Running is one of the best ways to lose fat, but if you don’t do it right, you could potentially injure yourself, tire yourself chronically, or backtrack your fitness goals.
Over the course of my career as a fitness trainer, I’ve studied various running programs for fat loss and observed how they work to burn calories and shed weight.
So, in this article, we’ll take a look at how to lose fat by running and ways to do it safely.
- You should run for at least 30 minutes daily in order to lose weight.
- When running, start slow, stop running if you feel pain, and set enough time to rest, and recover.
- Eating before running can effect your weight loss journey.
How Much Should You Run to Lose Weight?
You must run for at least 30 minutes daily to lose weight.
This has been the case for most of my clients in our fat loss program.
However, how much you run also depends on your fitness goals.
For example, if you’re in a bulking phase in your bodybuilding routine, you wouldn’t run as much as someone who’s in their cutting phase.
To better understand what you need to do, let’s look at the basic facts and do some math.
Some Basics on Fat Loss
A pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories . Therefore, the amount of fat you want to lose depends on how many calories you burn when running.
So, if you want to lose one pound of fat, your running needs to burn 3,500 calories.
As a beginner, you obviously can’t do this in one session. The average person burns 100 calories running a mile.
So, to burn one pound of fat, you’ll have to run 35 miles.
Let’s say you want to lose half a pound of fat per week (1750 calories), and you plan on running five days a week. That’d mean burning 350 calories a day.
So, you’d have to run 3.5 miles a day for five days a week to lose a half-pound of fat per week, granted your calories-in are in check, of course.
You may not be ready to do this the first week if you’re a beginner, and we don’t recommend you start running intensely.
So now, we’ll look over some of the most effective ways to help you start, burn calories efficiently, and burn belly fat while running.
Related: Does Burning Calories Burn Fat?
4 Ways to Do This Effectively
In my experience, it’s best to get a few things ready before you start running for weight loss.
Here’s what I’ve recommended to my clients for the best results:
- Understand your caloric deficit
- Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- Get the right equipment
- Progress slowly
1. Understand Caloric Deficit
A caloric deficit is the number of calories your body utilizes from its fat storage daily, and it’s basically how many calories you consume less compared to the amount you expend.
Planning out a caloric deficit by counting calories and calculating your total daily energy expenditure is an essential part of your weight loss program because it’ll help you decide how much weight you want to lose.
The average person consumes anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. To burn fat, you must decrease your average caloric intake so your body burns more calories from its fat storage.
Taking our example of losing half a pound of fat per week, you’ll need a calorie deficit of 350 calories every day.
2. Set Your BMR
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. It's basically calories burned for your body's basic physiological functions (like breathing and digestion).
Here’s how you calculate your BMR:
- Men BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years).
- Women BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years) .
Let’s say you’re a 25-year-old man who weighs 110 kilos and stands at 182 cm. Your BMR will be around 2294 calories a day. So, if you eat 2294 calories and sleep most of the day, you neither gain nor lose weight.
If you wanted to burn 350 calories a day, here’s what you could do:
- Decrease calorie intake by 200 calories
- Burn 100 calories by running
You can calculate your BMR and set up your deficit in a manner convenient to you.
3. Right Equipment
Apart from the right running shoes, beginner runners will need comfortable clothing and a running watch to track their pace, distance, and calorie burn.
Picking the right shoes is important because the wrong ones could damage your knees over time.
So, invest in a pair that are comfortable and compatible with your physical requirements.
4. Slow Progress
When you start running, you might not get in those 3 or 4 miles. Losing weight by running requires patience.
The average beginner running program will have you walk-run three times a week till you build the strength and endurance to run 3 miles without stopping.
So, it’s okay to burn fewer calories in the beginning if it means achieving a healthy rate of weight loss in the weeks ahead.
“Running hurts—you need to prepare yourself for that. But if the pain gets better, or goes away as the run goes on, that’s a good thing.”
- Dr. Reed Ferber, PhD, Director, Running Injury Clinic
4 Safety Tips for First-Time Runners
Running can be nerve-wracking or exciting for beginners, so it’s very easy for them to make mistakes. And some mistakes can lead to severe injuries that’ll backtrack your fitness goals for a while. So, it’s best to do your running as safely as possible.
Here are some safety tips I’ve recommended to my clients over the years. It’s helped them to slowly and steadily develop their running speed, strength, and endurance over time.
1. Take It Slow and Steady
In the early stages of running, you won’t see a great deal of weight loss. While this can be discouraging, understand that you’re new to this and that your body needs to adjust itself to burning calories in a new way.
So, be patient with yourself. Just as losing weight isn’t an overnight task, running efficiently will also take some time.
Start at a slow and steady pace. As you get used to it, you can pick up the pace. As you get better, you’ll soon start burning more calories and eventually lose weight at a good pace.
2. Stop if You Feel Pain
There’s good pain and bad pain. Good pain is a light muscle burn you feel after a good workout session.
Bad pain is anything that drastically affects your running performance. This can be things like joint aches, muscle cramps, or even worse, muscle tears.
If you feel a bad kind of pain when running, we highly recommend you stop and walk instead.
Pain is a sign that you’ve either overworked, not warmed up, or not recovered well.
3. Rest and Recovery
Lastly, your rest and recovery are just as important as how many calories you burn.
Make sure you eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep to allow your body to rebuild your muscles and recover.
4. Don’t Sacrifice Form to Burn More Calories
Never sacrifice your running form to push yourself. Here’s a checklist to help you keep your form in check:
- Keep a good posture, engage your core, and keep your sights forward.
- Keep your shoulders up and drawn back; don't slouch or tilt your head.
- Keep your hands loose. Use a relaxed arm swing without crossing your arms in front of your body.
Use a midfoot strike when hitting the ground. Avoid striking with the heel as it may weaken your knees .
Related: Is Running in Place Effective?
Will Running Make Me Gain Weight in the Beginning?
Yes, running may help you gain some weight in the beginning because the training can make you crave more carbs. You can avoid this by healthy eating and rationing out your carb intake.
Will Running on an Empty Stomach Help Me Lose Weight Quickly?
No, running on an empty stomach will most likely not help you lose weight quickly.
However, the research on how effective morning runs are on burning fat is mixed, and its effects will most likely depend on your genetics and lifestyle.
Should I Eat Before or After Running to Lose Weight?
You should after running to lose weight. You should preferably eat something within the first 30 minutes after your run to replenish your body's glycogen stores.
Will Eating Before Running Affect My Weight Loss?
Yes, eating before running may affect your weight loss. If you want to run to lose weight, then it’s best not to eat or eat very few calories a couple of hours before running.
Is There an Ideal Time to Run For Weight Loss?
No, there is no ideal time to run for weight loss. Every part of the day has its advantages and disadvantages for running. So, pick a time that best suits your schedule and fitness goals.
Our Advice on Running to Lose Fat
If you choose to run before or after a workout to lose weight, then be mindful of starting slow and doing it safely. What’s more, make sure you have enough energy before a run to make the most out of it.
Eating calories for energy before a run can be counter-intuitive, which is why we recommend taking pre-workouts before running:
Our clients have personally tested these products and had some remarkable results. They naturally boost energy levels, and improve the rate of calorie burn.
Check out our list and find one that suits your fitness goals.
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