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Running – A fat burner?

Is running any good for weight loss? Running is a great way to help you loose weight, tone up and improve your bone density. 😀👍

In order to loose unhealthy weight we need to burn our fats. Muscle is a heavy tissue, so when we weigh ourselves we are measuring everything, healthy muscle, bones etc, as well as excess fats. If we want to stay healthy, we don’t want to get rid of our muscle mass we want to target our fat stores.

When we exercise, the body works through various energy systems in order to give our muscles the energy they need to work. Fats are the last thing our body will choose to burn. Fats are our storage system and throughout human history the body has needed these fats to get through times of famine. So it won’t let these precious stores go, unless it has to.

How can we encourage the body to burn fats?

The body takes up fuel in the form of Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. These elements can all be broken down into energy, but it takes the body longer to burn some nutrients than others. Sugar and Carbohydrate, for example, can be turned into energy very quickly. So if you sprint for the bus, or away from a Lion! Then the body will use the immediate sugar to send energy to your muscles so they can move you quickly. But the body will deplete these energy stores fairly quickly, meaning it needs to find something else if it wants to maintain exercise for any length of time.

Before the modern world, we were hunter gatherers, so we needed to be able to sprint away form danger, very quickly, but also run across the savanna, often all day, to get the food needed. The body is therefore designed to do this in two ways, fast immediate release, and slower longer duration release. The fat stores are the ones it will break down to give us long term energy. It takes around 30 mins of continuous exercise at a low intensity level for the body to start fat burning, so a gentle jog for over 30 mins and the body will start to burn these fats. If you aren’t into running a walk will have a similar affect.

Does sprinting work for fat burning?

Sprinting, due to the requirement for fast energy release over a short period, won’t burn fat. The body needs the energy quickly, so it will create the energy that it doesn’t have by breaking down and converting carbohydrates into sugar. So any circulating Sugars will be used first, followed by Carbohydrates. Fat takes longer to convert back into sugar, so a slow jog or running continuously at a slow speed for 45mins-1hr regularly, will allow the body to convert the fat into sugar and burn it off.

Many people use training programs such as hill sprints in their running training. These are great for improving your VO2 Max, as they make the lungs adapt to send more oxygen around your body, helping you to run more efficiently and usually improving your run times. But these involve a short duration sprint with a lot of load (the hill). This requires the muscles to receive energy very quickly, but only maintain it for a short period of time. So sugars and carbohydrates will be used here. You will have stopped due to exhaustion long before the fats kick in to fuel the muscles.

Best Running program for fat burning

So, if you want to use your running to burn fat, the best option is to run slowly, more of a jog than an outright run, but keep going for at least 30 mins, an hour if you can. If you are new to running, this will be a big ask, but you can mix in walking with your running as this also requires energy and is of low intensity, meaning it will burn fats if done for long enough.

So perhaps start with a walk / run program, such as the Couch to 5k or just make up your own. Jog gently until you feel tired, but instead of stopping there, walk for a bit while you recover, and then start to run again, until you have completed 45mins – 1hr of either walking or jogging, or both. 😀👍

As is the case with any exercise program, over a period of time your body will adapt and you will be able to jog for the whole hour with ease. Remember, this isn’t about speed, but about duration.

For more information on how we can help you with your running, take a look here.

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