As our Start Running Stay Running community grows, we have noticed that many people are using running as a vehicle to lose weight.  Running is an excellent exercise for the calorie burn, but there can be a fine line between how much (or even little) you eat and getting the running performance and results you desire.

So, can running and weight loss really go together?

This is a tricky one. The bottom line is, when you run, you expend energy, and you need to eat to stay energised.  However, to lose weight, experts recommend that you aim for a calorie deficit. So how can you do both together?

There is no doubt that running is a great way to lose weight and has been a successful way for many to lose weight and keep it off.  There is no reason why you can’t lose weight by just running alone and keeping your food intake precisely the same.  For many, this works as the deficit would’ve come from the running.

But what if you’ve been running and are not seeing the pounds fall away?  What could be going wrong?

There are three main things you could be doing that will halt your results.

  1. Your food intake is too much for the amount you burn.
  2. You’re not mixing up the types of running you are doing.
  3. You’re only running.

1) Are you eating too much?

There could be many reasons why you are eating more than you need to when you start running. Too often, runners overestimate the number of calories they burn off while out on a run . They then ‘reward’ themselves for their efforts with a high- calorie treat that will not satisfy their hunger or provide a decent amount of post fuel nutrients.

You can work out that a 1 mile of running will expend approximately 100 calories.  However, this will depend a lot on intensity.  One mile of running on an incline is very different to a run on a flat road. A 30-minute run can easily be cancelled out with a couple of treats afterwards, and then you’re still hungry, so end up eating more than you burnt off in the first place. This is where you can sometimes end up gaining weight even though you are putting in the mileage.

Running to eat more meme
One doesn’t always cancel out the other!

Your post-run fuelling should be a combination of carbohydrates and protein in the form of a snack or light meal.

Some good post-run snacks are:
  • A protein shake… or even a glass of milk will provide a good dose of protein to fuel those muscles.  Indeed, chocolate milk has been noted to be a better choice than many sports drinks.
  • A bagel with ham, egg or a nut butter
  • Greek yoghurt with granola and fruit
  • Protein bars are also a good choice when you are pushed for time.

Don’t turn to fatty foods to refuel. These are high in calories but will have low nutritional value and will undo all the good work of your run.

How can you fix this?

One of the best ways to ensure you are not overeating is to track your food and drink intake.  It is so easy to mindlessly eat empty calories, and tracking is a great way to ensure you keep to your optimum calories.

Using apps like MyFitnessPal or simply writing down what you eat on a day-to-day basis will help you to keep control and monitor how you are feeling.

Do I need to track forever?

Absolutely not!  After a period of time you will get to know what fuels your body, their calorific value and the optimum amount of calories you should consume per day/per week.

2) You’re only doing one type of running

When you initially start running, you’ll find that your body will react to the additional calories you are burning off, resulting in weight loss. When you continue to run the same distance, same route, at the same time of day, your weight loss will start to plateau as your body gets used to the exertion.

You need to change things up with different types of runs. Hill runs, tempos, trail running, long and short distance – they all play a part in your journey, and all contribute differently to your weight loss.  

Grumpy Cat thinking of hill repeats
When you see Hill Sprints on the Run Plan

We will go into this on another blog but you can find more information on everything running on our Facebook page where our Runcoach Emmie holds weekly LIVES. https://www.facebook.com/startrunningstayrunning

3) Are you ‘just’ running?

Along with running, building strength will help with your runs, helping you push forward, especially on uneven terrain and hills. Therefore, you should consider building in strength training into your schedule a couple times a week.   

Will this affect my weight loss?

The mindset of a ‘win’ being a decrease on the scales should be revisited at this stage.  For many years, it has been drilled into us that the number on the scales we see staring back at us is an indicator of success.  With slimming clubs awarding certificates for lbs lost each week, it isn’t surprising that we have come to associate weight loss as good thing and weight gain as bad.

When you start weight training, you may plateau in your weight loss or even gain.  This is OK.  What’s important is that your body composition is changing for the better – fat % reducing and muscle % increasing.

You need to be mindful that your body will burn fewer calories at rest as you lose weight, but the more weight you carry, the more significant impact through your joints.  That’s why it is important to ensure that an increased percentage of the weight you are carrying is muscle and not fat. This will then help you run for longer and give you that drive forward that you need.

In fact, as you build a stronger body, you will use more calories when you run, not less.  The focus should really be on losing fat, not weight, which doesn’t always convert to the scales.

Fuel correctly, run better, get leaner!

Within The Inside Track membership group, you will find nutrition tips and meal ideas specifically for your running activity, focussing on how to fuel your body effectively to run. With the help of our run coaches, PTs and nutritionists, we will help you improve your running performance and get stronger while educating you on what to eat for the best results in your running. And because you will be running better and feeling stronger, your body will feel better!

We will help to change your mindset on ‘losing weight’ being the ultimate goal and have you focusing on a stronger, better fuelled body to carry you forward in your running.

If you want guidance from a run coach, personal trainer and nutrition coach on how to perform better and eat smarter, then come take a look at our VIP membership.

Take a click to find out how you can join The Inside Track for just £1 for your first two weeks!