Do you need to run to lose weight?
I’ve heard it 1000x. You’ve probably heard it. Hell, you might have even said it yourself.
“I’m training for a half marathon because I really want to lose 30lbs.”
Somehow along the way, we got this idea in our heads that we must do hours and hours of cardio a week to lose weight.
While training for a half marathon does burn a lot of calories, it’s not necessarily the best way to lose weight. Nor is it necessary to lose weight.
Actually, I’ve heard countless stories about women GAINING weight while training for a marathon.
So, what gives?
Obviously, there is a vast disconnect between what we think will happen vs what actually happens when adding in hours of cardio to lose weight.
Not only is running incredibly boring, it’s also an extremely ineffective way to lose weight.
3 Reasons why running sucks for fat loss (and what to do instead)
1) Running doesn’t build muscle.
If you’re looking to build a tight, toned physique, you’ll need to build at least a little muscle. Or, at least make sure that you preserve the muscle you already have and lose only fat. You’ve probably heard the saying “muscle weighs more than fat.”
While this saying isn’t entirely true (a pound of anything weighs exactly a pound), it has good intentions.
Muscle is more dense than fat. Meaning that a pound of muscle will take up significantly less room on your body than a pound of fat. Two people who both weigh 150lbs can look vastly different, depending on how much muscle they are carrying around.
To maintain and gain muscle, strength training has the upper hand over cardio.
Bonus: strength training can increase your resting metabolic rate, meaning you’ll burn more calories at rest.
2) Running is time consuming.
Say you’re running anywhere from 15-30 miles a week (pretty standard for half marathon training). You’re probably running 4-5 days a week with a time commitment of 3-5 hours a week minimum just dedicated to running. Thats not including cross training, which most half marathon plans suggest.
Consider the alternative: Three days a week of 45 minute, maximally effective strength training workouts.
Which sounds easier to adhere to?
As a personal trainer, the #1 reason I hear for not exercising is lack of time.
Nobody wants to devote more time exercising than they have to. You’ve got a life, families, and all kinds of stuff on your to-do list. I get it.
Strength training or short bursts of high intensity exercise will take less time, therefore increasing your rate of success.
At the end of the day, the right plan for you is the one that you can stick with. Because you don’t see ANY results if you fall off the wagon.
3) Running can cause you to eat more.
At the end of the day, weight loss is all about energy balance and calorie intake vs. output.
Yes, running long distances burns a good amount of calories. However, most people over-estimate how many calories this actually burns. We also tend to over-justify food choices by saying, “it’s okay, I ran 6 miles this morning so I can have a cupcake.” Carbohydrate intake can be extremely important for run performance, but that doesn’t mean you can eat a plate of spaghetti and 4 slices of garlic bread (easily 800 calories and 150g carbs) just because you ran 10 miles that morning.
On the other side of the double edged sword is the fact that running (or any long duration of exercise) increases hunger exponentially. It’s incredibly easy to overeat without realizing it, especially if you are receiving more hunger cues from you body due to the extra 5-10 hours of exercise you’re doing weekly. A bite here, a nibble there, a taste here… those calories all easily add up and can keep you from making progress or actually cause weight gain.
On the other hand, quick bursts of high intensity metabolic fat loss training can be extremely beneficial on shutting down hunger cues and hormones that increase appetite after exercise.
If you love running, then by all means run. However, if you’re short on time or hate running, look to strength training and short, intense metabolic fat loss training as the most effective means to shed fat, tone up, and get a tight, lean physique.
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