Many runners start training because they want to lose weight. The good news is that, when it comes to losing weight, it’s hard to beat running alongside a smart eating plan.
After all, exercise is important, but what you put on your plate is even more so. “Just because you’re a runner doesn’t mean the sky’s the limit with calories, carb loading and happy hours,” says Lisa Dorfman, RD, aka The Running Nutritionist, author of Legally Lean.
If you still have doubts, Jason Machowsky, RD, CSCS, a board certified sports dietitian and exercise physiologist at Hospital for Special Surgery, reinforces: “Running is a great way to burn calories and build up cardiovascular function. However, if your goal is fat loss, nutrition is just as important.”
Follow these simple tips for running- fueled weight loss:
You should start out running three times a week and then increase the volume to four or five times a week. In general, the more you work out, the bigger the results will be.
“But make sure to listen to your body. If you need a break, take it,” emphasizes the running expert. If you don’t, this can lead to acute or overuse injuries.
FOCUS ON STRENGTH TRAINING
Unfortunately, it’s hard to reach your goal weight with running alone. Sascha explained that “the higher the percentage of muscle in your body is, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be.”
Therefore, in addition to your running training, you should include at least one strength training workout per week either with free weights or your own body weight. The Results app is a good way to strength train using your own body weight.
MIX UP YOUR TRAINING
At first, a beginner can get good results with short, easy runs. However, your body will quickly adapt to this training stimulus and build up reserves.
This presents a problem for more experienced runners: over time, the fat burning gains will grow smaller.”
To avoid this situation, you need to incorporate as much variety as possible. “Don’t give your body the chance to get used to your workout,” said Sascha.
By switching up your training, you force your body to keep adapting. This, in turn, improves your performance and boosts your metabolism. “Make variety your routine: in addition to your long-distance runs, work in some intervals, fartleks, sprints, technique drills and strength training.”
A good rule of thumb is never do the same workout twice back to back!
INCREASE YOUR INTENSITIES
An engine running at full speed burns a lot of fuel!” This is a good way to picture the fat burning mechanism during an intense running session.
A strenuous interval workout requires a lot of energy. While it is true that the percentage of fat burned in the metabolic process is quite high during long slow runs, the total daily energy expenditure, and thus the number of calories burned, is relatively low due to the low intensity of the workout.
In the case of high-intensity running workouts, like intervals, the percentage of fat burned in the metabolic process is significantly lower, but the total daily energy expenditure and the calories burned are many times higher.
Furthermore, the “afterburn” effect is much higher during your recovery from a high-intensity workout than a low one. “But be careful: intense
running workouts are very hard on your body. For this reason, you shouldn’t do more than one per week.
GIVE YOURSELF BREAKS
Your body needs time to adapt to all the different training stimuli. Therefore, treat yourself to at least one rest day per week.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep: it influences all the metabolic processes in your body.
AFTERBURN EFFECT, NUTRITION AND RECOVERY
If you are interested in burning fat while running, you need to make sure that your body burns more calories per day than it intakes. Running expert Sascha explains that “it depends on a good ratio of exercise and a moderate diet.”
If you only focus on one of the factors, it is going to be pretty hard to achieve or maintain your ideal weight (i.e. yo-yo effect!). Athletes often eat lots of carbohydrates to build up glycogen stores in their muscles. “Generally speaking, this is important for your body’s ability to perform physical exercise.”
However, the consumption of carbohydrates can interfere with the metabolism of fats. This means that if you want to reduce your fat stores, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything containing sugar after your workout. Your body must recover after your workout. “It wants to return to its normal state and it requires energy to do this. This is why your body continues to burn calories even after you finish running.”
This is known as the “afterburn” effect. This effect is highest after interval training or intense strength training.