Posted by: Joe English | July 9, 2007

Training: Will I lose weight when I start running?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

It seems that I have the same conversation about ten times a month. A new runner says: “I decided to start running so that I could lose weight, but I haven’t lost any. Is that normal?”

Yes, in fact, it is quiet common for new runners not to lose weight when they start running. In fact, a lot of them gain weight. Here’s why.

A running program will provide a number of great benefits to you. It will increase your cardio-vascular efficiency, making your heart stronger and more efficient. It will also increase your basal metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories when you’re at rest. And running itself burns calories at a rate of about 115 calories per mile. But all of this together does not automatically lead to weight loss.

The reasons are four-fold:
First, your weight is directly related to your diet – The foods you consume will either be burned by your activities during your day or they will be stored as fat for you to use later. There is no other option for those calories – they have to go somewhere. Generally speaking, when people are over-weight they are eating too many calories, or more specifically, too many calories from food types that are not useful to them for the activities they pursue in their daily lives.

Second, new runners often have a greater appetite than before they started running– With the body burning more calories, it is normal to be more hungry and craving more food. The problem is that new runners may not have figured out which foods to increase in their diet and which to avoid. This often means they may just eat more of the foods that they don’t need, which works against their desire to see weight loss from their running.

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Related Articles:
Accelerating the Impact of Running on Weight Loss

Food as fuel; your diet, weight loss and running (part I)

What should I eat for breakdast before a long run?

Ten things you need to know about hydration

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running Advice and News



  1. Coach Joe,

    Good blog! Sometimes as things start shifting around, things are lost that you wish would stay, such as butt and boobs! hehe!

    I will have to check out the book…thanks for the head’s up. I know I have run for a while, but I realize I can stand to eat better to maximize my runner’s potential.

    Have a great day!


  2. Can’t agree with you more, Coach. When I started running again, I expected to lose weight and I did. Just not nearly as dramatically as I thought I would. Instead, I kind of “deflated”. The scale still read the same, but my pants were falling off and gathered at the top under my belt. Eventually, the weight did come off (50 pounds so far!) but that was over more than a year of consistent running and changing my eating habits. It may take me another year or more to get that last 20 pounds off. But now that I’m completely hooked on running again, I know it will eventually go away. I think changing my lifestyle and eating habits has had far more of an impact on my weight than running has. The running has just redistributed the weight to the proper areas and built up muscle. Thanks Joe!

  3. Joe,
    Right on. And Nancy Clark is definitely the best authority/source out there. Keep people away from all those fads. I’ll add one other phenomenon that I’ve observed. Many people who workout (not just runners) get into the mindset that because they did a workout, they “earned” a dessert or sweet or extra helping of whatever. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard comments like that. This of course only leads to increased calories and defeats any efforts in losing weight.
    Coach Dean

  4. I’m glad to read this when I did. I lost 40 pounds a few years ago. I then put on some weight and lost it last summer training for a 10 miler, but that weight didn’t come off until the very end. Same thing happened this past winter training for a 1/2 marathon. Now I feel like I’m eating less, running more, but gaining weight, yet my clothes still feel the same.

    • Excellent blog! I didn’t start running to lose weight, originally I started to GAIN weight! Now my weight has stablized, I run to maintain it and keep healthy! Everything in moderation! I use a swealsuit to tone up the bits that aren’t quite like they were when I was 21 and feel so much better! Nice to show that running isn’t ALWAYS about losing weight!

  5. Running seems to help with water-weight more than anything in my female body! I feel trimmer, happier and healthier and that’s all the motivation I need.

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  7. […] of Running In previous articles, I’ve talked about two related issues: first that running does not always lead directly to weight loss and second the role of diet in that equation. The bottom line is that running, even burning lots of […]

  8. Depends on your starting weight, and what you’re running, I guess.
    I’m 122 but by the end of track season I’m 132-135 b/c of increased muscle mass.
    However when training for cross country in the fall, I go back down to 122ish. I suppose this is because we don’t do any weight lifting/sprinting for longer distances.

  9. […] Training: Will I lose weight when I start running? ” Running Advice and … […]

  10. Life and Path
    This is such a great post. Dietary changes help (think BETTER calories, not just lower calories), but some weight gain from water will happen. Your body knows it needs to be able to use glycogen stores and needs water to do that. Omega 3’s will help reduce inflammation related gains.

    Happy Running Everyone!

  11. […] Training: Will I lose Posted by: Joe English July 9, 2007 Training: Will I lose weight when I start running? […]

  12. I just started running crosscountry a few weeks ago, I’ve gotten skinnier but I’ve gained a lot of muscle. My older sister told me that I gained weight from the new muscles. is this true?

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