run4life

Losing Weight by Running

How to Lose Weight by Running

Step 1: Use the Running Weight-Loss Calculator below to determine how much you can eat given a certain amount of running, speed of running, and desired weight-loss per week.

If you are new to running, it will likely take some time to build-up the amount of time you can run per week.  See Running Quick Start Guide. 

Step 2: Eat the amount of calories specified by the calculator.

You can use a site like FitDay or SparkPeople to track the calories that you eat, or you can use an Excel spreadsheet, or you can simply use a pencil and paper.

Step 3: Run the number of hours you entered in the calculator.

Use a site like RunningAHEAD to track the distance, the amount of time, and the calories you burn by running.

Step 4: If after a few weeks you don't lose the desired amount of weight per week, try decreasing the amount of calories you eat by 5-10% and/or increasing the amount of running you do by 5-10%.

The calculator provides an estimate of the calories an "average" individual will burn by living and running the specified amount.  You may burn more, or you may burn less.

Running Weight-Loss Calculator

Use this calculator to determine how much you should eat given a certain amount of running, speed of running, and desired weight-loss per week.
 

gender male

female
age
years
height
inches
weight
pounds
time spent running
hours/week
average running speed
miles/hour
desired weight loss
pounds/week

Usage Notes:
  • This calculator assumes a sedentary lifestyle outside of running (i.e., a desk job with no exercise).  Additional physical activity (i.e., besides running) would allow for a greater food intake given the same desired weight-loss.  For example, if besides running you burn an average of 100 calories/day bicycling, then you could eat 100 more calories/day than the calculator specifies.  Similarly, additional physical activity given the specified number of calories to be eaten, would result in greater than the desired amount of weight loss.
  • "A healthy weight loss goal is to lose 0.5 to 2 pounds per week. Losing more than 2 pounds per week will mean the weight is less likely to stay off permanently. Never cut back to fewer than 1,200 daily calories without medical supervision." [How to Calculate Your Caloric Intake and Use it to Lose Weight]
  • The lower your calorie intake, the hungrier you will feel, and the less energy you will have for running. It is also thought that reducing you calorie intake too low, will result in a reduction in metabolism, since you body will think you are starving. [Dieting and Metabolism]

Weight-Loss Fundamentals

1. In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, that is, burn more calories than you consume

The weight-loss industry wants to obscure this simple fact, so that they can sell you something (e.g. a book, a pill, a diet, a surgical procedure, a piece of exercise equipment,...).  You don't need what they're selling - create a calorie deficit, and you will lose weight

2. You can create a calorie deficit by either eating less and/or being more physically active.  You are likely to have the greatest success if you do both.

The US Department of Health and Human Services offers the following recommendation:

"To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements."

Note that this recommendation covers both physical activity AND calorie intake.  If you simply focus on becoming more physically active, while not worrying about what you eat, it's possible that you might not lose any weight at all.  You may end up eating more simply because the increased physical activity causes you to feel hungry, or it could be that you will overeat simply because you feel you've "earned it".

3. How much weight you lose or gain is directly proportional to the size of your daily calorie deficit:

Daily Calorie Deficit
Weekly Result
1000
2.0 pounds lost
750
1.5 pounds lost
500
1.0 pounds lost
250
0.5 pounds lost
0
0 pounds lost
-2500.5 pounds gained
-5001.0 pounds gained
-7501.5 pounds gained
-10002.0 pounds gained

These numbers come from the fact that there are approximately 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so if you want to lose 1 pound of fat/week, you need to create a deficit of 3500 calories/week or 500 calories/day (i.e., 3500 calories/day divided-by 7 days/week = 500 calories/day).

Example: If you burn 3000 calories and eat 2000 calories in a day, you create a calorie deficit of 1000 calories.  If you do this every day for a week, you will create a cumulative calorie deficit of 7000 calories and lose a total of 2 pounds for the week.

Note that a positive deficit means that you are burning more than you are eating, a negative deficit means that you are eating more than you are burning, and a deficit of 0 means that the amount of calories that you burn equals the amount of calories that you eat.

4. An effective way to ensure that you are creating a calorie deficit, is to count the calories that you eat and the calories that you burn.

Most overweight people don't have a good feel for the number of calories they eat or the calories they burn.  Counting calories and understanding you energy balance (i.e., whether or not you are in a calorie deficit) removes the guess-work from losing weight. 

Why Running is a Good Way to Lose Weight

1. Running burns more calories per hour than most other forms of exercise.

For example, a 190 pound person will burn 863 calories by running for 1 hour at a speed of 6 miles/hour.  That same person will only burn 345 calores by walking 1 hour at a speed of 4 miles/hour (a brisk pace).  So, in order to burn the same amount of calories walking as you would running, you need to spend over twice the amount of time exercising.

2. Running provides good positive feedback.

When you lose weight, you get a lot of positive feedback (e.g., your weight drops, your percent body fat drops, your clothes fit looser, people notice you've lost weight, ...).  All of these help to motivate you to continue with your weight-loss efforts.  Running provides even more positive feedback to help motivate you.  The two primary measures of running performance are speed and endurance.  As you lose weight, not only will you look and feel better, but you will see measurable differences in how fast and far you can run.  See Predicted Effect of Weight Change.

3. Competing in races is a good way to set goals for yourself and provide additional motivation for you to keep running and losing weight.

A big part of succeeding at weight-loss is setting goals and staying motivated.  Races provide a good way to do both.

You can set goals to compete in races of varying distances, starting with a 5K (3.1 miles), and working your way up to 10K (6.2 miles), 10 miles, half-marathon (13.1 miles) and marathon (26.2) distances. Alternatively, you can focus on improving your finish time at a particular distance.  Either way, you're not running to win, but just to finish, or finish with a certain goal time in mind.

Running a Marathon to Lose Weight

How many times have you started a diet or exercise program, only to stop after a few weeks?

If you are overweight and new to running, then training for a marathon may take take as much as a year or more. This type of long term goal provides long term motivation, to keep you exercising and losing weight.  You will want to keep training because you will want to be prepared to run the 26.2 miles, and you will want to keep losing weight in order to be as light as possible come race day.  You will burn a lot of calories training for a marathon, and regular exercise and eating right will become a regular part of your life.

If you're willing to consider the possibility that you may be interested in training for a marathon, you may want to watch the trailer to the movie called the "Spirit of the Marathon".  Dick Beardsley sums it up well, when he closes the trailer by saying:

“When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow, no matter how fast, it will change your life forever.”

Also, check-out this excellent essay by Dean Karnazes entitled The Marathon.  It contains one of my favorite quotes:

"The Marathon is not about running, it is about salvation. We spend so much of our lives doubting ourselves, thinking we’re not good enough, not strong enough, not made of the right stuff. The Marathon is an opportunity for redemption. “Opportunity,” because the outcome is uncertain. “Opportunity,” because it is up to you, and only you, to make it happen."

I am running a lot, but not losing any weight. Why?

If you are running a lot and not losing weight, it means you are not creating a calorie deficit. Many people who start running to lose weight, also increase their food intake, thinking that they've "earned it".  This is a good way to not lose any weight.  It doesn't matter how many miles a week you run (10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, ...), if you don't create a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight.   Use the Running Weight-Loss Calculator to determine how much you should eat given a certain amount of running, speed of running, and desired weight-loss per week.

Running Quick Start Guide

Start your training slowly.

  • If you are out of shape and not able to run much, don't worry about it, start with walking.  Once you have built up some endurance walking, you can introduce a small amount of running into your walks.  You can do this by walking for a long period, and then running for a short period, and then repeating.  Over time, you can gradually increase the percentage of time you spend running versus walking. Eventually, you will be able to spend all of your time running.
  • Whether you start out walking, running, or a combination of both, it is going take time to build your endurance and fitness level.  Be patient.  Avoid the "terrible toos" - "too much, too soon, too fast".
  • To give you a point of reference, I started running when I was 45 years old and approximately 60 pounds overweight.  It took me over 2 months to be able to run for 3 hours a week, 4 months to run for 4 hours a week, and 5 months to run for 5 hours a week.  It was 6 months before I ran my first 5K (3.1 miles) race, 8 months before I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles), and 15 months before I ran my first marathon (26.2 miles).  Depending on your current age and state of fitness, it may take you more or less time than this.
  • If you like to follow a structured plan, check out the following "getting started" programs:

Get a good pair of properly fitted running shoes.

In order to keep running, you need to avoid injury.

  • The number one way to avoid injury is to "listen to your body".
  • If you are pushing it to hard, whether in the distance or the pace you are running, your body will let you know. Adjust accordingly.
First focus on mileage rather than speed.
  • A good rule of thumb is to never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. 
  • As a beginner, don't worry about running fast.  If you do, you'll increase the risk of injury.  Your running pace should be such that you can carry on a conversation. You should not be huffing an puffing.

Rest is Important

  • If you are tired the day after a workout, take a rest day or days, allowing your body to recover.
  • Getting a good night's sleep will allow you to recover more quickly.
Set reasonable goals for yourself to focus your training and to keep you motivated (e.g., register for a race).

  • Be patient in your training.
  • If your goals are too aggressive, you will end-up getting injured, causing you to stop running.

Log your runs.

  • Logging your runs allows you to gauge your progress and is useful in goal setting.
  • You can use a free site like RunningAHEAD to log your runs.

Treadmills

  • With treadmills, weather can never be used as an excuse to not run.
  • Treadmills are easier on the joints.
  • Treadmills with speed and incline controls are great for speed and hill workouts.

Chafing

  • I've had a lot of problems with chafing, especially on longer runs.  Once I started using BodyGlide, I didn't have any more chafing problems. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many calories do I burn while running?

A: The calories burned by running depends on your weight and the speed at which you run.

The lighter the runner, and the slower the pace, the less calories burned per hour.  Conversely, the heavier the runner, and the faster the pace, the more calores burned per hour.  A 200 pound person running at 6 mph burns about 900 calories per hour or 150 calories per mile.  While a 125 pound person running at 5 mph burns about 500 calories per hour or 100 calories per mile.

You can use this Running Calorie Calculator to determine how many calories you would burn while running, given you weight and the speed with which you run.

Q: I am running a lot, but not losing any weight.  Why?

A: If you are running a lot and not losing weight, it means you are not creating a calorie deficit. Many people who start running to lose weight, also increase their food intake, thinking that they've "earned it".  This is a good way to not lose any weight.  It doesn't matter how many miles a week you run (10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, ...), if you don't create a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight.   Use the Running Weight-Loss Calculator to determine how much you should eat given a certain amount of running, speed of running, and desired weight-loss per week.

Dealing with Day-to-Day Weight Fluctuations

Your weight will normally fluctuate due to things like your level of hydration, the amount of food you eat (i.e., its weight), the frequency of trips to the bathroom, and how productive these trips are.  Depending on your current weight, these fluctuations can vary as much as several pounds either way.  This is one of the things that can make weight loss challenging and frustrating - you can be losing fat even though the scale may indicate that you are gaining weight.  There are a variety of ways to deal with this:
  • Aim for the largest calorie deficit you can manage, while staying under 2 pounds/week.  This will make your actual weight loss more visible considering your normal day-to-day weight fluctuations.
  • Weigh-in at the same time and under the same conditions (e.g., as soon as you wake-up, after you visit the bathroom, but before you eat breakfast or exercise, ...).
  • Weigh-in once a week, rather than daily.
  • If you weigh-in daily, apply a moving average to your daily weights, to smooth out the normal fluctuations.  Alternatively, only record your lowest or highest weight reading within a week-long window.
  • Track percent body fat instead of weight (this is a common feature in most new bathroom scales).
  • Track your largest body dimensions by taking periodic measurement with a measuring tape (e.g., I tracked my belly and my waist).  Note this approach works better with longer measurement intervals (e.g., I would measure every 5 weeks.).

Weight-Loss/Running Resources

General Health: 

Running and Weight Loss:

Nutrition:

Diets:

Weighing:

General Running:

Fat/Carb Burning: 

Running Gear:

Heart Rate Training:

Marathon Training:

Finding a Marathon:

Inspiration:

Tools/Calculators:

Health Sites:

Physical Activity

The US Department of Health and Human Services offers the following recommendations regarding physical activity:
  • "Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight."
  • "To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week."
  • "To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements."
  • "To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements."