Does running for weight loss work? Athletes eat and train they don't diet and exercise

Not everyone starts running to lose weight, but a lot of people do. You might have come here wanting to know things like:

How do I start running for weight loss?
What are some tips to get me started running for losing weight?
How much do I need to run to lose weight?
Does running for weight loss even work?

And the answer is more complicated than you might think. Everyone has been taught the calories in – calories out method of weight loss. It’s simple. All you need is to consume less calories than you expend. But the reality is that it is more complex. Not all calories are created equal. A lot of it depends on your metabolism. And sometimes the challenge with starting running is that your appetite increases.

None of which are reasons not to run. There are so many things to love about running that have absolutely nothing to do with diet and weight loss. And if you are looking to lose weight, moving your body is a great place to start, that and breakfast.

But the main reason why weight loss and starting to run might not be such great companions is that learning to run involves developing your aerobic system. Which means lots of running at low intensity. That’s why most learn to run programs have walk/run intervals. But the way weight loss works is that it is most effective with running at high intensity intervals. So running for weight loss and running to improve your fitness are two very different things with very different outcomes.

And where weight loss is often focused around restricting calories or carbohydrate intake, performance is based around fuelling your body for everything it needs. Because if it’s not getting everything it needs it will start burning muscle to get it. Unfortunately, your body sees muscle as less necessary than fat – so if you aren’t eating enough – muscle will be the first thing to go.

But I have an even better idea than weight loss. Weight loss is an outcome but what is the goal really? To feel like you have more energy? To feel more comfortable in your clothes? To feel strong and energised? Then maybe focus on the way you want that life to look like and the weight loss will follow.

Learning to run has so many benefits for the body and mind. But rather than stepping into another cycle of deprivation and weight loss, look at how you can reward your body with movement and fuel to support that movement. Look at things that you are going to enjoy. Look at a lifestyle that you are going to enjoy and is sustainable for you.

The problem with traditional diet and running exercise programs is that a few things happen:

1) You are probably not eating enough, so your body starts burning muscle
2) The more weight you lose, the more your metabolic rate drops so to maintain the loss you have to eat less and less and it becomes increasingly less sustainable
3) You end up abandoning it because you are miserable

You might not have a dramatic body improvement in 4 weeks, or even 8. But if you learn to run, eat food that is good for your body and food that you enjoy to eat, in 6 months or a year or 2 years – you will like how your body looks, you will love how your body feels, you will enjoy your running and the lifestyle you have created for yourself.

Do yourself a favour. There’s a reason that those diet programs are called ’rounds’ because you go in circles and don’t get anywhere. Imagine what you want your life to look like. And just do that instead.

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Zoey Dowling

Written by: Zoey Dowling

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