How To Lose Weight While Running
Many runners want to lose weight while running. For some, it’s a primary objective, while it’s a great secondary benefit for others.
Regardless, it’s important that you approach weight loss while running carefully and with a specific plan in place.
If you don’t balance your caloric intake with your caloric expenditure carefully, you won’t have the energy to run hard and finish important workouts, or you’ll find yourself binging and losing all the weight loss gains you’ve made.
Losing Weight by the Numbers
It’s critical that you pay close attention to the number of calories you’re taking in (caloric intake) and the calories you’re using (caloric expenditure).
Caloric Intake – Most people know how to count calories – it’s as simple as looking at the nutrition label, measuring serving sizes, and keeping a running tally. The Internet is filled with many websites and mobile phone apps that can help with this process. My favorite is LIVESTRONG’s MyPlate, which has both an online site and web application. Not only will this help you easily track your calories, but it also gives you good information on what other nutrients you might be missing from your diet.
Caloric Expenditure – This is often the phase of losing weight that most people skip or have a hard time calculating. Luckily, I’ve made it easy for you with our handy calories burned from running calculator. Simply enter your weight, the total number of minutes you ran, and your average pace. You’ll instantly be provided with the total number of calories you’ve burned for the day.
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Armed with all the information you need, you can start making a daily plan to slowly cut enough calories to lose weight while keeping your energy levels high enough to hit the hard workouts and recover properly.
Don’t try to lose too many calories too fast
By nature, runners are obsessive creatures.
When we want to lose weight, we just cut as many calories as we can and push through the fatigue – naively thinking we’re making progress.
If you want to maintain your training levels and make progress towards your running goals, it’s important that you don’t cut too many calories from each day.
You should aim to have a total deficit of 400-600 calories per day if you want to lose weight while running.
This number allows you to lose about one pound per week (it takes a loss of 3500 calories to lose one pound). I know it doesn’t sound like much, but this adds up over time and is critical if you want to train hard and achieve your running goals.
Here’s the deal:
Calories get a bad rap, but they’re actually a measurement of energy. Simply speaking, you need them to run hard.
Losing an extra 1000 calories at the expense of a tempo run is a bad trade off. You missed an important opportunity to reach your time goal for 1/3rd a pound.
Furthermore, your body needs calories – specifically carbohydrates and proteins – to repair the muscle damage caused by working out hard.
You make gains in your fitness by first breaking down the muscles and then building them back up.
If you starve yourself of calories, your body can’t repair itself quickly. Consequently, you go into your next workout not fully recovered and run the risk of having another bad workout or tearing yourself down further.
Here’s the kicker:
Basically, you take two steps back for every three steps forward.
Other dangers of losing weight too fast
Losing more than a pound or two a week can not only be unhealthy to your running, but it will very likely cause you to lose muscle along with fat.
Not only is that bad because you need this muscle to run faster, but also because muscle is a metabolically active tissue (simply speaking, your body burns calories to sustain muscle, which results in a higher metabolism).
With your metabolism running slower as you have less muscle, you have to eat less and less to continue to lose weight.
Finally, it’s not that difficult to subtract 400-600 calories from your diet. Cut out the dessert or skip the soda or fruit drink and you’re basically there.
You might be wondering:
When you try to lose 1000-1500 calories per day, you have to sacrifice quality foods and you stay hungry. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to binge on high calorie foods and have a day or two per week where you add 1000-1500 calories and take a big step backwards.
Sum it up
In short, carefully measure your caloric expenditure and keep track of your caloric intake. Aim for about a 400-600 calorie deficit and you’ll safely hit your weight loss goals while maintaining the energy you need to train and race hard.
If you are looking for more information about losing weight while running, we did a whole series on it. Check out our other posts on this topic: