Can running help weight loss?
That’s a big question!

Running is a popular way to exercise with many benefits to physical and mental health. It’s also a fantastic way to manage weight, but many of my clients are running & running and not necessarily seeing the results they expect.

Weight management is 80% nutrition, 20% fitness and whilst you can get results from upping your exercise alone, if you’re still not addressing your nutrition at the same time, the effects can be minimal. Plus it’s not just about that is it? To feel good, energetic, and to be healthy and happy you’ve simple got to put the right nutrition in.

All exercise is good! The amount of energy your body needs and uses does vary with different types of training. For energy your body can use carbohydrates converted to glycogen, and dietary fat/stored body fat for energy. You can store around 500kcal of energy in your muscles at any time, ready to train.

Movement at lower intensities in exercise like steady walking, flat steady cycling, pilates, uses a body system of ‘duel fuel’ burning some carbs converted to glycogen in muscle storage, dietary fat and some stored body fat at the same time. Whilst the body fat burning here sounds like a winner, the amount of energy required and calories burned in lower intensities are far far lower, and less likely to lead you into a calorie deficit, which is ultimately what leads to weight loss.

When exercising at higher intensities (eg running, intervals, HIIT training, harder cycling) your body will always need & choose carbohydrates converted to glycogen for energy, and training at intensity is a massive calorie burner. Once, you’ve run out of glycogen stores, you’ll switch to body fat burn but this is a slower source of energy and although it will keep you going, gives less ‘oomph’. It’s best to run on carbs at intensity…. (why I always want you to make sure the meal before you train contains carbs).

In longer sessions, you’ll need to take on some energy during your session before your stores run out to prevent this switch. If you’ve ever tried to run without carbs in the tank… you will feel like you have a flat battery.

What about fasted running? I don’t recommend this, you need glycogen to run well. However, running first thing in the morning before breakfast is ok and not technically fasted if you consumed carbs the night before, your body will store about 500kcal of glycogen fuel in muscles ready for use. 500kcals will just about see you through an hour or so’s running before depletion.

So how do you run well, and burn calories, train, get fitter, lose weight?

There are many types of running. Mixing your sessions up regularly is really effective not only for fitness building, but calorie burning and changes to weight – and here’s how you can give your calorie burn a boost:

Different types of runs

Base : Your ‘normal’ run. Typically up to about an hour (or less if you’re building) at your natural pace. Burns calories, and builds maintenance of your cardiovascular fitness. This should be your ‘go to’ run, and not leave you exhausted.

Long: Simply longer distance at your steady ‘base’ pace – the pace you can maintain and naturally settle into. A calorie burner, and super for building up your stamina.

Intervals / Hill repeats: More intense and shorter run sessions with structured training. Using a mix of paces slow, steady, fast. Hill repeats are different to hills within your run, this is a targeted session warming up and literally running up and down hills. Building leg strength in particular and ultimately your running power.

Both intervals and hill repeats are high intensity training, that require a lot of energy, and calories at a greater rate plus will continue to burn calories after your exercise with the afterburn effect. Because these sessions are harder and shorter, they are super efficient ways to train. If you’re short of time, or want a boost. Make them one of your weekly runs.

In summary.

You can’t out-train a bad diet!

Weight management is 80% nutrition – just 20% fitness. Don’t rely on it alone.

All exercise is good

Intense exercise (like running) NEEDS carbs

Mix up your training for the best fitness & calorie burn

Incorporate a weekly interval/hill repeat run for the best boost of all

Hope this was helpful – any questions just give me a shout.

Louise.