Why you might not lose weight by running

Reasons running doesn’t always lead to weight loss

If you're running to lose weight but aren't getting results, don't panic. There are several reasons why this could be happening - Scott Overall, explains here. 

How long are your runs?

The length of your runs might need to increase to get the real weight loss benefits.It is all very well going out for a 10 minute jog, but if you still eat the same amount of food (perhaps junk food), any gains you make by running will be immediately lost by the food you eat.

If you can go running for maybe 30 minutes, three times a week you should find this will help the weight fall off. You will of course reach a plateau where you will not continue to lose weight without eating less or running more, and only one of those I would recommend. You should be running and eating a healthy diet, replacing the calories you've burnt with nutritious food instead of cakes and sweets.

Are you building muscle?

The more you run the more muscle you are going to build, and replace the fat. However if you are constantly on the scales this is not going to give you a true reflection of your fitness/health. Muscle weighs more than fat, but it is of course more healthy. So even though you might look at the scales and not be happy, just remember that you are certainly fitter and better for it.

Weighing yourself every day probably isn't the best idea to accurately measure your weight loss. All you are going to be measuring is the fluctuations in your hydration levels, the more running you are doing the more water your body is going to store.

Are you running at high enough intensity?

If you are going out the door three times a week and just running one pace you are more likely to hit a plateau quicker than you think. The initial weight loss will come quickly, and then you will struggle to lose any more. The reason for this is because you are simply not running to a high enough intensity. What I mean by this is that you may have become quite comfortable going out and running a relaxed pace, but clearly you will burn more calories by running faster.

However, this is where your fitness will come into play - you may not be able to run the whole run at a faster pace, so break it up into segments. Go out the door, run your usual pace for 10 minutes so that you are adequately warmed up, and then do a fast 30 second effort before going back to your steady pace and repeat this for 5-10 minutes. These fluctuations in pace will increase your heart rate, you'll work harder, and the end result will be you will use more calories.  

Try fuelling on fat

When training for a marathon there are some runners that change their diet completely so that their body changes the fuel that it uses, instead of burning carbohydrates it will burn fat. To do this runners will severely limit their intake of carbs, when there are no carbs to burn the body then uses the fat stores. This is great of the marathon because no one has enough fuel in their body to power them for the whole 26.2 miles, without taking on board extra carbs (energy drinks, gels, etc).

By burning fat you have a supply there that contains more energy and burns more slowly than carbs - again, great for the marathon. This is an extreme example but running on limited carbs can help burn fat. I would also talk to a coach or a nutritionist before starting that.

Focus on health not on weight loss

At the end of the day your weight is just a number on the scales, what really matters is how you feel about yourself and what is going on inside.The more running you do the healthier you are going to be, with increased lung capacity, stronger heart, and you should feel much better about your overall fitness. It shouldn't matter how much you weigh, as long as you're healthy.

Written by Scott Overall

Scott is a British long distance athlete who represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics. His marathon PB is currently 2:10:55.


Comments (5)

  • Simo429 'Do you ever think that this website could actually make a difference to people's health and performance rather than spreading fatlogic? Being overweight is linked to a multiude of diseases, there is no such thing as healthy at every size. '

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  • maryhail 'One factor that runners often over-looked is they should not eat any food within 30 minutes after running. This is because their metabolism is at the peak within that period and any calories they ingest will be absorbed by the body without much efforts. '

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  • JonnyCab 'Weighing yourself every day probably IS the best idea to accurately measure your weight loss BUT focus on the average weekly figure. Even then, it's not so much the actual figure as the trend that matters. If you don't see this dropping week by week, then you're not losing weight. Don't panic if it goes up temporarily, particularly over Christmas, as it will drop off very quickly again afterwards ... if you keep up the hard work. It's best to keep measurements to the same time each day and preferably not after a run or workout, where fluid loss can reduce the reading by several pounds. Personally, I find the best time to be about 15 minutes after I get up. But if you're an occasional late night binge drinker (apart from being bad for you) this figure can fluctuate wildly, so leave it until mid-morning.'

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  • r1bby 'Sorry but muscle does not weigh more than fat. A kilo of fat weighs the same as a kilo of muscle. Same as a kilo of feathers weigh the same as a kilo of lead. Difference is that fat has a larger mass size than muscle same way that a kilo of feathers has more mass than a kilo of lead. Common misconception and incorrect in your statement. I'd advise an amendment to your paragraph.'

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  • FitnessGuy 'Great post Scott. I think that you should mention the importance of doing other type of fitness assessments such as bodyfat measurement, measurements around certain areas as a way to track improvements. I'm not here to bash you like some of these people on here. I think the post was good - people who are not super overweight I don't think needs to weigh daily - it's not going to change that much (day to day). Weighing just once a week is sufficient. Louben, http://repkefitness.com/'

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