How to meet your energy requirements for running

Calculating calories for runners

Many people get started in running in an attempt to manage their weight. For those of you who fit into that category, here’s the realbuzz guide to working out whether your energy spent during running is more than your energy intake.

Maintaining a stable body weight through running is a case of simple maths.

If CALORIES IN = CALORIES OUT, then WEIGHT GAIN = zero

Put simply, if the amount of energy consumed and the amount of energy expended is the same, then your weight will stay the same. If you want to lose weight, then you need to consume fewer calories than you use up, or increase the number you burn through activity. Ideally, do both, provided you do so sensibly.

Keeping an eye on your calories by checking food labels and portion sizes can allow you to work out how many calories you are consuming daily.

But what about the ‘calories out’ side of the weight equation? Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) comes from three things:

  • Resting metabolic rate (the energy needed to enable the body to function over a 24-hour period).
  • The amount of energy used in digesting and processing food (known as the thermic effect of food). This is amount is minimal and not worth concerning yourself too much about.
  • The amount of calories you expend during running and other activities.

The last point is the one factor that has the greatest potential for effecting weight loss. It can account for between 15 to 30 per cent of your TEE — which is why exercise is such a crucial part of any sustainable weight loss program.

You can get a good estimation of your average total daily energy expenditure, by doing the following:

  • Measure your weight in kilograms (1kg = 2.2lb).
  • Put your weight into the relevant formula below to get your resting metabolic rate: 

WOMEN

18 to 30 years old: weight x 14.7. Answer + 496 = RMR
31 to 60 years old: weight x 8.7. Answer + 829 = RMR

MEN

18 to 30 years old: weight x 15.3. Answer + 679 = RMR
31 to 60 years old: weight x 11.6. Answer + 879 = RMR

Now use this figure and multiply it by the number below that most closely matches your typical daily (non-running) activity level. This should NOT include activity in the form of workouts or sports — it is just your normal day-to-day activities. The majority of us would likely fall into the sedentary category.

  • Sedentary (sit or stand most of the day) 1.4
  • Moderately active (some walking each day and regular activity such as gardening or DIY) 1.7
  • Very active (physically active each day through work or other activity) 2.0

Now estimate the calories you expend on all the running and other exercise workouts you typically do in a week, and divide the figure by seven to get an average daily value. Use the figures to help you gauge your workout energy expenditure. Remember, the heavier you are, the more energy you burn during any running or exercise-related activity.

TOTAL EXPENDITURE divided by 7 = ____________

Add together the results from stage 3 and 4 and you have a reasonable estimate of how much energy you need per day to maintain your current body weight.

Now all you need to do to maintain or lose weight is get the balance right!

Comments (1)

  • Louise515 'The above formula appears to overestimate the number of calories needed. It gives a figure for me of 1868 for a daily requirement excluding exercise. However I know from experience that I actually only need in the region of 1450-1500. Above that I would start gaining weight if I didn't also do a lot of exercise! '

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