Despite what many inventors of best-selling fad diets would have the public believe, weight loss is a simple issue. Burn more calories than you consume, and you'll lose weight. As a runner, you're in luck, because running happens to be one of the best and fastest ways to expend energy. To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you eat, and running burns about 100kcal per mile. Running also keeps your metabolism elevated for hours after your workout, meaning you burn more calories even while you're sitting at your desk at work or on the sofa recovering from your run.
Hold on, though, before you reach for that extra chocolate croissant. Runners face a frustrating truth: research has shown that the post-workout metabolic rate is elevated longer in untrained subjects. As you become fitter and fitter, you recover faster, so your post-workout metabolic rate returns to its resting level sooner, and you don't burn as many calories as your neighbour who runs only occasionally.
You're just going to have to make up for it during your training, when your metabolic rate is at its highest anyway and therefore has a greater impact on your calorie burn and subsequent weight loss.
Here are two simple ways to shake up your training to blast more calories – both of them are well worth the extra effort.
They're taken from an article of five top ways, which Runner's World UK magazine subscriber, can see in full here. If you'd like to to subscribe and see them all (and many other benefits), you can save 30% and get instant access right here.
Log more miles
Adding more miles to your running week is probably the easiest and most obvious way to burn more calories. By running five to 10 more miles per week, you'll burn an extra 500 to 1,000kcal. It's more exciting than it sounds: the further you run, the better your body becomes at conserving carbohydrates and relying on fat as fuel. You become a better fat-burning machine.
A good way to start burning more calories is to add one mile (or five to 10 minutes) to each of your daily runs for three weeks; then back off for a recovery week. After your recovery week, continue to add miles (or time) in the same fashion.
A weekly long run burns more calories two ways. First, there's the 100kcal-per-mile expenditure: run 15 miles and you burn an impressive 1,500kcal. You may even burn more than 110kcal per mile, depending on the amount of oxygen you use while running and on your body weight. (It costs more oxygen to transport a heavier person.) Women, alas, burn fewer calories per mile than men, since they typically weigh less.
Long runs not only burn more calories, but a number of studies show that they also help boost your post-run metabolic rate, often exponentially. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the longer subjects walked at 70 per cent of maximal oxygen consumption, or VO2 max, the longer it took for their metabolic rates to return to their pre-exercise levels. In another study, published in The Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences, post-exercise metabolic rates more than doubled when the amount of time subjects exercised increased from 30 to 45 minutes and increased more than five-fold after exercising for 60 minutes.
To reap the weight-loss rewards of going long, start your weekly long runs about two minutes per mile slower than your 5K race pace. Increase their length by five to 10 minutes (or one mile) each week for three or four weeks before backing off for a recovery week. If you run more than 40 miles per week, or if you run faster than an eight-minute mile, you can add two miles at a time to your long run. Your long run should make up no more than 30 per cent of your weekly mileage.