If truth be told, the reason why I started running in the first place was to lose weight, and chances you’ve started (or thinking about it) for similar reasons. Scores of new fitness nuts take up running because, mostly, they want to lose weight.
Nonetheless, and as I have learned the hard way, running does not always lead to weight loss.
This is a hard one to swallow…
Just because you took up running, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to slim down.
In fact, even if you are following a healthy diet and are hitting the pavement on a regular basis, there is no guarantee for weight loss.
When I first took up running circa 2006, I lost around 25 pounds in the first few months. However, I couldn’t keep the weight off—regardless of my efforts and how much I wanted to stay slim.
Within six months of my initial success, I gained about 15 pounds back, even though I was running more than before and trying to set my diet in the right direction.
The irony, I know.
This frustrated the hell out of me.
All the same, I kept going after my weight loss goals. I knew that I had no option other than staying consistent—giving up was not an option.
And after a long process of trial and error, I was able to keep the weight off.
And today I’m going to share with you some of the main reasons why you might not be losing weight as fast as you would like to, along with a few tips to help you expedite the process and increase the chances of your success.
So are you excited? Then here we go…
6 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight While Running
Without further ado, here are the main obstacles standing the way of your weight loss success:
1. You are Gaining Muscle Mass
When you take up running, and for the first few months, your body responds to the new rigorous activity by making some adaptations and physiological changes. One of these changes is a significant shift in your body composition as you gain muscle mass and lose fat.
How does that happen?
The only thing you need to here is: Patience.
Once you keep up the good work, the fat will eventually burn off, and you’ll end up with a leaner and sculpted body.
Also, use other measurements for weight loss beyond the scale.
You might consider taking regular measures of your waist and circumference, or calculating your body mass index—BMI—via this online calculator. This will give you a better ballpark figure of your percentage of body fat, according to your weight and height.
2. You are Eating Too Much
In my experience, this might be the MOST common reason runners do not lose weight.
Many a runner (me included) overestimate the number of calories burnt while running and underestimate the amount of calories consumed at each meal (and everything in between).
Don’t get me wrong here. Running burns a lot of calories, but this does not give you a free pass to eat everything under the sun and still lose weight. It just doesn’t happen that way. At all.
The fact is, you can never outrun a bad diet. You can eat and drink calories at much faster rate than you can ever burn calories, period.
Get a better estimate of your daily calorie needs and build an eating plan around it.
Also, make sure to monitor every morsel of food you put into your mouth. For that, use a Smartphone app to keep tabs on the quantity and quality of your daily calories consumption.
Be precise. Be thorough, and leave nothing to chance.
The exact number depends, mainly, on my factors, including your body weight, fitness level, training intensity, and other factors.
And remember that weight loss is a numbers’ game—you only lose weight when you burn more calories than you consume.
3. You Run too Much
Logging in too many miles without giving your body enough recovery time can lead to overtraining and all sorts of health troubles.
But that’s not the whole story.
Overtraining also has an impact on your weight loss vision.
If you an overtrained runner, especially when it comes to fluids, electrolyte balance, blood sugar, and stress levels, then you might be harming your thyroid and hindering your metabolic rate, all of which can compromise your weight loss efforts.
In other words, stress is bad for you—regardless of how much of healthy lifestyle you are championing.
Give recovery the priority it calls for by doing the following:
- Eat for recovery with an emphasis on post-run eating and eating natural and nutritious food.
- Shoot for at least 7 to 8 hours of high quality interrupted sleep during the night’s time.
- Schedule recovery runs, recovery workouts, recovery days, and recovery weeks into your training program.
- Do your best to eliminate and reduce stress and its triggers in your life.
For more recovery practices, check my post here.
4. You’re Not Running Hard (or Long) Enough
Some runners are able to lose a few pounds at first by just going for a few short runs around the block while opting for sensible diet guidelines. But after a couple of months of doing the same thing, they suddenly hit a wall and stop seeing progress?
The reason is actually quite simple. The human body is pretty smart, and it’s designed to be as efficient as possible; this means that if you are running the same route at the same intensity and training level, your body will eventually adapt to the workload, and you’ll stop seeing results.
In fact, this is guaranteed way to encounter a weight loss plateau.
According to research conducted at the University of Tampa, running on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a steady pace promotes weight loss, but only during the first few weeks.
If you are serious about losing weight, make sure to schedule at least three runs per week, aiming for a minimum of 240 minutes of exercise a week.
Plus, and this is super important, try to diversify your training intensity and duration.
Interval sessions, such as sprints, hill reps and other HIIT workouts might be the exact thing you need to break a weight loss plateau and reach your weight loss running goals.
Thus, Instead of doing the same steady state runs over and over again, add a couple of interval training sessions to your weekly training routines, such as interval sprints and hill reps.
Also, incorporate a couple of cross training sessions to your training program to keep you consistent and speed up your fitness gains. Spinning, Yoga, weight training, and swimming are some of the best options.
What’s more? If you are not into cross training, then I recommend that you find smart and practical ways to add more physical activity into your daily routine.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Stand more.
- Play with the kids.
- Get a stand-up work desk.
- Play sports with the kids.
- Exercise the dog.
- The list is almost endless.
Just get out there and be as active as possible.
5. The Scale is Just One Piece of a Much Bigger Puzzle
“The scale is a bastard trickster” as I like to say.
If truth be told, the scale might not be your best friend when it comes to keeping track of your weight loss progress—or lack thereof.
Well, it’s really simple. Body weight tends to rise and fall by a few pounds from one day to the next.
This fluctuation depends, mainly, on hormones activity, the foods you are eating, dehydration level, etc…and when you hang your hopes on the scale, then you are actually setting yourself a vicious cycle of ups and downs.
So please, please remember this: the numbers on the scale do not tell the whole story.
The best advice I can give you when it comes to tracking weight loss the right way is to use a variety of measurement.
As I have already stated, you need to opt for other ways than the scale to measure your progress.
Try some of these ways to measure your progress:
- Measure your body fat percentage once per month.
- Measure your waist circumference.
- Keep tabs on how well your clothes fit. Try on the same pair shirts or jeans every four to six weeks, and look for the subtle differences.
- Take before and after pictures on a monthly basis.
- Keep tabs on your emotional states and energy levels. Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? Are you feeling less stressed? Do you feel more alive? Etc.
- Keep tabs on your athletic performance. Is your athletic performance improving? How much you can you run? How long can you run? How fast can you run? Take these fitness tests on every six to eight weeks to see how your fitness level stacks up to the average Joe.
6. Unrealistic Weight Loss Expectations
I hate to break it to you, but weight loss is not something that happens overnight. In reality, and contrary to popular belief, weight loss is a much slower process than the majority of people want it to be.
Don’t get me wrong. Overnight success stories do happen. In fact, it is even possible to lose a bunch of weight fast in the first few weeks of a weight loss resolution, but the truth is, this cannot be sustained.
And according to research, this is not the healthiest thing to do.
Therefore, if you are struggling with the scale, one reason might be that you just haven’t given it enough time. And that’s it.
Stop looking for short-term results.
Weight loss is more of a marathon, not a sprint.
Slow and steady wins the weight loss race…
Yeah, that’s easier said than done.
Here is your action plan:
Aim for no more one pound per week—that’s roughly 3500 calories.
As a rule of thumb, you should, ideally, shoot for a 300 to 500 calorie deficit a day if you are serious about shedding weight the healthy and sustainable way.
Give the process time, and with enough persistence and flexibility on your part, you’ll achieve what you are after.
Just keep in mind that everybody is different and responds differently to training routines and diet habits. No suit fits all. That’s the beauty of life.
And in the end, it pays for the long term to start accepting your body the way it is. I hate to break it to you, but not everyone can look like a fitness model—no matter how entitled you feel and regardless of what the latest fitness magazine covers promise—we are all different.
The truth is, most of the fitness magazine covers and the fit-inspiration are often embellished and enhanced using special software—no one actually looks like that in real life (thank you Photoshop), and you shouldn’t be hard on yourself since you are not meeting any particular standard.
Featured Image Credit – Garry Knight Via Flickr