Running Fast Vs. Running Slow – Which One Works Best For Weight Loss?

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Running is a fantastic exercise for weight loss and overall weight management. However, if you’re a runner aiming to shed those extra pounds, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s more effective to run longer distances at a slower pace or to focus on shorter, faster runs.

In today’s post, we’ll delve into this question to help you determine the most effective approach for achieving your weight loss goals.

The answer isn’t as simple as choosing between distance and speed, as several factors come into play.

Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of both long-distance running and fast-paced running when it comes to weight loss. But first things first, let’s explain some of the mechanisms behind weight loss.

The Basics Of Losing Weight

Embarking on a weight loss journey can feel like navigating a complex maze, but let’s break it down into simple, actionable steps that you can tackle head-on.

Calories: The Currency of Weight Loss

At the heart of weight loss lies the fundamental principle of calorie balance: calories in vs. calories out. This is your ultimate compass. To shed those extra pounds, you need to tip the scales in favor of a calorie deficit.

Running: Your Calorie-Burning Ally

Running takes center stage as a powerful calorie-burning activity. On average, you torch approximately 100 calories per mile when you hit the pavement. It’s an efficient and effective way to increase your energy expenditure.

Balancing Act: Calories In vs. Calories Out

To create the coveted calorie deficit, your energy expenditure (from activities like running and daily movement) must surpass your energy intake (from what you eat and drink). Finding that equilibrium is key to your weight loss journey.

Of course, don’t take my word for it. Check the following research papers:

Running Fast Vs. Running Slow For Weight loss

Without further ado, let’s dive into the pros and cons of each method when it comes to losing weight and getting fit.

Running Fast For Weight Loss – The Pros

Faster running isn’t just about zooming past the competition; it comes with a wealth of advantages that make it a top choice for many runners.

Let’s dive into the exciting pros of stepping up the pace!

  1. Time-Efficiency: Zooming to Your Goals

Running faster allows you to cover more ground in less time. It’s your express lane to reach your distance or time goals. Whether it’s a quicker daily jog or conquering a marathon, speed is your ally.

  1. Cardiovascular Health: A Stronger Heart

Speed workouts are a heart-pumping journey! They provide an excellent cardiovascular challenge, strengthening your heart and improving its efficiency. Your ticker becomes a well-oiled machine, ready to tackle any challenge life throws your way.

  1. EPOC: The Calorie-Burning Afterburner

Enter the realm of EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This fancy term means that after a fast-paced run, your body continues to burn calories during the recovery period. More speed = more energy expenditure even after your workout ends

  1. Muscle Matters: Building Strength

Faster miles aren’t just about speed; they’re about strength. Sprinting and high-intensity runs challenge your muscles, leading to increased muscle mass. With more muscle, your metabolism revs up, torching calories even when you’re at rest.

  1. The Afterburn Effect: Post-Run Calorie Torch

Your body doesn’t clock out once you finish your run. The “afterburn” effect means that you keep burning calories at an elevated rate as your body recovers from the intense effort. Speed work delivers lasting calorie-burning benefits..

Additional Resource – Here’s how to much to run to lose weight

Running Fast For Weight Loss – The Downsides

While running faster has its perks, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Let’s explore the potential downsides you should consider when picking up the pace.

  1. The Need for a Solid Foundation

Speed work demands a strong running base. If you’re new to running or lack a solid foundation, maintaining a faster pace for extended periods may not be feasible. It’s essential to build your endurance gradually.

  1. Time vs. Distance: A Trade-Off

Running faster often means covering less distance or spending less time on the road. If your goal is to run longer distances or enjoy leisurely jogs, prioritizing speed might not align with your objectives.

  1. Energy Drain: Feeling Exhumated

Speed workouts can leave you feeling exhausted later in the day. The intense effort can drain your energy, impacting your post-run activities. It’s crucial to balance speed work with adequate recovery and rest.

Additional resource – How to measure body fat percentage

Running Slow (& Long) For Weight Loss – The Pros

Considering long-distance running for weight loss? Here’s a closer look at why endurance-focused runs can be your ticket to success:

  1. Endurance and Cardiovascular Health:

Long runs are the endurance athlete’s playground. They do wonders for improving your cardiovascular health and building up your stamina. If you’re planning to conquer road races like 5Ks or marathons, long-distance running is your best friend.

  1. Caloric Burn Efficiency:

One of the perks of long-distance running is its calorie-burning efficiency. You can torch a significant number of calories with less perceived effort compared to high-intensity workouts. This makes it an integral part of half marathon and marathon training plans

  1. Total Caloric Expenditure:

While you might burn fewer calories per minute than during high-intensity workouts, the extended duration of long runs can lead to substantial total calorie expenditure. For instance, a 160-pound male runner going for an hour-long run at a 10-minute-per-mile pace can torch around 750 calories.

  1. Marathon Training:

Long-distance running isn’t just for weight loss; it’s also the cornerstone of marathon training. If you have your sights set on completing a marathon, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time pounding the pavement at a steady pace.

  1. Endurance-Enhancing:

By training your body to sustain long-distance efforts, you’ll enhance your endurance, which can benefit other aspects of your life, both in and out of fitness. You’ll find that you have more stamina for various activities.

Additional source  – Does running burn belly fat?

Running Slow (& Long) For Weight Loss – The Downsides

While long-distance running offers numerous benefits, it’s important to consider its potential drawbacks:

  1. Plateaus and Diminishing Returns:

Long, slow runs can eventually lead to plateaus in weight loss. As your body becomes accustomed to the extended mileage, it becomes more efficient, burning fewer calories for the same effort. While you can break through plateaus by running even longer distances, there’s a limit to how much you can realistically run.

  1. Time-Consuming:

Long-distance runs require a significant time commitment. The extended duration can be challenging to fit into a busy schedule. This may result in skipped workouts, making it difficult to maintain a consistent running routine.

  1. Potential for Boredom:

Running for extended periods at a steady pace can become monotonous for some individuals. The scenery remains relatively unchanged, and boredom can set in, making the runs feel longer and less enjoyable.

  1. Impact on Joints:

Long-distance running, especially on hard surfaces, can exert a lot of stress on your joints and bones. Over time, this may lead to wear and tear, potentially increasing the risk of injuries, especially if you don’t have proper running form or footwear

  1. Energy Depletion:

Long runs can leave you feeling depleted, especially if you’re not replenishing your energy stores effectively. Proper nutrition and hydration become even more critical for longer distances.

Additional Reading  – Does running give you abs?

Tailoring Your Running Approach to Your Goals

While I’ve discussed the benefits of both long-distance running and faster-paced running for weight loss, I should also emphasize that there’s  no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to running and weight loss goals. Your optimal approach should be based on your unique circumstances, fitness level, and objectives.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Consider Your Specific Goals: Before deciding whether to focus on long-distance runs or faster-paced workouts, take a moment to clarify your running goals. Are you training for a marathon, a 5K, or simply aiming to improve your overall fitness? Your goals will greatly influence the best approach for you.
  • Assess Your Fitness Level: Your current fitness level plays a significant role in determining your training plan. If you’re new to running or have limited endurance, jumping into high-intensity speed workouts might not be the most effective or sustainable strategy. Gradual progression is key.
  • Consult a Professional: Consider consulting a running coach, personal trainer, or healthcare professional who can help tailor a plan that aligns with your goals and takes into account your individual strengths and limitations.

Slow Running vs Fast Running for Fat Loss  – The Conclusion

As you can tell, there are pros and cons to running both faster and farther.

So, which one works the best for you hinges on your fitness level and training goals.

For example, going faster will be key if you’re training for a shorter distance. But longer runs might be the best way to go if you’re looking to run a marathon.

Here’s what I’d recommend you do.

If you’re serious about losing weight while improving your overall fitness, do both.


After all, variety is the foundation of a well-rounded running routine. Don’t get too focused on losing weight.

You should likely be mixing up your routines to ensure you’re going faster and farther at regular intervals.

In the end, regular training is what’s going to help you achieve lasting weight loss. The rest is just details.

Additional Resource – How Many Calories Should a Runner Eat

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