Why Running Long Distances Does NOT Guarantee Weight Loss

Let’s say you’ve started running to lose weight, or you’ve been running for a while, and you want to run for as long as possible in order to lose more weight.

This sounds like a great idea. After all, surely the longer distance you run, the more calories you burn and the more weight you lose. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward.

So why is it that many people who run long distances, or people that are training for a marathon, actually put weight on rather than lose it?

Well here are four reasons why this can happen…

1. Consuming more calories

People who run for long periods of time often treat themselves with more food more after a run. This is quite understandable. Who wouldn’t feel like they deserved a few treats after a 90 minute run?

The problem with this is that people overestimate the calories they burn through running and underestimate the calories they consume through food and drink.

The result is that their treats outweigh the calories burned during the run so they don’t lose any weight, and actually put weight on instead.

2. Hungrier as a result of the training

Another problem with running for long distances is that they can make you hungry, much hungrier than when doing shorter and harder runs which can actually decrease your appetite.

Obviously this isn’t very useful when you’re trying to lose weight. It can also be quite difficult to detect because it’s easy to consume more food and drink without even realising.

You just end up snacking more or having a bit more food on your plate. A bit here and a bit there all adds up and before long you’re left wondering why you’re doing all these long runs but not losing any weight.

3. Lack of time

Running for long distances takes up lots of time. Some people spend so much time clocking up as many miles as they can, or training for a marathon, that it ends up taking over their life.

They often don’t have time to cook so they just grab food on the go, or they call in at the nearest fast food store.

They can’t be blamed really. Who’s going to want to cook a meal after a 90 minute run? After such a long run you’re more likely to want to eat anything you can get your hands on.

Unfortunately this is usually a poorer choice of food which means more calories and fat, and yet again the extra calories consumed outweighs the running and your weight increases.

4. Greater chance of overuse injuries

Overuse injuries are the most common type of running injury and are the result of performing lots of repetitive movements.

By only running for long distances you have a greater chance of suffering from this type of injury because you’re repeating the same repetitive actions thousands upon thousands of times during every run.

In order to lose weight consistently you need to be able to run consistently, and you can’t do that if you’re injured.

When you spend time injured you spend less time burning calories and increasing your fitness, which is why it’s easy to go backwards and start putting on any weight that you’ve already lost.

What can you do about all this?

It’s quite simple really. If you’re running to lose weight then you don’t need to run long distances all the time.

You can avoid all these problems, or at least minimise them, by using variety and including some shorter and harder runs in your training plan.

By doing this you’ll also achieve much better running and weight loss results than what you would by only running for long distances. Plus you can do it in half the time.


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3 Responses to Why Running Long Distances Does NOT Guarantee Weight Loss

  1. dana says:

    I couldn’t agree more!
    I’m all for short runs.
    They give you a better sense of accomplishment, less time, and no injuries!
    Well done, James..again!
    Happy running!

  2. Donna says:

    Hi James,
    When you say short runs, mighy you be referring to HIIT(High inteensity Interval Training) I have become a fan of HIIT, because to me ,its not only shorter, but I seem to get more body changing results than when I am on the treadmill for an hour four to five days a week. What gives???

    • James says:

      Yes Donna, HIIT is an effective shorter running method you can use. These have been proven by scientific studies to burn more fat than running long distances. That’s why you’re getting better results.

      Keep up the good running!