Running is one of the best ways to burn calories with cardio, but it doesn’t work the same for everyone. Even if you’re running daily, you may still be struggling to lose weight. This can happen when things like your diet, workout intensity, or mindset don’t align.
Luckily, you can fix this situation by finding out the cause of your struggle. Check out the 15 reasons why you might be struggling to lose weight while running.
1. No Caloric Deficit
It is impossible to lose weight without a caloric deficit. Caloric deficits are when your body is burning more calories than it consumes. Even if you’re exercising 5 hours a day, without a caloric deficit you will likely stay at your current weight.
Running is great for burning calories, but exercising also makes your blood sugar levels drop, cueing your brain to ask for more food. If you’ve been running often but eating more, you may lack the calorie deficit needed to lose those pounds.
2. Retaining Water Weight
When you start a new training regime or increase your workout intensity, your muscles begin to experience microscopic tears. These tears are normal and lead to feeling sore. As the tears are repaired, those muscles grow stronger.
Oftentimes, there is inflammation around these tears. The body begins to store extra fluid around the tears to repair them. This is when the body holds on to extra water weight, which may make you look or feel bloated.
This water weight will slowly dissipate on its own as your muscles heal, so long as you allow for enough rest between workouts.
3. You Have Gained Muscle
You could begin to exercise, eat healthily, and lose fat, only to remain the same weight. If you’re doing everything right, it’s only natural to wonder, “Why am I struggling to lose weight while running and dieting?”
In this scenario, you’ve likely lost a significant amount of fat. Instead of disappearing, that fat has been replaced with lean muscle. Lean muscle is much denser than fat, meaning a smaller portion of muscle weighs the same as a large pound of fat.
Essentially, you could be more toned and healthier yet remain at the same weight. Instead of focusing on the scale in this situation, focus on the changes within your body. If you’re happy with your lean muscle progress, keep at it!
4. Consuming Hidden Calories
While running should have you consuming more healthy calories, you must be wary of “hidden” calories. These are typically found in sports drinks, energy bars, and energy gels.
You may think that these additions will boost your run, giving you more energy to burn more calories. The truth is that most of them could contain as many calories as you’re going to run through!
5. Workouts Have Plateaued
When you start running, it’s easy to feel fatigued or pushed out of your comfort zone. As you gain strength and endurance, your body beings to adjust to your workout’s demands. When your body has adjusted yet your workout remains the same, you reach a workout plateau.
Workout plateaus can happen quickly with runs. They leave the runner bored and unmotivated, and the body is simply going through the motions without extended benefits.
To get over a workout plateau, you’ll need to intensify your runs. Try running on a different surface, mountain running, or HIIT running instead.
6. Improper Portions
Portion sizes have almost doubled in the last two decades within the U.S. This means Americans are eating more than necessary and more than ever. Take a week to make note of your portion sizes compared to the recommended sizing on the label of your food.
As a general guide, every day you should be eating:
- 2-3 cups of vegetables
- 1.5-2 cups of fruit
- 2-8 ounces of grains
- 3 cups of dairy with low or no-fat
- 5-6.5 ounces of protein
- 5-7 teaspoons of oils
7. The Scale Is Inaccurate
The scale you use and how you weigh yourself will drastically affect the displayed weight.
Firstly, digital scales are generally more accurate than dial scales.
Second, if you’re going to track your weight to log weight loss, it’s important to weigh yourself at the same time every day – the morning is most recommended. By night, you may have temporarily put on a few pounds from all you’ve consumed during the day.
As a drastic example, let’s say you drank a gallon of water during one day. Your weight at night could be up to 8 pounds heavier than your weight that same morning!
8. Overcompensating for Your Runs with Food
It’s easy to think that running means you deserve more food. On one hand, you’re right – it’s natural for your body to want more food to fuel your new workouts; however, this fuel should come in small portions of healthy food options.
Avoid snacking on high-sugar or high-calorie foods post-run. Instead, opt for more filling and healthy meals, such as oatmeal for breakfast or a lean-meat lunch with vegetables.
9. Slow Metabolism
Metabolism is the body’s chemical reactions that change food into energy. The higher your metabolism, the more calories your body burns daily just to keep you alive.
Metabolism is affected by lifestyle and genes. If a slow metabolism runs in your family, you can improve it by continuing your workouts to gain muscle, drinking green or oolong tea, eating spicy foods, and drinking more cold water.
10. You’ve Crash Dieted
Crash diets are short-term and urgent diets people do to lose weight as fast as possible. Crash diets can damage your metabolism and most results from these diets don’t last.
Most weight loss from crash diets comes from muscle and lean muscle loss, which means you end up weighing less but feeling weaker. This affects your future workouts and can lead to weight gain after the initial loss.
11. No Strength Training
Strength training includes exercises that use resistance against your body. You can do strength training by lifting weights or using your body weight in activities like sit-ups, push-ups, or squats.
Strength training is an important part of building and working out new muscles. Running is great for burning calories and training your legs, but not for overall muscle growth. For a full-body workout that burns more calories, it’s essential to incorporate strength training.
12. Ineffective Runs
If your running posture is incorrect, you may be doing more harm than good. Improper running form can lead to injury or ineffective runs with wasted movements.
Here are some signs you have an improper running posture:
- Restricted breathing during light runs
- Elbows shooting sideways instead of front to back
- Neck or shoulder pain while running
- Knee or hip pain after running
13. Not Fueling Your Body Correctly
A good run will leave you sweaty and with your heart pumping. Without the right fuel for your body, you may only get halfway to your goal before you end up panting and out of breath.
If you plan to have an endurance run, eat foods like bananas and raisins a few hours beforehand. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods the meal before an intensive run can also provide you with sufficient energy.
14. Snacking Too Often
Little snacks add up. Simply adding one plain bagel with cream cheese to your daily diet will have you adding on 2 pounds or more per month!
If you find yourself snacking more than usual, be sure to add these calories to your total daily intake to see how much you’re consuming. If it’s too high, curtail your snacks or switch to low-calorie options like fruits and vegetables.
15. You’re Too Hard on Yourself
Many people set goals for themselves that simply seem unreachable. If you’ve become obsessed with the number on the scale, you may be missing the goal altogether.
Instead of focusing on pounds, focus on how you’d like yourself to look. Home in on completing efficient runs paired with strength training. Keep track of your calorie consumption, but focus more on eating healthy foods.
With a little patience and even more self-compassion, you will be sure to lose the weight you want!
16. The Halo Effect
This is one of the biggest reasons individuals can’t lose weight in a timely manner and they see no results. Basically, the “halo effect” is when you go out and exercise for 30 minutes or more and come back and eat a cheeseburger with fries. Your mind is telling you that because you put forth the effort and exercise you can reward yourself and blindly eat whatever you want. This is far from the truth. The caloric numbers underneath are the biggest determinant of whether you lose weight at all. Exercising 30 minutes a day without changing your eating habits will have little effect on your waistline or weight.
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