’re actually feeling and nix emotional eating.

7. Should I follow a running plan to lose weight?

Having a plan is the key to progressing towards your goals – something true for running for weight loss, as well. If you’re getting out there, completing the same 5k loop at the same pace every time, you might not be making the fitness gains you think you are. As we exercise, our bodies become used to what we’re asking of them and they become more efficient at helping us do it.

Instead, get yourself a plan that varies the distance and cadence of your runs to keep you trucking on for the long term and in good nick too. Whether that’s a beginner 5k running plan or something more advanced, try to stick to the challenging sessions – you’ll be a better runner for it.

Try this running plan for beginners

8. What’s the best running app for weight loss?

Strava is the new Instagram, according to runners. A fitness app, Strava is the place where joggers, runners and cyclists unite. Use the app to track your mileage, progress and find new (virtual) running buddies.

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