If you’re wondering why all that running hasn’t helped you slim down, here are some things you need to know.
Running is often the first thing that comes to mind when we mention weight loss. This vigorous, high-intensity exercise has long been lauded for its calorie-blasting benefits. Its accessibility (all you need is a pair of running shoes, good knees and okay, a supportive sports bra too) means anyone can easily hit the ground running. No gym, no problem. But before you do so with expectations of shedding kilos or reducing your body fat percentage, know that running isn’t a magic pill for losing weight.
However, you can optimise your running plan for weight loss with these tips.
1. Track your workout
You may feel as though you’ve burned 500 or more calories from that gruelling 40-minute run, but chances are, you’ve only torched between 300 and 400 calories, depending on your weight, speed and terrain. The best way to gauge would be to use a running app or an activity-tracking watch. That will help you avoid overestimating your effort, and overcompensating with your post-run diet. Which brings us to the next point…
2. Watch your post-run diet
We often find ourselves famished after a run. Before reaching for food, be sure to hydrate first. That way, you are less likely to mistake thirst for hunger. And when your belly is a quarter filled with water, you are less likely to wolf down an upsized meal portion. On that note, be mindful of what you eat post-run. If your sole purpose of running is to justify your cravings for junk food or calorific food, or to make you feel better about eating certain food, it’s unlikely that running will help you shed any weight. News flash: An uncontrolled diet – no matter how religiously you exercise – will lead to weight gain and a host of health issues.
As a rule of thumb, your post-run diet should be in line with the healthy eating principles that we advocate: 50% fruits and vegetables, 25% whole grains and 25% protein, according to Healthhub.sg. You’d also want to incorporate more of these particularly beneficial foods for runners into your diet. If you’re training for a race, it’d be helpful to adopt more specific diet strategies before and after the race. To replenish your glycogen stores and optimise recovery, experts generally recommend eating something within 30 minutes of completing your run. If you are far from your next meal, try one of these dietitian-approved snacks for runners.
3. Vary your runs constantly
It’s easy to fall into a comfortable running rhythm or stick to one type of run, especially when you’re running solo and without a coach or training plan.
Nothing wrong with that, but your body adapts quickly to your training regime to reduce the effort required (it’s clever that way!), which means you will be doing less work (and burning fewer calories) for the same workout over time. Plus, doing the same thing over and over again will lead to boredom and a performance plateau at some point. Switch up your run sessions by incorporating speed intervals, uphills, or trying a different terrain to keep your muscles guessing. (BTW, these are the 4 types of runs you should be doing.)
4. Complement running with other workouts
Any effective weight loss exercise plan will include both cardio and strength training. You can’t rely on one form of training without the other. Generally speaking, cardio exercises such as running and swimming are great for burning calories, while strength or resistance training exercises help you build muscle mass for a more toned physique. ICYMI: Having more muscles will help you burn more calories at rest. Who doesn’t want that?