How to Start Running for Weight Loss

5 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
Written by
Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

Running to lose weight seems to be one of the leading reasons people turn to this exciting activity. While it’s certainly one of the most natural forms of exercise for the human body, it has multiple benefits that make it great for more than just getting more physically fit and healthy. So, how can you succeed with running for weight loss?

Why Running to Lose Weight Works

The first question is: Can you lose weight by running? The answer is an emphatic YES! Research shows that those with the best success when losing weight are performing moderate exercise for 250–300 minutes per week, and running is a perfect type of exercise to fit that.

Is running the best way to lose weight? Well, you can’t outrun a bad diet, so a healthy, balanced diet is the most important factor when trying to lose weight. But, combining a proper diet and running is a surefire way toward lasting weight loss and tons of health benefits.

Learning how to begin running to lose weight and how to follow a diet can be tough for beginners, however.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is more than just a balanced plate. Nutrition for weight loss comes down to managing your calorie and macronutrient intake. Eat fewer calories than you burn each day, and you will begin to lose weight, regardless of food choice. 

But, ensuring that you eat healthy foods while on a weight loss meal plan will boost your health and weight loss efforts more than eating junk food to hit your calorie goals.

Clear up your diet

When starting to clean up your diet, eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources are the building blocks toward success. It may take some digestive adjustment for a week or two, but once your body adjusts to more fresh foods, you’ll feel more energized and experience more stable moods.

To enhance this even further, you can eat 5–6 small meals a day instead of the average 2–3 most people eat. This will keep your blood sugar more stable throughout the day and reduce hunger, meaning less chance of a binge. 

Avoid processed foods

There are countless reasons to avoid processed food when trying to lose weight, and most people know them already. Processed foods are usually higher in calories and hyper-palatable, making them much easier to overconsume. 

Learning how to avoid processed food may take some time, but one of the best tactics is to simply remove all these foods from your pantry and refrigerator right away, so you aren’t tempted!

Practice portion control

Counting calories and weighing your food is the most accurate way to control your portions. Evidence shows that eating in a calorie deficit leads to weight loss, barring some genetic or hormonal issues that can hinder basic human biology. 

For those that don’t know how to practice portion control, here are a few tips:

  • Invest in a food scale and weigh everything you intend to eat.
  • Track all your food and beverage intake with a calorie tracking app.
  • Chart your progress and make adjustments to your calorie intake as needed.

Check nutrition labels

Don’t forget to check food labels for nutritional information. Different brands of the seemingly same food could have different ingredients, meaning different calorie amounts. 

Learning to decipher the nutrition facts and ingredients list will help you stay on track.

Strength Training

Strength training for runners is commonly overlooked, but cross-training is important for all athletes, from hobbyists to professionals. It’s not just about building muscle. It reduces the occurrence of muscular imbalances and overuse injuries while providing a unique training stimulus that running doesn’t provide.

A simple weight training program that follows progressive overload on compound exercises each workout is the best way to approach strength training. 

There is an endless debate on cardio vs. strength training for health, fitness, and weight loss, but here is the truth: they are equally important!

How to Start Running to Lose Weight

Deciding how long to run is usually the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they want to start running. But, there are some other things to consider before you fill your water bottle and lace your running shoes! 

Start with walking or walk/runs

A run-walk involves planned, or unplanned, periods of running and walking to reduce exhaustion and increase training volume while you work to improve your physical fitness. 

There is no debate when looking at walking vs. running for weight loss: running is better. But, you have to build your stamina over time instead of jumping in head-first.

Run every other day

Should you run every day or every other day? After all, burning calories to lose weight is the goal, right?!

Running every day will increase your risk of injury and can lower your physical fitness due to less recovery time. Running every other day is enough to build your aerobic endurance and allow your body to recuperate between sessions. 

On the days you don’t run, you can utilize strength training, yoga, or other forms of exercise to burn more calories if you’d like. Running every day is too much of a good thing!

Increase distance gradually

Just like you should increase your running speed over time, you should increase your running distance. Nobody runs a marathon without months of ramping up!

Patience is key – learn to play the long game

The joy of running can be experienced during every run through setting achievable goals and finding success. Just working toward the runner’s high every time you run is a surefire way to burn out and spike cortisol levels that can hinder weight loss in the long run.

It’s not hard to learn how to reach runner’s high, but that shouldn’t be your goal on each run. Pushing yourself that hard time after time isn’t conducive to sustainable weight loss for most people. 

Avoid Committing Common Mistakes

For both beginner and experienced runners, it is important to learn and avoid some common running mistakes.

Cutting down too many calories

Cutting calories to lose weight is smart. Using that excuse to diet down to extremely low-calorie intakes isn’t healthy. Instead, use a reputable calorie calculator to find how many calories you should be eating, and don’t drop below that unless you don’t see progress. 

Eating as much on a rest day as you would do on a full workout day

I’m not burning as many calories on rest days, so should I eat less on rest days? Yes! Eating fewer calories on non-workout days accounts for the lack of calories burned through running.

Not planning for snacks and meals

Track your daily food intake to ensure you hit your calorie goals. You could do this on the fly and track the calories as you eat them, but the best way to track food intake that can perfectly hit your calorie and macronutrient goals is to plan snacks and meals ahead of time

A common tactic is to plan the entire day out, so you know when and what to eat to hit your calorie goal exactly instead of just winging it.


Can you lose weight by running? If you combine running with a sensible diet, then yes! Hopefully, this article gave you a good idea of how to begin running to lose weight so you can lose that weight for good!

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