Running Weight Loss Tips

The old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race,” may not always have you crossing the finish line first for a win, but the saying is certainly true for those who are running with the hope of losing…losing weight, that is.

People running on a paved trail.
People running on a paved trail.

It is a known fact that running burns more calories than any other exercise. However, there is a delicate balance, and we don’t mean the type of balance required to keep you from falling over while you run, even though that is important too. We mean balance between calories burned and the calories you will then consume. The number of calories you burn during a run depends upon variables like your size, gender, and the intensity of your run.

Running requires energy. To have energy, we obviously need to eat. Herein lies the part where balance becomes essential. 

Our weight and our performance are both influenced by what we eat and how much we eat. You know that popular song, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough?” Well, when it comes to weight loss, sometimes running just ain’t enough. Running for weight loss also requires a practical, healthy, and balanced diet. 

If you find yourself constantly feeling hungry, it is probably time to analyze why because those pangs of hunger could be your body trying to communicate that you may be missing something vital. If you are hungry after your normal meals, try eating the same amount of food but dividing it into smaller portions eaten more frequently, and keep healthy snacks on hand.

The best food is nutrient-rich fuel.
The best food is nutrient-rich fuel.

The world provides us with natural fuel for energy. Try eating things like raisins, dates, bananas, and peanut butter, just to name a few potential snack items to stock in your kitchen cabinets.

If you want to be strong and lean, you need to consume protein. Protein helps build and rebuild muscles, a process that is essential for keeping your body running.

Although the word carb has almost become a boogeyman in the weight loss world, carbs provide quick energy, and fruits and vegetables are the superhero forms of carbs. 

When you have weight loss goals, avoid consuming more carbs than your body can absorb because any excess carbs end up turning into fat. You may not want to think about fat, but fat is a valuable source of energy for long races, so it’s not all bad.

For those who might be thinking of skimping on the running part, not so fast. If you lose weight by diet alone, you lose muscle along with fat. However, with the powers of running and diet combined, you can preserve your muscles and lose even more fat. Not only will you look better, but you will also feel better, you will perform better, and you will have a greater chance of maintaining your weight loss.

Goals to Pay the Tolls

It all starts with goals. Be specific and realistic when you start setting your goals. Weight is one measurement, but it is not the only measurement. A tape measure is another way to track your progress. There are tape measures designed to let you see muscle gain and monitor BMI. There are also fancy yet relatively inexpensive bathroom scales that let you see your weight, BMI, and body fat. Some of these scales conveniently come with the body tape measure – the best of both worlds!

Photo of feet standing on a scale. Scales can show your weight, BMI and body fat.
Scales can show your weight, BMI and body fat.

Individuals who are new to running need to start slow and gradually increase the speed and challenge of activities to avoid injuries. Overweight people are even more at risk of injury, so start by walking or do a mix of walking and running. Listen to your body. Slow down when you need to and don’t push yourself too far too fast. When you and your body feel ready, begin running more often than walking until you are finally as comfortable as Forest Gump was the moment he declared, “From that day on, if I was goin somewhere, I was runnin!”

Scene from the film "Forrest Gump" as he runs from a truck.
Scene from the film “Forrest Gump” as he runs from a truck.

Running can cause some stress to bones, muscles, and joints, especially in new runners who push themselves too far or in runners that increase the intensity of training too soon. Most runners will experience pain at some point, and injuries related to running can take a toll and require some recovery time. That is why we don’t want you to do too much too soon. Instead, if you feel the need to keep moving, do some walking or cycling until your body becomes the running machine that you want it to be. Don’t rush it because rushing risks an injury that could really set you back.

Training Not Straining

Changes to training should be gradual. We keep using that word, and that should illustrate how important it is. When you are making changes to your training, the changes will likely consist of either running longer distances or making your runs harder by adding high-intensity sessions and/or strength training to the mix.

The You Gotta Try It Diet

Weight loss has to do with math, which makes a lot of us harken back to grim days of studying mathematics like algebra and geometry that felt pointless. Don’t worry, the numbers we are referencing aren’t mysterious. To lose weight, the number of calories you ingest must be less than the number of calories you burn while you are running down your dream.

Another warning is that running often increases appetite, but don’t toss your running sneakers out just yet. All calories are not created equal. In fact, there are some nasty, empty calories that would be taking selfies and starring in reality television shows if they were people.

The empty calories are what causes most of us to overindulge and get the bulge. Adjust your diet and evict the empty calories. Throw out the cookies, chips, and other processed foods. Don’t listen to their cries as they tumble into the trash can. These foods are fake, and so are their pleas.

Replace these fraudulent foods with real foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. You want nutrients, fiber, and natural vitamins. You want food that is fuel, high octane fuel, for maximum performance and mileage.

Instead of counting those empty calories, you will be filling yourself up with satisfying foods that will give you more energy and fewer calories.

Pitfalls and Stalls

When dieting and running, make sure you are ingesting enough calories. If you cut too many calories, you also cut your metabolism and your training ability.

Another thing to consider is that most of us are brought up to believe we need to eat a big plate of food and finish everything on it or we feel we will be reprimanded or punished. Research from Cornell University shows that people can typically eat about 20 percent less at meals than they are accustomed to and still feel perfectly content and satisfied.

Don’t reward a run with junk food. We know it is tempting, but try not to do it. Some unhealthy sweets or salty treats may contain more calories than you just burned, so really you are getting burned by the reward.

The best thing to do is to be mathematical and logical. Determine how many calories you need to consume daily. If you try to diet and eliminate too many calories, you risk health complications. In fact, iron deficiency is common among runners. If you fear your diet may be devoid of something you need, you can always see your doctor for a physical exam and blood work.

Goals should be fluid in a way that they can easily be modified. A great goal to have is to make your runs longer. The greater the number of miles, the leaner you will likely become. 

Stay fueled and hydrated, but make healthy choices and don’t overindulge. Drink when you are thirsty. If you don’t urinate during a long run or feel the need to go after, you may be dehydrated.

Knowing how to train and what and when to eat and drink can be difficult to determine. These unknowns can make effective weight loss even harder to attain, no matter how fast you run toward that goal. If you find yourself unable to get started or if you started out great but perhaps reached a plateau, consider working with a running coach.

An experienced running coach can make these numbers add up and balance out in a personal way that works for you and your lifestyle. A running coach can let you know how much of each type of food you need, how often and how hard you should train, and how many calories you can safely cut without getting into an energy rut.

When you work with a running coach, your goals will be assessed, and you will have someone cheering you on as you run toward a healthier, stronger, and leaner version of yourself.

For more information about our coaching program, determining goals, nutrition, running, and weight loss, contact us at Personal Running Solutions.

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