Running for Weight Loss: The Ultimate Guide for Runners Who Want to Lose Weight

Running for Weight Loss

Have you ever wondered if running for weight loss is possible? Well, good news! Running happens to be one of the most effective methods for losing unwanted pounds.

And you don’t need to be a speedy, front-of-the-pack runner.

In fact, countless studies have shown that running burns more calories than lifting weights, continues to burn calories after you stop running, and even melts more body fat.

In this special resource guide on running for weight loss, you’ll find out how to run to lose weight, why diet and nutrition are critical, and the best ways to fuel for your races that leave you with higher energy and better performances.

Running For Weight Loss

Weight Loss Mistakes

Running for weight loss is a great first step, but you also have to eat right and work on your nutrition. Sounds like common sense, right?

But too many runners think that “if the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything” and reward themselves with snacks, over-eating at night, and way too much sugar.

I’ve partnered with Anne Mauney MPH, a Registered Dietitian and marathon runner, to help you dial in the best diet and nutrition program for runners. With proper fueling, nutrition planning, and meals that work perfectly for runners, you’ll be on your way to losing weight and running faster in no time.

Start with these articles about diet and nutrition:

If you’re curious how to run for weight loss, optimize your diet, and fuel for your best performance, these articles will help you build a foundation of knowledge to succeed.

After all, knowledge is a competitive advantage.

Will Losing Weight Also Make Me Faster?

Weight loss isn’t just good for your general health (and great for your mental well-being), but it can also help you run faster.

Watch this video, which answers the question How much faster could I run if I lost weight?

We also have several in-depth articles that cover how to run to lose weight:

It’s important for us to stop worrying about DIETING and cutting calories. You won’t accomplish your goals because these strategies don’t work very well for runners.

If you’re training for a race, then you shouldn’t be running for weight loss at the same time. Those are conflicting physiological goals!

Reduced carbohydrate intake or calories, couple with training for a race, will result in a host of problems:

  • sluggishness while running
  • poor recovery after long runs and hard workouts
  • less ability to tolerate higher workloads – resulting in slower race times
  • trouble finishing your most challenging workouts
  • reduced energy throughout the day, leading to depression and low motivation

So if you don’t want to run poorly and feel terrible, stop dieting, cutting calories, or restricting carbohydrates.

Instead, learn to eat like a runner with this free nutrition course.

Case Studies and Running for Weight Loss Success Stories

The strategies that help runners lose weight are so effective, you need to see them in action. Instead of wondering if running for weight loss is even possible – let me show you.

First, I want you to meet Lydia – a busy mom who lost 80+ pounds with running. Her running used to be inconsistent, she ran 2:35 in the half marathon, and she said her muscles constantly hurt.Lydia Weight Loss Running

She has since transformed her life, running 1:41 in the half marathon while weighing over eighty pounds less. She told me:

I always trusted your advice and it changed my life. My outlook on health and running has dramatically changed.

I know that I will continue to improve with the things you have taught me.

Read more about Lydia’s weight loss story here.

Next, let’s check out two more weight loss success stories – Nick and Michael.

Nick lost 60 pounds and ran nearly 10 minutes faster in the 10k by taking a long-term approach to running and losing weight.

After reading through his story, ask yourself: “What did he do that I can also do? How did he lose weight and what can I learn?

Michael ran two marathons in one week – without hitting the wall. He figured out how to properly fuel both marathons, and we can show you, too.

And Monte successfully ran his first marathon in 3:51 with focused nutrition and easily meeting his goal weight!

Aaron was frustrated by the lack of credible nutrition and weight loss advice on the web. But after implementing our suggestions, he told us “I hardly ever feel tired and I can run long distances faster and easier.

Now let’s do something very different: look at the diet of an elite marathoner. Ariana Hilborn has run 2:35 in the marathon and is a professional runner with the Sonoran Distance Project in Arizona.

If you’ve ever wondered how an elite athlete eats, how they structure their fueling (on both workout and easy days), and what specific foods they eat every day, this is for you.

Check out Ariana’s diet here.

Ariana’s diet strategy is closed mirrored in how Olympians eat. Want more? Check out Sports Illustrated feature Feeding the Olympian. And of course, this is exactly how we recommend you structure YOUR diet!

Vegetarian and vegan runners can also eat healthy and lose weight on their diets. You don’t need to be an omnivore or a Paleo eater.

See how this Boston Qualifying marathoner thrives on a plant-based diet: “How to be a Vegetarian Marathoner

Here’s yet another interview vegan author and ultramarathoner Matt Frazier:

Running to Lose Weight: Tools, Resources, and Books

Instead of recommending a bunch of wacky supplements, let’s first be clear that the basics work best:

Running for weight loss works. If you’re doubtful, read the above articles.

Proper nutrition is also critical to lose weight. You can’t out-run a terrible diet.

But there are also several products that can help with your weight loss journey:

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

This book is foundational and forms the cornerstone of our nutrition philosophy here at Strength Running. Counting calories is unnecessary, you don’t have to “score” your food, and there’s no need to worry about complicated macronutrient ratios or percentages.

Instead, this revolutionary program outlines how to eat for better health, weight loss, and well-being. From the description:

We’ve all been there–angry with ourselves for overeating, for our lack of willpower, for failing at yet another diet. But the problem is not us; it’s that dieting, with its emphasis on rules and regulations, has stopped us from listening to our bodies.

If you want to stop dieting and start living, this book is for you. Here’s some background information as well!

No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self by Matt Frazier

Matt is a friend of mine and I’m even quoted in this book. Even though I eat meat, Matt and I agree more than disagree on diet and what it takes to be a healthy, successful runner. Definitely recommended for any plant-based athletes – especially beginners.

Nutrition Q&A and Myth Busting by Jason Fitzgerald and Anne Mauney, MPH, RD

In this two-part audio podcast, Anne and I discuss your most pressing diet questions (how to avoid over-snacking, fueling post-workout, how to maintain your goal weight, and more).

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

When it comes to nutrition and diet, I like to keep things as simple as possible. Pollan outlines his philosophy on food and diet in one easy to remember phrase: “Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” This book is highly recommended if you’re into healthy food and forms the central pillars of my own diet philosophy.

Blendtec Blender

Making a daily green smoothie has changed my life. From higher energy levels throughout the day to enhanced recovery, I can’t recommend them enough for every runner.

Yes, they are expensive. But Blendtec blenders are top of the line and you get what you pay for: lifetime blade warranty, 3-year motor warranty, and enough power to blend ice, nuts, and almost anything else you can think of.

SR’s Nutrition eCourse

In this free email course, Jason and Anne walk you through:

  • How to plan a running program for weight loss
  • What mistakes to avoid for running-specific nutrition
  • Inspiring case studies of other runners just like you
  • Our Dietitian-approved grocery shopping list!

Get it here – it’s free!

Nutrition and Weight Loss Podcasts

The Strength Running Podcast has featured numerous dietitians, authors, and other diet experts to help you reach your goals.

Episode 87 deals directly with supplements and whether they’re right for runners:

Annyck Besso is a Registered Dietitian who works with athletes with eating disorders:

Nichola Ludlam Raine is another RD who specializes in breaking down the latest science of nutrition, weight loss, and fad diets:

Personally, I also use plant-based “forcing functions” to improve my own diet. You can learn more about those here:

Heather Caplan, RD, also sheds light on veganism, “superfoods,” and fasting:

We have many more episodes concerning the topic of nutrition, running for weight loss, and diet on the Strength Running Podcast.

What Does Running for Weight Loss Mean to You?

Imagine waking up in the morning and being proud of what you see in the mirror. And during every run, you feel strong, powerful, and full of energy.

Your recovery is fast and you feel both physically and mentally ready for your next workout.

Sound like a pipe dream? I don’t think so. That’s my goal for you – to be at your healthy weight, to fuel right for all of your runs, and to feel great and perform at your best.

To help you on this journey, I’ve partnered with a Registered Dietitian to create a free course on nutrition and weight loss for runners. Her name is Anne Mauney, MPH and she owns her own private practice in Washington, DC, and has worked extensively with endurance athletes.

You can sign up here to get your first lesson. We’ve included many resources in the course:

  • Private podcast episode where Anne and I talk about your top diet and weight loss questions
  • Example recipes (my favorite: Chocolate Cherry Espresso Smoothie!)
  • The mistakes to avoid when you’re trying to run for weight loss goals
  • A lot more

Sign Up Now For Your Free Diet & Weight Loss Course

Get started here – your first lesson will be on its way in just a few minutes.

Running for Weight Loss: Is it possible or just a way to “die tired?”

My dear readers, let us rejoice that we don’t need extreme measures to lose weight. No starvation diets and certainly no colon cleanses:

Who can come up with the funniest caption?

A photo posted by Jason Fitzgerald (@jasonfitz1) on

Yes, that’s my daughter crawling through an enormous colon. That story is for another day…

But I do realize that losing weight can be difficult. Maybe one of these quotes seems familiar?

I am probably one of the few people who actually gained weight while training for a marathon…

When I started running, one of my goals was to  lose weight. To my surprise, I haven’t lost any weight but gained 3 pounds! What gives?

I usually put on a few pounds during marathon training but I’m able to lose it over the summer.

What do you notice about these weight problems that runners are experiencing?

They’re experiencing the opposite of what they want! Instead of running for weight loss, they’re running for weight gain.

It’s frustrating, but it can happen. 

Unfortunately, “just running” is often not the best weight loss strategy. And after reviewing the running of thousands of runners, it’s clear that most of us are “just” running (instead of training – more on that soon).

If you start running but don’t lose weight, a few things could be happening:

  • You’re storing extra water because of the recovery process and extra carbohydrate intake (this is not “real” weight – it’s temporary)
  • Your body composition has improved, resulting in less fat and more muscle, which will increase your weight (but it’s healthier and makes you look better naked!)
  • You’re hoping for significant weight loss in too short of a time period

Running for weight loss is possible, but it’s more nuanced than simply running more. Logging more and more miles isn’t the best strategy (see what strategy works best here).

Then there’s my least favorite claim: “Running is NOT good for weight loss.

This last sentiment is especially popular in Paleo or CrossFit crowds who love to rally their base around the belief that “cardio isn’t an effective way to lose weight.”

Over the last few years, countless articles have been published with titles like:

  • Run And You’ll Only Die Tired
  • Why Women Should Not Run
  • Running is NOT the Key to Weight Loss
  • Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Cardio!
  • One Running Shoe in the Grave
  • Science Wants You to Stop Running

Are you as furious as I am? These articles are completely untrue – running is actually fantastic for weight loss! Just look at some recent research:

  • This study shows that aerobic exercise burns more liver and visceral fat (the dangerous fat deposits surrounding your internal organs)
  • This study agrees with the first study’s conclusion
  • And here’s a study that shows that aerobic exercise like running reduces liver fat
  • Yet another study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise sums the issue up nicely: Aerobic exercise is better than resistance training for weight loss.

The tired advice to “get off the treadmill hamster wheel” not only ignores the science but ignores the fact that runners don’t just log endless miles (and most of us hate the dreadmill, too).

My major frustration with these claims is that they completely ignore what runners do on a daily basis. They confuse running for general exercise with TRAINING. 

If you’ve ever had problems running for weight loss, it’s most likely because you weren’t running the right types of workouts. You were exercising, not training.

First, let’s look at a few wacky pieces of advice, unfortunately perpetuated by major fitness publications.

The “Gluttony” of Runners “Feeding Frenzies” (can you believe this?!)

Anti-running weirdos think that all of us are gluttonous carb addicts who adore the treadmill. Just look at this:

Running for weight loss

Look at the inflammatory language used: gluttony, feeding frenzy, devastation, swell. If you’re like me, you think this paints a wildly unfair picture of most runners.

And the vicious cycle continues with double sessions of cardio. Not only isn’t this fair to runners, but it’s not even accurate! Runners do not routinely eat 4,000 calories worth of Cheesecake Factory and run twice as much to burn it off.

This is disordered eating – not an accurate representation of the everyday habits of runners.

Or this bullshit:

“I watch my friend Jessica running on the treadmill—day after day, year after year—like a madwoman, and going nowhere. Her body seems to get softer with every mile, and the softer she gets, the more she runs.

For her, I feel sympathy, because the world has convinced her that running is the way to stay ‘slim and toned.'”

I’m not going to dignify this article with a link, but here’s a fantastic rebuttal that clearly shows that this sentiment is a load of horse shit and that women SHOULD run!

The bottom line is that running for weight loss is a fantastic idea. But you have to do it right (endless slow miles is NOT the answer).

“I’m older but feel better than I did in my younger years”

I’ve been coaching Barbara since last May. She came to me after her 5k times were getting slower and she realized that at 40+ she couldn’t run like she did in her 20’s.

Barbara’s previous program was good – but there’s always room for improvement. I tweaked her training (using the same principles in the Nutrition for Runners training plans) and now she’s running more and staying healthy.

Oh, and her recovery is even better too! She told me:

The last time I ran mileage like I’m running now I had pain and discomfort and never really felt recovered. I’m older now but I still feel much better than I did in my younger years.

The training is better for my recovery now and I don’t have any pain. It’s an easy plan for me to embrace mentally; never underestimate how much mental commitment contributes to performance.

Even as she gets older, Barbara’s running more mileage and still recovering faster! 

THAT is the power of smart training. But her running isn’t the only thing that’s improving. She’s also losing weight:

Jason’s training has helped me lose weight, and now I have structure and consistency. Because I’m able to recover so much better I can get a lot more out of each workout.

I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time, even though I’m older. I told some friends that even if my times didn’t improve, coaching has been worth every dollar because of how much better I feel and the fact that I can look forward to running again. Though I can tell you my race times will improve…

Barbara’s new training program has helped her run higher mileage, recover faster, feel better overall, and lose weight. Imagine how it feels to transform your running like this.

Her story illustrates that you too can train smarter and see the same benefits: faster recovery, weight loss, and a sense of looking forward to your workouts.

If your goal is weight loss, you can accomplish it with running…

… even if you’ve been running for years and have seen no progress.

… even if you’re getting older and think it’s “all about hormones.”

… even if you’re a woman and always struggle with those last few pounds.

If you train the right way, it’s entirely possible.

Running for Weight Loss

Our new program – Nutrition for Runners – is the most comprehensive nutrition program that exists for runners. You can learn more about the program and get a free e-course on diet tips for runners here.

But you might be curious why there will be training plans in the program (actually, 15 of them!). Why are there running plans in a nutrition program?

Simple: to reach or maintain your goal weight, it’s enormously helpful to do the right type of training.

Smarter training means faster weight loss.

Just imagine what it would feel like to go running tomorrow with 10+ fewer pounds. How much lighter would you feel? How much more efficient would you be? How much more confident would you feel?

Being at your goal weight is critical to getting faster and boosting your recovery. And it’s exactly why I developed a library of training plans in this program: to help you optimize your weight.

Does this sound interesting to you?

Are you curious about what this combination (rock solid nutrition + smart training) could do for your running?

I invite you to sign up to learn more here. You’ll see exactly how to dial in your nutrition – from a certified running coach and a Registered Dietitian.

14 thoughts on “Running for Weight Loss: Is it possible or just a way to “die tired?””

  1. More than any thing, running after a while becomes addictive. Health benefits of running are obvious and experienced by so many people around the world. It is also the cheapest way of working out, no need to by expensive gym subscriptions, just head towards your neighborhood park and start! Initially start small, run for 5-10 minutes regularly and with in few weeks, those 10 minutes will become 30 minutes and you will feel great.

  2. Running for weight loss ?
    Actually it is a very very poor choice. To run efficiently and not hammer your joints to death, you need to be lean. To really have strong joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, you need at least 5 years of running experience. To be able to loose weight with running, you got to run at least 1h a day. This will just totally destroy you.

    However, cycling, cycling is a non impact, non weight bearing sport, with a 500% improving rate in a month. You start with 10minutes a day, in two month you can set out for a 7hour ride, without risking any injury. 100%.
    What you need is a properly sized and properly set up road bike. Forget mountain biking, cause it is a very demanding sport. I mean very very demanding. Forget flat handle bars, as it will kill your back. Get a proper road bike, with cycling shoes and cleats. Get a bikefit from a proper bike store. Ask them to show your how to change a flat tire and that is it.

    This will be life changing. In 1 year time you can half your body weight, without caloric restriction, without killing yourself, without injuries. So easy.
    …and no, I am not a burnt out anti-runner who turned to cycling to preserve his knees. I am running 50 to 200km every week and doing races from 10km to 150km with 35000feet of elevation gain.

      • Sorry Jason, but there are no assumptions and statements, but lifelong experience. When you try to set up a 120kg person for a jogging routine, you’ll end up with dodgy knees, lower back issues and swollen ankles.
        If you want to really loose weight, without cutting back calories and developing unhealthy eating habits, yes surely 1 hour of easy exercise a day is necessary. Easy and takable pace at cycling or walking. The 30min crash and burn training sessions are not sustainable.
        Also to really have strong joints and muscles what can resist the shock and vibration caused by running, you must build up gradually and develop yourself as a runner. 5 years is a good start to think yourself as not a beginner anymore.
        However, in cycling you can really improve like 5 times faster, loose the weight first and foremost and become a healthier you. Then when you start running with a proper technique you surely won’t cause the damage, what you would have done while running a 125kg body.

        I am curiously waiting the 7 assumptions I stated, cause I can explain all of them to you and tell you the exact reasons why they are the right choice for overweight obese people who want to loose weight on a health way without permanent damage.

        • If you are on the top of your game, all sports can be dangerous. If you a TDF rider, you must be willing to crash 100km/h into a corner, otherwise you won’t be selected to any team. If you want to be an elite trail runner, you must be willing to fall at 3:00/km pace downhill on a rocky slope, otherwise you will never win, neither find a sponsor. It is cut throat out there on the pro level.

          This is not the point here. Running for weight loss, is great if you have 5 to 10kg to loose max.
          Running for weight loss, when you carry 40 or 60kg extra ? Not gonna work, ever. This is the point of discussion.

          Please note, again, I am not an anti runner, on the contrary, I love every moment I spend with my clients wanting to be a better runner or become a runner. Just sometimes, you have to look elsewhere before, to be able to it long term later on. You invest now in health and fitness, to get cashed later on when you can start running.

          • See below: I weighed 240 when I started. I now weigh 185. I can’t drop the last 10-15 without switching things up. You might be doing your clients a disservice by telling them not to run?

    • Let me clarify. Running for weight loss sucks for me because I have difficulty controlling what I eat after a long run. As Jason wisely says, “You can’t outrun your fork.”

      Diet is 80% of weight loss. Until you can control that, your efforts will be in vain. Unfortunately for me, I love to binge eat after a long run.

      That being said, when I started running years ago I weighed 240 pounds. After my last marathon I weighed around 185. It’s just those last 10-15 I can’t seem to shake when I’m running and eating like crazy.

      This is why I’m interested in Jason’s nutrition guide. I love running. I need help.

      • Great realisation ! You are surely on the correct path as you already understand that it is actually diet what causing you gain/loose weight on the long term. Sport can be a catalyst if done properly.
        I am not gonna start a plant based vs. paleo debate here, but if you have to limit any kind of food intake, that is not a sustainable form of diet/lifestyle. Choose a diet, where you can eat unlimited calories, year after year, without gaining a gram, and actually leaning you out, while eating more and more.

        • Interesting I’ve been working on that, going from eating way too many carbs and a lot more good fats (dropped about 9 pounds). So far it’s working and the best thing is I’m not going through my day so dang hungry.

          Thanks for the confirmation that I’m not crazy.

  3. Whether you are a runner, cyclist or body-builder and training 16 hours , eating 12 doughnuts and drinking 7 sodas every day will never allow you to lose weight. You still need to eat balanced meals to maintain or become a lean mean fighting machine.

    The problem is that we are not always discipline enough to avoid stuff we know is unhealthy.

  4. Thanks for an insightful article! I totally agree! About 6 years ago, I weighed 300 pounds. I lost the first 100 pounds by walking, stairs, elliptical training, rowing, and weights. As I reached 200 pounds, I took up jogging and running to lose the rest of the weight. I became addicted to long distance running. I’ve run many half and full marathons in the last 5 years. Running has indeed been helpful for maintaining my weight loss over the years, BUT I do not use it as a means for over eating anymore. I can’t stand those skimpy tank tops that say crap like, “Run Now, Wine Later”… you know what I’m talking about! I work with my health coaching clients to get past this flawed way of thinking about eating and exercise too. Thanks for setting the record straight! 🙂

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