What to Know About Running to Lose Weight

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021
3 min read

Running is an increasingly popular sport in the U.S. It requires virtually no special equipment and it's accessible for people from different backgrounds. Although some do it for pure entertainment, others resort to running as a way to stay in shape and shed excess pounds. 

Running is a type of cardiovascular training, which means it gets your heart rate up and keeps it high for a given period of time. Running can burn up to 671 calories in 30 minutes if the right conditions are met.

Running is also an aerobic exercise. Aerobic means it requires extra oxygen. This activity stimulates your respiratory system and makes you breathe deeper and faster. The body's response to the increased oxygenation is to expand your blood vessels in order to carry more oxygen into your muscles.‌

Aerobic cardiovascular exercises, like running, have many physical and mental advantages. One of them is weight control. There's scientific evidence that less than three hours of cardio a week can help you maintain your weight.

The science behind running for weight loss is more complex than just having regular physical activity. If you want to see consistent weight loss results, you need to achieve a caloric deficit by consistently burning more calories than you take in.

When you eat or drink, you get certain units of energy from what you're consuming. We know these units as calories. Your daily caloric expenditure, which is the number of calories you burn each day, is divided into three equally important parts: 

Activity energy expenditure. These are the calories you burn while moving. It doesn't matter if you're exercising or not. You are burning calories while driving, making your bed, or taking a shower, among other activities.

Resting energy expenditure. These are the calories you burn while your body performs its most essential functions. You burn calories while you breathe or while your blood circulates within your body.

Thermic effect of food. These are the calories you burn while digesting and absorbing your food. ‌

Running has a higher energy cost than performing milder cardiovascular activities like walking. Studies show that the more intense an exercise is, the more activity energy expenditure you experience. Yet, the results might vary depending on physical characteristics like age, gender, height, and body mass.

Some great foods to eat to fuel your body for great performance while maintaining a caloric deficit are:

Eggs. These nutritional powerhouses are packed with protein, minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats. Eggs are a fantastic breakfast choice for runners who want to lose weight while also maintaining prime energy levels for their exercise. 

Beets. Beets are a great source of fiber. They'll help you feel full for longer, which will reduce your cravings and help you avoid unnecessary snacking. These vegetables also contain high amounts of nitrates, which help keep your cardiovascular system in top shape. This can decrease your running fatigue.

Hummus spread. The chickpeas in your hummus spread are a great source of protein with a very low caloric value. About 3.5 ounces of hummus contain 8 grams of protein. Fresh veggies dipped in hummus spread are a low-calorie snack that will help reduce inflammation.

Running is a great way to keep your body feeling great. Still, it can only do so much to help in your weight loss journey. You need to supplement your workouts with the proper diet and achieve a caloric deficit to reach your goals.

If you're not sure what foods to eat to keep your caloric intake low while still being able to nourish your body, talk to your nutritionist. They will help you build the perfect diet to complement your daily cardio routine.