Whether you’re a runner who wants to drop a few pounds or a non-runner who wants to pick up running to shed some weight, running to lose weight can be tricky. The main contribution to this conundrum is running expends energy, and we need to eat to stay energized — but how much we eat is the difference between weight gain, loss or maintenance and performance.
There’s a fine line between losing weight and losing performance. Think of weight loss like tackling an ultramarathon. It’s not a sprint. Expect results, but expect them to be slow and steady instead of dramatic. With that in mind, there are a few ways to bust through a weight-loss plateau if you’re already putting in the miles but not shedding the pounds.
THE EXERCISE-WEIGHT LOSS CONNECTION
In the real world, the vast majority of people who lose significant amounts of weight and keep it off are exercisers. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) researched a population whose members have all lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off at least one year. Ninety percent of these individuals report exercising regularly, and the average member burns more than 2,600 calories a week in workouts.
Many kinds of exercise can be effective for weight loss, but running is among the most effective. In a 2012 study, Paul Williams, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found runners were leaner and lighter than men and women 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 anything else.
Running is a great way to lose weight. Countless women and men have shed excess pounds and kept them off with the aid of this simple form of exercise. Success is not guaranteed, however. A sensible diet is an essential complement to running for weight loss.
Studies involving NWCR members and others have demonstrated that exercisers are much less likely to yo-yo. So unless you are interested only in temporary weight loss, you should change your diet and exercise. There’s another benefit to combining diet changes with exercise when you’re trying to lose weight. When people lose weight through calorie restriction but without exercise, they tend to lose muscle along with body fat. But when they change their diet and exercise, they preserve muscle and lose more fat.
Understanding the most effective ways to run for weight loss before you start helps you avoid common mistakes — and gets you the results you want.
DECIDE YOUR GOAL WEIGHT
Make your plan specific. Know exactly what your goal weight should be so you know what you’re working with. Expand beyond your overall weight to also include goal body fat and some simple body measurements to keep you honest (and motivated) on your journey. A tape measure is cheap, and an accurate scale — especially one that measures body fat — can be a big help.