Is running 'the' thing that will help me loose weight?
There are a lot of great reasons people start running, and there are many benefits to gain from running, but in this article we will be focusing on weight loss and running. A lot of people automatically assume that when you start running the kilograms will automatically fall off. Unfortunately for a lot of people this is not the case. Reasons for this include calculating we have burnt more calories than we have, and then either eating more as we are hungry after the run, or rewarding ourselves with edible treats which at the best break even with what we have just burnt off running, or may even be more than what you burnt!
Another reason people may not be losing weight by running is that some subconsciously slow down their activity for the rest of the day.
It is important to remember, a sensible diet plan is an essential for weight loss, whether running or not. Ditching all carbs is not the answer, it can instead leave you feeling sluggish on your runs, so you achieve less, or even fail to complete your run/workout.
It is not all gloom and doom, running (and other types of exercise) are proven to help people maintain their goal weight better than just watching what you eat. One study found that runners were leaner and lighter than people who did equivalent amounts of any other type of exercise. The main reason seems to be that people typically burn more calories per minute when running than they do when swimming, riding a bike, or whatever else.
On a separate issue, the best way to increase your VO2max (the way your body utilizes oxygen) is to decrease your weight, helping you become a faster runner.
Burn baby Burn
What is the reason the numbers on the scales are not dropping? Are you an optimist and presume that run burnt 1000+ calories? A female who is 10st 10/ 68kg is likely to burn just under 500kcal on a 45 minute run at a 10-minute-per-mile pace. To lose weight you need a 500kcal deficit a day, so if you eat more with running, you can see why the maths aren’t working for you.
New day, same workout?
So you have found a route you like. It is convenient and be honest, after a while it does not feel too hard – but you keep doing it as it was you do, it's almost as cozy as a pair of slippers. That could be a big part of the problem. Your body quickly adapts to what you are doing and now requires more of a challenge. Plus a steady run in the so called fat burning zone, may allow you to burn more fat as you are doing it, but you will not necessarily benefit from the afterburn (when your body continues to burn additional calories hours after your workout), as you would with a higher intensity run or weights workout.
Bigger is not always better!
A bigger/longer run is not necessarily the way to go if the focus for running is weight loss, it is the intensity that tends to have a more significant impact. There a tons of benefits to running a 5K or marathon, but seeing the number on the scale go down isn't necessarily one of them. All the training you do to cross the finish line makes your body efficient at conserving energy so you can go the distance, and as you increase endurance, you’ll gradually start burning fewer calories during your runs. Steady state runs are needed when working on endurance and distance, but as we have seen, aren't the best way to burn fat.
Studies have found that people achieved more fat loss from 4 to 6 30 second sprints (around 8.5-9.5 on a scale of perceived intensity), then from a steady 30-60 minute run (4-5.5 on a scale of perceived intensity). The intervals work on a similar way to lifting weights, as lactic acid is produced at a level whe it cannot be broken down and begins to accumulate in the blood and you end up with an oxygen debt. This raises the metabolism more both during the workout and afterwards, allowing you to burn more fat overall.
As this type of intervals are tough, ensure you warm up for at least 10 minutes. The sprint for 30-60 seconds, and then recover at a slower pace for twice the amount of time (ie 1 minute recovery per 30 sec sprint). Cool down for 5-10 minutes afterwards, and stretch. Due to the intensity do this type of workout no more than twice a week, and avoid consecutive days.
Out and back runs, are also another way to push yourself. Run to the end of the route, and then race back to the start, trying to knock time off your run-out time. For example 15 minutes to get the furtherst point, then 13.5 minutes to get back. You gain a sense of achievement from beating yourself, and it stops complacency setting in as well as raising the challenge on your body.
Too much of a good thing?
Is it possible you are doing too much? Exercise can be a great stress reliever, but it also causes stress on the body if you over train, and do not get enough recovery. Stress impacts on your hormones, in particular cortisol which can lead to fat storage particularly around the stomach area. When this goes on for a while, the increase in cortisol can lead to more inflammation, slower recovery, breaking down your muscle tissue, building up fat, and even harm your immune functioning. Cardio exercise due to it's repetitive nature causes a catabolic reaction (breaking down) rather that metabolic reaction (building up) which resistance training brings, which is worth remembering as more muscle increases the metabolic rate which means more calories are burned round the clock. Therefore, it is worth including resistance workouts along with your runs and sensible diet when wanting to lose weight.
Running is certainly not all about weight loss, and for many people it has no or little influence on why they run. Remember doing the minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (for 19-64 year olds) per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (for 19-64 year olds) as recommended by the government can have many health benefits including;
The government also recommends doing strength exercises at least 2 days a week. This can help with;
If you are new to running, remember to start off gradually with no more than 3 runs a week, avoiding consecutive days. Build up to where you can run continuously for 30 minutes, before starting high intensity intervals (you could experiment with ones that of a lower intensity). I you have underlying medical conditions, please consult an expert first.