Running can be a very effective weight loss tool, but that doesn’t mean the pounds will magically start falling off once you start running. But if you run consistently and follow a healthy diet, you’ll lose weight or maintain your desired weight.
Here are some of the most successful weight loss strategies for runners:
1. Add strength-training to your routine.
Increased muscle mass speeds up your metabolism. A pound of lean body mass burns 30 to 50 calories a day. And you don’t need to lift every day or use heavy weights to make a difference. Even just two to three strength-training 25 to 30-minute sessions a week will build more lean muscle mass and give your metabolism a giant boost. I like to do a boot camp or total body workout class twice a week, so I know that I’m working all the major muscle groups. But you don’t even have to go to a gym or take a class to get the benefits of strength-training. Do bodyweight exercises such as lunges, squats, and planks at home or follow a routine on-line such as the Iron Strength workout.
If you’re running and strength-training, you may not lose weight at first because you’re adding muscle. But you will lose inches because muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. Make sure you’re tracking your measurements so you can notice and celebrate your progress.
2. Don’t skip meals.
Some runners assume that skipping meals will speed up their weight loss efforts. What typically ends up happening is that they feel much hungrier, which increases your temptation to eat everything in sight. You also won’t burn as many calories during your runs as you would if you were properly fueled.
3. Track your progress.
Weighing in at least once a day and tracking your food and beverages are proven weight loss strategies. Some runners prefer to track their food and drinks in their training journal, so they have their nutrition and workouts all in one place.
Write down everything you eat and drink for at least a few days. You may be able to spot areas where you can trim some calories and also be made more aware of times when you’re vunerable to overeating
4. Spread out your calories.
It’s better to eat several small meals and snacks throughout the day than to eat a huge breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll reduce your temptation to binge and you’ll also gain more flexibility in scheduling with your runs because you won’t have to wait until you digest big meals.
5. Run several times a week.
Individuals who successfully loss weight and keep it off burn about 2,800 calories a week through planned exercise, according to statistics from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which tracks the behaviors of more than 6,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. That amounts to about 25 to 30 miles a week.
Plan to run three to five times a week. Try to vary the distance and intensity of your runs. Make one of your weekly runs a longer one at a slower pace, and do a couple other weekly runs that include short intervals at a faster pace.
6. Eat breakfast.
Most NWCR members (78 percent) eat breakfast every day. This helps curb hunger and binging later in the day. Some ideas for convenient, healthy breakfasts include: non-fat yogurt and a banana; oatmeal with raisins; cottage cheese with fruit; English muffin with peanut butter and apple; waffle topped with yogurt and fruit.
7. Slow down when you’re eating.
Try eating more slowly and stop eating when you feel comfortable, not stuffed. This is especially important after runs when you feel hungry enough (and justified) to eat everything in sight. Slowing down will help you choose more healthy portion sizes and reduce your temptation to overeat. You may also find that you enjoy your food more.
8. Enjoy a low-calorie, low-fat diet.
The average NWCR member consumes 1,380 calories per day, and less than 30 percent of those calories come from fat.
Keep your diet consistent and resist the urge to have “cheat days” on holidays or weekends. Splurging like that is a slippery slope that can lead to a pattern of overeating and indulging in high-calorie, high-fat foods.
9. Be patient.
We’re all looking for a quick fix when it comes to weight loss, but don’t expect to get it from running. A healthy weight loss rate is ½ to one pound a week, so don’t anticipate losing more than that. Set a reasonable goal for weight loss, like five pounds in two months. You’ll get there!