Why Running Isn’t Helping You Lose Weight: It’s practically a tale as old as time: Dude takes up running to lose weight, doggedly pounds the pavement for months, then throws in the towel when he realizes he’s still hauling around the extra weight he started with. What the hell, right?
Unfortunately, running isn’t a magic bullet for getting lean. As good as it can be for you — improving heart health, developing strong bones, and enhancing memory — it doesn’t automatically translate to a leaner physique. If shedding pounds is your ultimate goal, it’s time to evaluate your running routine to identify the common weight-loss roadblocks you might be hitting.
Why Running Isn’t Helping You Lose Weight?
You Give Yourself License to Stuff Your Face
Thirty minutes on a treadmill does not give you the green light to down a double bacon cheeseburger, three beers, and a pile of fries. “Some people look at the calories burned on the treadmill and use the exercise as justification to ‘eat back’ those calories,” says board-certified sports dietitian Kim Feeney. “And for other people, cardio just makes them really hungry, so they increase their calorie intake without realizing it.”
Think of it this way: You burn about 100 calories for every mile you run. So if your five-mile run burns about 500 calories, and you celebrate with a burger and beers later in the day, you’ve just eaten back those calories (and then some). Given that people are notoriously good at underestimating how many calories they consume, it should come as no surprise that unless you start logging your food intake, you probably won’t see progress.
You’re Otherwise a Complete Sloth
Recovery time is a good thing after a long or challenging run, but according to Feeney, some people take it too far. “They complete a long training run on a Saturday and veg out the rest of the weekend,” she says. “They may have burned a lot of calories during that run, but they’re burning fewer total calories over the 48-hour period than they might have otherwise.”
Instead of viewing recovery days as an excuse to binge on Netflix, start incorporating other forms of light to moderate activity, like taking your dogs for a walk or trying a yoga class. And while you’re at it, do some chores around the house. Your body will get the break it needs, but you’ll still keep your metabolism ticking.
Your Body Becomes More Efficient
Your body is smart enough to make jobs easier whenever it can. So without any conscious effort on your part, you adapt to the physical stimuli you place on yourself. That way, the next time you perform a task, your body knows how to use less effort to accomplish the same goal.
Liam Champion, a U.K.-based physical therapist, says that your body’s ability to adapt to exercise ultimately results in reduced calorie burn. So if your running routine is on auto-pilot, you’ll burn fewer calories to perform the same task as time goes on. Luckily, the fix is simple. “Modify your training so your body is forced to work harder and in different situations,” Champion says.” If you do a long, slow run one day, work on hill sprints the next.” Keep switching up your pace, distance, and incline to keep your body guessing.
You Aren’t Lifting Weights
As long as you’re switching up your routine, start strength training. Muscle mass is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns more calories than fat. While running does a great job of developing muscular endurance, it’s not going to help you build a lot of mass. By adding strength training to your routine, you can increase your metabolism while supporting your running habit. After all, stronger legs lead to better running performance — science says so.
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Why Running Isn’t Helping You Lose Weight
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