Running To Burn Fat … and For Fun

Image result for running and sweating

The fact of the matter is that most people who lose significant weight AND keep it off are exercisers.  The NWCR did some research on a population of folks who have lost at least 30 lbs. and kept if off for a year or more.  Ninety percent of them were regularly running to burn fat.  And of these individuals, the average weekly caloric expenditure was 2600 calories.

Running May be the Best Way to Lose Weight

Of course, there are many ways to exercise to lose weight.  Running is just one of them, but also one of the most effective.  One study in 2012 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that among men and women who regularly exercised, runners were leaner and lighter.  It is thought that this is due to the fact that running burns more calories per minute that other types of exercise.  Although other activities like swimming and biking are great cardio exercises, running to burn fat is more effective.  Not only is it so effective, it’s also easy, free to do and requires limited skill.  After all, anyone can run!  Besides, many thousands, maybe millions of people have lost weight running and kept it off. 

Diet is Important Too

Naturally, success is not guaranteed and diet is an important factor in weight loss as well.  Even if you run, but continue to eat like a pig, your chances of success are marginal at best.  Additionally, exercisers are far less likely to follow a “yo-yo” routine.  In other words, lose weight, gain it back, lose weight, gain it back.  Those who lose weight with diet alone are at a much higher risk of displaying this sort of behavior than exercisers. 

Thus, changing your exercise AND food consumption habits are paramount to success.  Besides, if do both, your body will tend to burn more fat and less muscle.  But losing weight alone should not be your goal.  Your aim should instead be to burn fat while retaining or even increasing muscle mass.  All of this being said, knowing a little about HOW to run for weight loss is important.  In this way you can avoid common mistakes that can lead to folks feeling as if running to burn fat isn’t that effective after all.

Determine Your Goal Weight

Be specific about where you want to be weight-wise.  This way you have in mind what you are working towards rather than just vaguely deciding to lose weight.  But make sure that your goal considers that you are likely to gain muscle while burning fat.  Bear in mind that muscle is much more dense than fat so that your ideal weight may in fact be higher than you might think.  And don’t forget your “size” either.  Weight isn’t everything, so decide on a size goal as well.  Again, it may be a little bigger than you think because you will gain muscle in this process.  So, although you may be dreaming of being a size 4, a size 6 with a little extra muscle may actually be healthier, fitter AND sexier. 

Here are a few rules to follow to get the most out of running to burn fat:

1. Get Started Right

If you have never run before, don’t start today by doing a marathon.  Ease into it.  But to get the best results, challenge yourself too.  This will help you avoid injury and developing a hatred for exercise!

2. Begin Walking

Naturally walking is far less strenuous on your body, particularly if you are overweight or obese.  However, it still provides exercise and cardio benefit while preparing you to eventually run.  Start adding bursts of running as well until over the days and weeks of training, you can run the whole time.

3. Don’t Run Every Day

Perhaps just as important as exercise itself is allowing your body to recover.  It is taxing for your body to exercise and it needs time to strengthen bones, muscles and joints to make them stronger.  Over time as your body becomes stronger, healthier and slimmer, this becomes less necessary, but should be the rule for at least the first few weeks.  You can still choose to do non-impact exercises on “off” days as well such as swimming or cycling.

Running to Burn Fat Starter Program:

suggested starter program for people running to burn fat

Eating For Weight Loss

Losing weight really boils down to a simple equation.  Calories in = calories out.  In other words, you have to burn more energy than you consume.  This can be done in only two ways.  Eat less or exercise more.  However, if you do both, you are far more likely to succeed.  Of course, the catch is that if you run more, thus burning more energy, your body will crave more food.  This often leads to disappointment for people running to burn fat, but only running.

Appetite responses to exercise do vary, however.  Some folks see little difference while others develop nearly insatiable appetites.  If you are the first type, congratulations.  Weight loss will be easier for you.  If you are not, improving the type of foods you eat can still help you meet your goals.  The truth is, most people don’t eat too much, just the wrong stuff.  Instead of processed foods like white bread, cookies and dinners that come in a box, try fruits, vegetables and lean meats.  You will actually eat MORE food, but with fewer calories and MORE nutrients. 

High quality foods contain  significant amounts of nutrients and fiber, but with fewer calories. They also make you feel fuller and more satisfied than low quality processed foods.  Thus, you can still meet your weight loss goals while improving your health.

Here are some examples of foods and their level of quality:

high quality vs low quality list of foods

Change Your Diet

The truth is that no matter what running does to your level of hunger, you should improve your diet.  Foods on the left as opposed to the right in the above diagram should be your new normal.  It WILL impact your results.  One Danish study for instance showed that new runners who changed their diet lost about 50% more weight than those that did not.  All of the participants in the study ran at least 3.1 miles per week for one year.

With all this emphasis on diet, be sure you are getting enough calories too.  It is common for athletes to consume too little, affecting their metabolism.  When your metabolism falls, your body is more likely to add fat, which is the very thing you are trying to avoid by doing all this.  If you feel you need to lower your calories, only do so by a maximum of 500 calories.  Try that for a few weeks and see how it works out.  My personal chiropractor always says: “eat as much as you can without gaining weight.”  That’s a good objective to follow.

Longer vs. Harder

As mentioned before, there are two ways to lose weight: eat less or exercise more.  It is important to ease into it, but once you have, you should progress to running as much as you can according to the time, energy and motivation you have.  If you end up loving running and you have the time, you may eventually want to run for 60 minutes, 5 days a week.  That’s something like 4000 calories per week. 

On the other hand, you may only work up to 30 minutes 4 days a week.  This is fewer calories but will also likely stimulate less appetite increase.  Research shows that the average exerciser only eats 3 extra calories for every 10 burned anyway.  Besides, higher intensity can improve results in less time.  For example, you might run 3 miles at a relatively high intensity or 6 miles at a moderate intensity.  Of course, the 6 miles is probably “better,” the 3-miler is only half the distance, but with far more than half the benefit.

Do Some High Intensity Intervals Too

High intensity interval training should be part of your program of running to burn fat if you want the best results.  So maybe once a week, you might run a really fast half mile, followed by a slow one, then a fast one again for 3 miles rather than just running 6 miles at a moderate pace.  You could incorporate sprinting for short distances as well.  In any case, adding high intensity intervals has proven in studies to contribute to additional fat loss and muscle maintenance. 

Add Strength Training

While you will build some muscle running, it can’t compare to the results you can get from lifting weights.  You’re not going to get huge, don’t worry, but muscle burns far more calories than fat and so strength training can help you reach your goals faster and more easily.  Besides, a little more muscle can help you look better.  In fact, studies have shown that weight training to burn fat, combined with running to burn fat was more effective running alone. 

Do It the Way YOU Want

The truth is that some people, OK, most people, don’t like running for running’s sake.  That being said, many folks who start, eventually stop.  That’s because they get bored or just plain sick of it.  So, figure out what motivates you to run.  Maybe it’s listening to music.  Perhaps running with a friend.  Maybe you want to show off by winning races.  Whatever it is, do it so that you stick with running.  Eventually you may even start enjoying running for its own sake after all!

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