If you want to lose weight, it seems extremely logical that running would be one of the best methods by which to do so. It burns calories, leaves you drenched in sweat, and seems quite difficult, therefore it must be aiding your progress towards that summer beach body you’re looking for, right? Well, not really. How do I know this? Experience. It actually turns that out all of us that have been running in an attempt to lose weight are like hamsters in a wheel, working hard but going nowhere.
I’m still a runner, but not because it will help me lose weight, because it won’t. My first run on the Nike+ Run Club app (known as Nike+ Running back in the day) was the Hollywood Half Marathon, on April 7, 2012, a day on which I weighed 193 lbs. I was tracking my weight closely because that’s why I had gotten back into running, to lose weight.
Fast forward 5 years later to 2017. This morning I weighed 201 lbs. My Nike+ Run Club app shows I’ve run a total of 3369 miles (it’s actually more because I ran bunch of treadmill miles that I didn’t track). I ran the Los Angeles Marathon two months ago in 3 hours 26 minutes 53 seconds.
I’ve run 91 miles in the first 17 days of May, most of those at a very fast pace for me, the toughest one being a max effort half marathon on May 13th in 1:37:11, a 7:25/mile pace. Two days prior to that I did a 7-mile uptempo run at near max effort in 53:27 (7:38/mile pace). I did two 2-mile repeats the other night with a 4-minute rest in between, in 12:59 and 13:28 respectively. Two days before that I ran 4 miles at max effort in 27:19.
I’m training to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time in 14 weeks on August 17th at the Santa Rosa Marathon. I need to run below 3:10:00 just to be eligible for Boston, although I likely need to run 3:07:00 to actually get in as they admit faster people first, distributed across the different age groups, until it reaches capacity.
I’m good shape for me right now. I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since February 1, when I started a diet and exercise program to drop 50 pounds. I’m also documenting that on YouTube which you can see here. Does any of that weight loss have to do with running? No.
Why running doesn’t help you lose weight
I am going to give my opinion this solely based on my extensive experience. I have no scientific basis for anything I’m saying, although it’s possible there is a scientific explanation, I just have not seen it.
1. It is extremely physically difficult to burn a small amount of calories running. Take running a 5K for example, which is no walk in the park for most people. For the sake of simplicity let’s say running burns 120 calories per mile (it can vary based on your size and the pace at which you run but 120 is close to average). A 5K will burn 373 calories. Do you know how easy it is to eat 373 calories?!?! It’s ridiculous!
A homemade tuna sandwich, which is supposedly very healthy and in my opinion tastes awful, contains 350 calories according to one particular entry on MyFitness Pal. So running a 5K allows you to eat one miserable extra tuna sandwich. Oh joy.
Just one supposedly “healthy” Lenny & Larry’s Complete cookie (400 calories) more than cancels out all the calories burned in a 5K run. I must admit these things are delicious as hell though. That’s fantastic marketing by Lenny & Larry, putting the word ‘yum’ in there. I’m sure that’s generated thousands of additional sales (eye roll. Although it probably has lol.)
2. Running makes you hungry. Now here’s the part that I have no scientific evidence to back up but seems to be the main problem with running to lose weight. Running does something to the hormones in the body that cause hunger, and since eating a small amount of food can quickly cancel out all the calories burned in an extremely difficult run, running is not an effective weight loss tool. There’s not much more to it than that. If you found this article then you probably already suspect that this is the case.
You can’t outrun a bad diet. I’ve tried. You end up being susceptible overuse injuries. I’ve run 3,369 miles in 5 years and I weigh 8 pounds more than when I started. So how do you lose weight, and more specifically, fat? Through a good diet, tracking calories and macros (fat, protein and carbohydrates). and making sure caloric intake is lower than your energy output, and strength training. Diet is BY FAR the most important factor though. By all means run if you want to have good cardiovascular fitness and to feel good, but don’t do it with hopes of lowering your body fat percentage and improving your appearance.