How to Have Enough Energy for Running When Trying to Lose Weight

One of the main problems that people have when running to lose weight is that they lack the energy to get the most out of their running.

You need plenty of calories to help fuel your running…

But you also need to consume fewer calories than you burn so that you lose weight.

So there’s a bit of a trade off here.

What can you do about this?

The best thing to do is organise how you consume your calories throughout the day because then you’re giving your body the calories and energy it needs, when it needs them.

Here are the 3 key times of the day when you should be consuming the majority of your calories…

1. Breakfast

After going for maybe 8 hours or more without any fuel it’s vital that you provide your body with energy by having breakfast.

This has several advantages such as giving your metabolism a boost and providing you with more energy during the day. These both result in more calories being burned.

Having breakfast also makes it much less likely that you’ll overeat later in the day and make poorer food choices when you feel really hungry.

Many people believe that by skipping breakfast they’re saving calories and helping their weight loss but studies have shown the opposite to be true. People who skip breakfast tend to consume more calories over the whole day.

Therefore, make breakfast one of your main meals of the day.

2. Before running

This is the most important time of the day to consume plenty of calories in relation to your running because it has the biggest impact on your running performance.

The better fuelled you are for your runs, the higher the quality of the runs, which means that you get to burn more calories and improve your fitness and running ability quicker.

The other huge bonus is that the fitter you become, and the better runner you become, the more calories you’re able to burn on all your future runs. So by fuelling yourself properly for your run you have the advantage of burning more calories on that run as well as all future ones.

That’s why it’s so important to have plenty of calories before a run. Having a meal 2-3 hours before, or at least a snack around an hour before, will help you get more out of your running.

3. After running

Straight after a run your body needs plenty of energy to help it recover. The quicker you help your body recover, the more energy you’ll have for the rest of the day.

Your body will also recover better and be better prepared for your next run which means a higher quality run and more calories being burned.

Another good thing about having calories after a run is that your body will burn these calories very quickly. Your body is desperate to replace the energy that you’ve just burned from your run so it uses the energy that you provide it with.

On the other hand, when you consume lots of calories at times when your body doesn’t need the energy, your body stores this excess energy as fat.

So the best thing to do is to have a meal straight after a run or as soon as you can if you struggle to eat or drink straight after running. At least try to have a snack within 30 minutes after your run.

Now you have enough energy for running and can still lose weight

When you organise how you consume your calories throughout the day, you’re able to eat well for your running while still being able to lose weight.

You have more energy for your runs and can therefore perform higher quality runs. This enables you to burn more calories now and also in the future due to your improved fitness and running ability.

Just to finish, I’d like to ask you 2 quick questions…

  1. Have you struggled with having enough energy for your running while trying to lose weight? What do you think you’ve been doing wrong?
  2. Or, do you already have plenty of energy and are still able to run and lose weight? How do you do it?

Feel free to add your comments below and help others by sharing your experiences.


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17 Responses to How to Have Enough Energy for Running When Trying to Lose Weight

  1. Louise says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for ALL of your motivation. I LOVE reading everything that you have to say!

    I live in Australia, and at the moment, it’s extremely HOT in the morning and evening, so I try and run at around 6am. As it is quite early, I was wondering if you had any tips on upping my energy levels for early starts?

    Thanks, Louise

    • James says:

      You’re welcome Louise, I’m glad that you’re finding everything so useful.

      You could try having a small snack before your run such as a banana or a bit of cereal or toast. This would be better than having no food or drink before your run.

      If you don’t have time for a snack, or time to digest the snack before your run, then it would be good to have your last meal of the day as close to bed time as possible. Then you’d be minimising the amount of time that your body has gone without food overnight.

      Keep up the good running.

  2. Andy says:

    Hi the snow knocked me for 6 last year then a back injury hoping to start again soon

    Andy Grimsby

  3. Amy says:

    Thanks for all the advice & helpful tips! I am still raising children so my schedule is tight to say the least. 🙂 Right now I am able to run from 4:30-5:30am. Unfortunately this doesn’t allow for eating breakfast before i leave. Is there a long lasting snack that i could eat before i go to bed at night (usually about 10:00pm) or a quick digesting one for first thing in the morning. Currently i don’t eat anything before i run but i do have a good breakfast afterwards – from all i’ve read though this doesn’t seem like best plan…

    Thanks again for everything!


    • James says:

      You’re welcome Amy. If you could manage a snack before your run then you’ll probably find that it helps your running. Some quickly digestible snacks are a banana, small sports drink, or jelly babies/beans.

      If you were to go for the foods before bed option, then things like porridge, pasta, or rice will help. These release energy slower over time.

  4. Nicoleta says:

    Dear James,
    Thank you for all the input and the video that you posted today. I have looked and read thoroughly to pick up on ideas on how i can improve. I am currently trying a new procedure and am a bit frustrated with my results. For about 2 weeks I run on a treadmill 30 min in the morning 9am. Around 9pm I run an additional 20 minutes, followed by some upper body weight training and 100 sit ups. I have been very consistent so far. My goal is to lose 2 pounds a week for the next 5 months. I eat 1 fruit at 8am, 12noon, and 4pm. I have a small breakfast at 10 am(toast, boiled egg, tomato) an average lunch at 2pm(300-400cal) and dinner at 6pm (500cal)….i only drink water, no sodas, juices etc. The first week i lost the 2 pounds, but this week i am not meeting my goal of 2 lb weight loss (I still have 3 more days but it is not looking too good). I would really love your input. Please let me know if i am on the right track.
    Thank you for all the knowledge and motivation. You have helped me very much so far.

    • James says:

      Well done so far Nicoleta. From what you wrote I have some tips for you.

      Rather than doing two runs and an upper body weight session in the day, I would do one run but make it harder and still do the upper body session.

      Also remember to include easier days in your training. Each day should not be the same.

      Doing some sit-ups is ok but you don’t need to be doing 100 sit-ups because you’re more likely to get a bad back. Sit-ups will tone your stomach muscles but you won’t see them until you have a low body fat percentage. They also don’t burn many calories so they won’t make much difference with your weight loss.

      Your weight loss will also vary from week to week so try not to be worried if some weeks you don’t lose as much as others.

      • Nicoleta says:

        Thank you James for your input. It was very helpful!
        ….I have a difficult time with understanding “harder” and “easier” runs….since these terms are so subjective! ….especially the easier runs =)

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I enjoy reading your e-mails. I find them very helpful as I am a new runner. I started at theend of summer but now our witers have been brutal with almost a snow storm a week. When I go to the gym I try to do the treadmill but it is just so boring compared to outdoor running and with the weather so bad I can barely get to the gym. Have you any suggestions as to how I can stay motivated and get an equal work out under the circumstances ?

    • James says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      If you can’t run outside due to the weather and don’t enjoy doing all your running on the treadmill, then you could try mixing up your training at the gym.

      So rather than doing maybe 30 minutes treadmill, you could do 10 minutes each of treadmill, cycle, and rower. Then you still get a good workout but you also have variety that keeps it interesting and enjoyable.

  6. dana hansen says:

    Thank you James for such precious points re: nutrition when running.
    I forever try to eat the right foods, get the most energy possible, and keep my weight in check.
    I eat rather little before a run, ( perhaps a toast with jam) , but I wouldn’t go out the door without a good strong cup of coffee, and a glass of water).
    Especially when I run in the morning , the coffee gives me a noticeable jolt of energy.
    Am I the only one???
    Once I get back, I find I need about half an hour before I eat.
    I have something consistent, preferably protein, salad, etc.
    I still find it hard to resist to snacking, especially around 3 pm..but I’m getting better…
    It’s so helpful to hear other people’s challenges, it makes it easier to challenge mine..
    Thank you!

  7. georgia says:

    thanks for all the good suggestions, the emails really keep me the new runner motivaled.

  8. dianne lawlor says:

    Hi James,

    sometimes I struggle to eat before my morning run, would it be better to eat something and wait before running?

    • James says:

      If you can Dianne I would say to eat something and then run sometime afterwards, rather than run first thing in the morning before having anything to eat.

      By doing this you’ll be properly fuelled for your run and therefore you’ll have a higher quality run. This means more calories being burned and quicker improvements to your fitness and running ability.

  9. Nicoleta says:

    I am doing much better with my workouts. I have listened to your suggestions and I eat a good solid breakfast then wait 1 hour then run. I eat right after the run as well. All last year I used to not eat anything, go on a 45 min run then be so exhausted I could not eat for another 2 hours. I was noticing that when I started to eat, I just couldn’t stop. I believe that is the main reason that I only lost 14 pounds for the whole year even though I was running consistently. I like my new routine now. I feel more balanced and much healthier. I only started this new routine after I read your last input. I look forward to seeing the results. I also started to do sprints every other day within my run, following your suggestion to challenge myself when I run. I can only do 3 sets of 1 minute each, for now… they really kick my butt =) but overall I think I am improving. Thank you James for all your guidance.

  10. Patricia says:

    I have enjoyed reading your helpful tips! I love to run and try to run 5 days a week for about 4 miles on the treadmil. About 2 miles into my running, I lose energy. Then I have to run/walk to get my energy back and then I struggle trying to finish that. This doesn’t happen everytime. Some days I can go and run my 4 and more without struggle. I eat the same thing most of the time. I have been eating oatmeal (1 packet) about an hour before I go to the gym to run and then eat a banana on the way to the gym. Sometimes I switch it up and eat an egg and whole wheat toast. I don’t understand why I am loosing energy. I do finish what I can during my run/walk and then go and do upperbody and abs. But I do fine with the other stuff but can tell that I am a little fatigue. Do you have any advice for me?