Addressing the question of whether running is good for weight loss. We’ll go into the top 5 reasons why it's not actually a good weight loss method. But before I do that I want to be clear that if you love running or love endurance sports that’s fine I’m not going to judge. But what I’ve found with many of my clients is that they don’t really actually love running, they just think it’s the best way for them to lose weight. Maybe they grew up watching the rocky movies or still want to listen to their high school coach making them run laps, either way they don’t realize that you don’t HAVE TO run to lose weight and in fact I try and dissuade people from running, and here are my top 5 reasons for why I do so.
Reason number one is that running isn’t going to give you that strong, healthy physique that many are looking for. In order to achieve that, it goes way beyond the calories in calories out theory. Now while that does matter for weight loss, we also need to look deeper into our hormones. In order to look our best, we need to manipulate muscle building aka our anabolic hormones and our lipolytic, aka our fat burning hormones. Running does not do our muscle building or lipolytic hormones any favors when compared to weight lifting and in addition to that running does not increase our resting metabolic rate nearly as well as lifting does. Remember, the more muscle we have the more fat we burn at rest.
Reason number two that running isn’t the best idea for weight loss is that it simply creates too much stress and raises cortisol levels. Now increased stress and cortisol levels aren’t a bad thing in the short term, but in the long term really robs us of our health. Too much cortisol will ruin our digestive and endocrine systems and lead to more muscle loss and fat gain. And increased cortisol has been especially correlated with increased fat storage around the abdomen. So unfortunately that’s why you see some runners who are running all the time yet they have a little pot belly or even get labeled as being “skinny-fat.” Because theyre skinny everywhere else because all their muscle is decreased yet they still have fat around their abdomen due to chronic cortisol increasing the storage of fat there.
Now weight lifting will also increase cortisol but the other hormones it increases, testosterone and growth hormone, help to prevent muscle loss and fat storage. And if you’re a girl listening to this and you’re thinking I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want testosterone or growth hormone because you need those hormones too they’re an essential part of the body and a lack of them will lead back to that skinny fat syndrome and will have you feeling run down.
The worst part of all this is that it creates a feedback loop or thinking they need to do more and more cardio to lose that belly fat but this just leads to more and more cortisol and eventually makes the problem ten times worse and eventually all their hormones crash and they end up not only looking like shit but feeling like shit too.
The third reason that running isn’t the best idea for weight loss is that it creates a lot of inflammation and oxidative damage in your joints. Its been shown to lead to osteoarthritis and bone loss. Injuries are a big deal because it’s a lot harder to lose weight when you can’t exercise and you cant exercise if you are injured. Yes you can get injured doing any type of activity but you’re all but guaranteed to get hurt doing traditional cardiovascular exercise like running.
The fourth reason I don’t really recommend running is that that not only is all that stress bad for your joints and your horomones and your mind its also bad for your immune system. The body can’t heal and recover if its constantly under stress. That’s why recovery is such a big deal and its really hard to recover from a long distance run. So by running constantly you’re setting yourself up to be sick more often and once again you cant lose weight if you cant exercise and you cant exercise if you’re sick so damaging your immune system is not a good idea if you’re trying to stay healthy and lose weight.
And finally the fifth reason why I don’t recommend running for people trying to lose weight and look their best is that it's really boring and really time consuming and inefficient. I know some people love it and I respect that that’s fine whatever your jam is that’s fine with me but personally I rather watch paint dry then run on the treadmill for half an hour. And objectively speaking, it's too time consuming. You can get a much better workout and burn more fat and build more muscle in a 10-15 minute hiit workout. In addition to that, you’ll burn calories the rest of the day after the hiit workout whereas you don’t really if you go for a long run. If you’re not sure what a hiit workout is, check out episode number 6 where I discussed that.
Alright everyone once again if you love running, that’s fine, do it! But if you’re really looking to just lose some weight and optimize your physique and protect your long term health, I don’t really recommend it. At the end of the day though, it's still better than laying on your couch and watching Netflix.