Runners may be familiar with the term ‘train gain,’ or weight gain that seems to magically appear even though you are in the midst of training for a race. The good news is, this doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight from running. That statement would be a myth, and the biggest one about running for weight loss that Dr. Jason Karp, PhD, founder of Run-Fit and author of Run Your Fat Off, has heard.
“Research shows how much weight is on a person’s body is proportional to how much he/she runs,” he explains. “The problem comes when people underestimate how many calories they consume and overestimate how many calories they burn.”
This is why you shouldn’t rely on the number of ‘calories burned’ after a workout—it’s not the best approach. Running burns the most calories, yes, but it is important to focus on fueling your body with the proper nutrients versus simply replenishing calories.
Dr. Karp notes that just as when you’d start any exercise program, it is important to obtain approval from a qualified medical professional. Seeing a dietician can be helpful or you can find resources—such as the eating plan in his book—to learn what types of foods are going to give your body the energy it needs.
If you are a beginner, just going out and running—even without a specific training plan—is perfectly okay. Karp says starting with 30 seconds of running followed by walking with intention for 5 minute is a great place to begin. He explains that over time your body will adapt and you will develop the stamina needed to run (or run/walk) for longer periods of time. Then, the weight loss will come.
The weight loss happens when your body starts creating a metabolic demand and those calories you are consuming are being used for other needs. In this case, that energy would be used to power your running, meaning it isn’t being stored as fat.
“Running creates the metabolic demands, giving you the director’s clapperboard so that you decide where the calories go,” Dr. Karp notes. “And that is exactly one of the goals of the Run Your Fat Off program—to make you the director of the calorie movie, dictating where your calories go and how they are used.”
You don’t have to be worried about losing too much weight, however, as he goes on to explain that based on your genes, your body and brain have a sense of what you should weigh.
“This is called your set point, which is really a set weight range of about 10 to 15 pounds,” he adds. “So, yes, your body will reach a healthy plateau, [and] you have to work to get it and keep it there.”
Dr. Karp deeply believes that running is for everyone, no matter your goal, whether it’s weight loss or anything else.
“Running connects you to your body and is perhaps the best expression of your physicality,” he concludes. “Through running, you fulfill your destiny as a physical being, and on the foundation of a fitter physical being, you can build a better life.”