Want to Lose Weight by Running? Here Are 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid
Running can absolutely help you lose weight, but if it’s already part of your routine and you’re not seeing results, the frustration sets in fast. What’s going on here? POPSUGAR talked to Heather Milton, MS, exercise physiologist supervisor at NYU Langone Health’s Sports Performance Center, to troubleshoot some common reasons you may not be seeing the weight-loss results you’re after.
You're Eating Back the Calories You Burn
You burn a ton of calories when you run, which naturally leaves you hungry and can lead to overeating at or between meals, Milton said. To lose weight, you have to be in a calorie deficit; if running leaves you so hungry that you’re overcompensating and eating more than you burn, you won’t lose weight.
Of course, fueling up is a key part of your run preparation and recovery, so don’t start skipping meals or essential snacks. You just want to be thoughtful about what you eat, especially around your runs. Go for a light snack before your run (think: a banana, a piece of whole-grain toast, or some carrots and hummus), and afterwards, satisfy your hunger with something more filling, like yogurt with fruit, a protein smoothie, or a power bar. At meals, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables, dairy, lean protein like chicken and fish, and whole grain starches like brown rice or whole-wheat bread.
You Run at the Same Pace or Duration
“The slow, steady pace also means a slow, steady calorie burn,” Milton told POPSUGAR. You might see some weight loss right when you start your running program, but then you plateau. “This is because the body gets more efficient at that same pattern,” Milton explained. In other words, your body gets used to that pace or that length of run, and you’re not challenging it enough to see continued weight loss.
To push past this plateau, start mixing up your runs. Once you’ve been running consistently for more than four runs, Milton said, begin adding an interval run or a hilly route once a week. However, make sure to know your limitations when you’re starting a new style of run in order to avoid injury.
You're Not Varying Your Workouts
Running is a great tool for weight loss, but a balanced fitness routine will help you see results faster while helping you avoid injury. You especially want to incorporate strength training, Milton said. Why? Although cardio such as running is great for a burning a lot of calories, strength training is what helps you build muscle and boost your metabolism, helping you burn calories at a faster rate. You’ll want to do two to three strength workouts a week; try running one day, then strength training the next to get a good balance. Here’s a week-long running-strength workout plan if you’re looking for a place to start.
You're Not Prioritizing Recovery
Workouts and diet are only part of the weight-loss equation, Milton said; recovery is just as important. This is when your body rests and heals from your workouts, allowing for muscle repair and reducing inflammation to keep you healthy and injury-free.
By recovery, we mean getting adequate sleep, hydrating, and fueling your body properly. These are all key factors in your weight-loss plan and metabolic processes, while also helping you live a healthy, balanced life.
You're Already at a Healthy Weight
If you’re at a healthy body fat percentage, you might find it more difficult to lose weight (and especially fat) because your body sees it as necessary to survive. And in fact, it is: body fat is necessary for important processes like hormone regulation and maintaining homeostasis, which encompasses basic survival mechanisms like body temperature and chemical levels. It also serves to protect your organs and cushion your joints.
If your body judges its current body fat content to be sufficient, Milton explained, it may adjust your metabolism to “conserve energy loss and preserve body mass,” thus slowing or stopping weight loss. If you think this might be the case for you, consult with a health care professional about getting your body fat percentage tested.