Can running help you lose weight?
Now more than ever, it's important for us to stay fit and healthy. We caught up with Team KMC's very own, Harry Lancaster (aka @Runningtoeatmore) who has a real passion for this subject, to share his experience.
For many, a significant reason why they take up for running for the first time or the first time in a while is to shed some unwanted weight. This explains in part why the popularity of running is usually higher than the norm after the festive period and in the lead up to "summer bod" season with a main goal from many being to trim down. For active runners, injuries are a common occurrence, I've certainly had plenty myself, and naturally my weight tends to rise during this period along with many others.
This blog will address whether running actually does help you to lose weight or whether this perception is a myth. The answer may or may not surprise you! It's important to note I am not a nutritionist or even close, but I love researching it and of course have experience myself in weight gain and loss! I will use my experiences in trying to lose weight recently after a 10-week injury period alongside relevant information researched by myself.
Calorie Deficit, Calorie Deficit, Calorie Deficit!
Ultimately, this topic can be over complicated, and regularly is by a variety of sources. The reality is that if you maintain a calorie deficit consistently you will lose weight.
A calorie deficit is when you consume less calories than you expend. For example, a female runner may expend 2000 calories on a particular day. If she eats 1800 worth of calories on that day, she will be in a deficit of 200 calories. In terms of fat loss only, it is irrelevant where these calories come from. It could be 1800 calories worth of spinach or 1800 calories worth of chocolate cake, it doesn't matter, and the deficit is still there. Whether or not either of these options is "healthy" is a discussion for another day (however, the answer is probably clear for the 2nd option!). If she consumed 2000 calories and expended 2000 calories she would be in a state of "maintenance" meaning her weight will remain stable as she is not in a surplus. A surplus would occur if she consumed over 2000 calories, say 2200, putting her in a 200-calorie surplus.
Anyway, to lose weight, there has to be a calorie deficit, this is conclusive, there is no such thing as a magic pill, diet or device that can change this! Some diets may help you achieve this goal of a calorie deficit but there is no magic food that will do this for you unfortunately.
Does running help you achieve a calorie deficit?
Running is an amazing calorie burner, in fact, one of the best out there. Dependent on your weight and the intensity of the run, an individual can burn around 400 calories in 30 minutes of running. Naturally, you would assume it is therefore easier to create that energy/calorie deficit being a runner, which is true to a certain extent. It certainly provides more "margin of error" in terms of calorie consumption however a common mistake many runners make including myself on numerous occasions in the past when trying to lose weight is assuming a run gives you a "free pass" to eat what you want.
The reality is whatever distance you run, and whatever number of calories you burn on it, you still need to be aware that a calorie deficit must be created to lose weight. For example, I may burn 3200 calories in a day including the calories burnt from my 10km run. If I then decide to treat myself with two pizzas both containing 2000 calories, I will have consumed 4000 calories putting me in a surplus of 800 calories despite me running 10km!
This is of course, an extreme example, but you hopefully get my point. So, running does burn loads of calories, in many ways making it easier to create that deficit but unfortunately you can't over-indulge if you really want to lose weight! The deficit must remain!
Do you need to be in a deficit every day to lose weight?
The short answer is no. For every 3500 calories burnt, you will lose roughly 1 pound of fat or just under half a kilogram. So, if you were in a deficit of 500 calories for 7 days you would achieve this (500 x 7 = 3500) in a week. However, say you couldn't do this and were in a deficit of 500 calories for three days running but then on the fourth day your girlfriend/boyfriend treated you to a delicious chocolate cake for your birthday and put you in a surplus of 250 for that day. It is absolutely fine! Over that 4-day period, you are still in a deficit of 1250 calories.
A huge mistake many make is thinking after treating themselves once or twice with some sweet treat or pizza or burger, they have "failed" and give up. It's often simply not the case at all and personally, I'd even recommend indulging now and again even with fat loss being your goal. It helps settle the cravings meaning you are less likely to over-indulge and life is too short to not treat yourself now and then even with fat loss attempts especially if you are not a professional bodybuilder or athlete.
It's easy to be overly restrictive and aim for a huge deficit which is very unhealthy/harmful and could result in a huge binge later down the line. I'd recommend small deficits each day which will add up to huge results over time and the results will show!
Five Common mistakes when trying to lose weight
- Overly restrictive eating leading to general unhappiness, lack of energy and increased chance of binge eating
- Cutting out all "nice foods". You can still eat delicious foods every single day, it just needs to be in moderation dependent on how much weight you want to lose
- Giving up when they make a "mistake" e.g. eating a pizza one day. It's not the end of the world at all, just try to stay consistent.
- Forgetting all calories add up e.g. seasoning, sauces, nibbles, snacks etc, it all counts unfortunately!
- Cutting out food groups. This does not need to be done. Regardless of what you eat whether its carbs, fat or protein, if you are in a deficit, the results will show!
Five Tips for staying in Calorie Deficit
- Eat high-volume low-calorie dense foods. Foods that are big in terms of size, so they fill you up but low in calories e.g. many fruits and vegetables
- Eat foods high in protein and fibre, these have a higher "satiation effect" meaning how full they make you feel.
- Try to avoid liquid calories. You can really cutback on calories by swapping out high-sugar fizzy drinks for diet/low-sugar drinks or even better, water!
- Exercise! Whatever, you do, as long as you are moving, you will burn more calories making it easier, although not guaranteed as I've discussed, to stay in a deficit!
- Try to avoid snacking too much. Each meal should leave you relatively full. Snacks are great but they can soon add up if you're not careful!
Thank you for reading my blog, I hope it helped.
You can find me on Instagram @Runningtoeatmore