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Does Running Burn Belly Fat? (According to Science)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Last updated: May 18, 2023

Running is one of the best exercises for losing weight, even getting rid of excess belly fat that’s notoriously difficult to melt down. (Or is it?)

Then, how come that surveys show more than one in three US adults are obese?!

Those people probably don’t know some basic minor tweaks that could help them get a flat tummy.

That’s why we’ve researched expert-approved strategies you can easily implement into your running training routine to torch belly fat.

So, let’s get straight to the point.

Quick Summary

  • Moderate to high-intensity runs are very effective when it comes to burning belly fat.
  • To burn belly fat while running, you should run for at least 30-60 minutes at a rate of 6 miles per hour.
  • Incorporate running in your exercise routines, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep for the best results.

Does Running Daily Reduce Belly Fat?

Woman outdoor running

YES, running daily helps reduce belly fat.

Moderate to high-intensity runs are more effective at reducing belly fat than abdominal exercises such as crunches and sit-ups.

Not only does high-intensity running like sprints, hill repeats, or interval runs burn more calories than most other exercises, but it continues to burn calories even 48 hours after you finish working out [1].

In addition to more calories burned and various health benefits, research shows that running contributes to eating fewer calories by reducing the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and increasing the production of satiety hormones like PYY [2] [3].

Do you want more good news?

As several studies suggest, running is proven to be a highly effective way of burning calories and losing belly fat, even without changing your diet [4] [5] [6] [7].

Then, imagine what weight loss results you could achieve if you paired this aerobic exercise with specific nutrition changes.

Not only would your belly slim down faster [8], but you could get rid of visceral fat (the most dangerous fat surrounding the organs in your abdomen) and significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and many other metabolic issues and severe health problems [9].

These studies have also found that high-intensity interval training three times a week significantly decreased body fat percentage and trimmed belly fat compared to steady pace exercise, low-intensity walking and running, or no exercise.

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How to Burn Belly Fat While Running

Young sporty woman running

Many runners fall into the trap of believing that the longer distance they run, the more belly fat they’ll burn.

However, that’s not true.

Different styles of running bring different benefits.

Long runs are endurance-building runs, whereas slow runs are typically done for recovery after hard runs such as hill repeats.

Also, a normal run before or after a workout at your natural pace can help improve your overall fitness and cardiovascular health, build strength and endurance. Still, it’s not ideal for burning excess fat and losing weight.

So, you need to know how to mix up different types of workouts and different speeds and styles of runs to progress - become a better runner and burn as many calories as possible.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you start running to lose belly fat.

Incorporate Interval Running Into Your Exercise Routine

A man in starting position for running

Lower-intensity runs help you burn more calories from fat, while higher-intensity runs increase your overall calorie burn.

Interval runs at various speeds increase the oxygen flow to your muscles, helping you speed up metabolism and burn calories faster.

Instead of running at the same pace all the time, switch up your pace to make the most out of your sweat time and boost your weight loss potential.

Alternate between high-intensity bursts of running at a fast pace, pushing yourself to the maximum, and slow jogging or moderate-pace walking for recovery.

A good example would be mixing five short, intense 500-meter runs with short breaks of 5-minute light jogging to rest in between the intervals.

You could also combine high-intensity runs once or twice a week with less intense, longer runs on the other days.

Always remember to begin each workout with a 5-minute warm-up and finish it with a cool down.

Consider Cross-Training

Cross-training involves running as your primary exercise supplemented by secondary exercises like cycling, swimming, and other low-impact exercises for 30-60 minutes on off-days.

You can also combine your running program with resistance training or strength training, higher-intensity weight training, core exercises like planks, or other effective exercises that’ll challenge your cardiovascular system to burn more fat.

“Building muscle through strength training can help increase your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories you burn doing day-to-day activities.”

- Carolina Araujo, Certified Personal Trainer

Try Trail Running

Although you can run faster and burn more calories on a flat road, heading onto the trails if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau could be super beneficial.

You may be running at your natural pace, but you’re getting a full-body workout and tightening your calves, quads, and glutes while running up and down hills or jumping over rocks and logs.

Adjust Your Diet

A woman preparing her strict diet meal

If you want to shed one pound per week, you’ll need to create a weekly calorie deficit of around 3500 calories, which is quite a challenge.

However, you can reach that goal by reducing your food intake and burning more calories than you consume.

To lose weight faster and burn extra calories and belly fat, running and a healthy, balanced, low-calorie diet are the winning combination.

Christine Luff — a certified running coach, personal trainer, and founder of Run for Good — says that to lose fat from your abdominal area, you have to reduce your overall body fat. While running can help you lose weight and fat, you’ll have a lot more success by combining it with a healthy, low-calorie diet.

You can hope for the best results if you make the following changes to your eating habits:

  • Reduce your daily sugar intake because sugar loves to accumulate around your tummy. One study found that a group of people who consumed four to five servings of white bread daily gained much more abdominal fat than those who ate one serving, although they all consumed the same amount of calories [10]. So, cut back on all refined and processed foods loaded with added sugar, salt, and trans fats. Trim carbs and replace them with lean protein.
  • Refrain from liquid calories found in soda, fruit juice, coffee, coke, energy drinks, sports drinks, beer, alcohol, and other high-calorie sweetened beverages. Drink plain water instead to stay hydrated.
  • Eat more healthy fats found in avocado, seeds, nuts, peanut butter, olives, canola, flax, and olive oil to shed off the flab. Not all fats cause weight gain. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats can help you lose excess body weight by balancing your blood glucose levels. Plus, long-chain omega-3 fats help increase satiety and control your hunger pangs, making you consume fewer calories.
  • Eat plenty of proteins. Switch out high-calorie foods like protein bars for high-protein foods like fish, eggs, lean meat, and dairy to help you build muscle mass.
  • Try intermittent fasting. It can help regulate your insulin and hunger hormone levels and significantly decrease abdominal fat within a few months.
  • Add fat burner supplements to your diet. They can help you reduce fat quicker with their thermogenic effect. Read our article about the best fat burners for running.

However, avoid running on an empty stomach in the morning.

“I recommend clients time their pre-workout meal when exercising for weight loss. If someone is exercising or walking for more than 60 minutes, they need to make sure they eat at least an hour before exercise. If skipping a pre-workout meal, you run the risk of low blood sugar and muscle breakdown.”

- Morgyn Clair, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Plan and enjoy your meals, eat slowly, chew the food thoroughly, mind your portion size, don’t eat until you’re full, avoid distractions while eating (TV, phone), and check nutrition labels to avoid hidden fats and calories, especially when you’re tempted to overeat after workouts.

Adopt Lifestyle Changes That Can Help You Get a Flat Stomach

A woman relaxing on her room

Unfortunately, you might end up sweating without burning fat and reaching your weight loss goals unless you make particular everyday lifestyle changes that can affect your results.

Here’s what matters most:

  • Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep

As a general guideline, seven to eight hours of high-quality uninterrupted night’s sleep is enough for most people.

Science agrees that sleep deprivation is linked with raised cortisol levels, lowered levels of the satiety hormone leptin, reduced insulin sensitivity, and other conditions related to excess visceral fat.

At the same time, there’s strong evidence that sleeping between six to seven hours can help reduce belly fat.

One study found that women who sleep less than five hours per night gain weight and more visceral fat than those who sleep seven hours or longer [11].

The researchers also associated sleeping longer than recommended with gaining more belly fat.

  • Reduce Stress

When you’re stressed out, your body releases more cortisol, making you crave caloric, high-fat foods that may ease the tension by stimulating your brain to release feel-good chemicals.

Such disturbed hormonal balance hinders your weight loss and contributes to adding more pounds.

So, steer clear from anything that’s bothering you, learn how to say no, and find more time for the relaxing activities you enjoy.

  • Set Realistic Yet Challenging Goals and Stay Consistent

Don’t expect instant results. Instead, aim for a safe, gradual weight loss.

And set challenging goals because it’s proven that people with modest or no clear goals are less likely to succeed.

For instance, start by setting a short-term goal to eliminate all junk foods from your environment and lose one or two pounds a week.

Although it may not seem much at first, if you stick to your mini-goals persistently, it’ll eventually add up, and you’ll be able to achieve a long-term goal of shedding 10-12 pounds in three months leading up to your ultimate fat loss goal.


How Much Should I Run to Burn Fat?

To burn fat, you should run for at least 30 to 60 minutes at a moderate pace of 6 miles per hour (10 km per hour) or a more intense pace four to five times a week.

The faster you run, the more calories and fat you burn.

How Long Does It Take to Lose Belly Fat From Running?

How long it’ll take you to burn belly fat from running depends on your diet, body size and weight, the intensity and type of your running workout, the way your body responds and adapts to your exercise program, how fast and well it recovers, whether you exercise regularly, and a variety of other factors.

Since everyone’s different, there’s no easy, universal answer to this question. It can take weeks or months.

Generally, one pound of fat equals around 3,500 calories. So, to get rid of one pound of fat per week and lose four pounds in one month, you have to burn at least 500 calories every day.

Can I Lose Weight by Running 30 Minutes a Day?

Running for 30 minutes a day can help you lose weight, boost metabolism, and burn 200-500 calories.

Your body uses fat as an energy source instead of carbs during a relatively short period of high-intensity physical activity such as vigorous running, plus up to two days after the activity to restore itself, burning fat due to the increased post-workout oxygen consumption.

Is It Bad to Run Everyday?

It may be bad to run every day because it increases the risk of overuse and stress injuries in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments as your body doesn’t get enough time to rest and repair the tissues.

If you do it right, it’s enough to run three to five days per week and reap all the benefits while keeping your muscles fresh.

Will Running Burn Belly Fat?

High-intensity running burns the most calories per minute, more than many other types of exercise, because it requires many muscles to work together at their maximum power.

Research results showed that it also helps your body regulate blood sugar and balance hormones that suppress appetite and continue to lose fat after the workouts, targeting harmful and stubborn belly fat and enhancing weight loss.

Besides reducing your waist size, running can lower the risk of heart disease and falls, build endurance and speed, reduce fatigue and strengthen your leg muscles so that you have more energy and feel less knee pain, etc.

Regular exercise, refraining from sugar and carbs, eating more lean protein and soluble fiber from vegetables and legumes, and sleeping well are bound to help you hit your fitness goals.

But, before you get your running gear and take the first step toward hitting your goal, ask a professional to provide medical advice based on your specific needs and targets.

And let us know how it goes.


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