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Running For Fat Loss (Will Running Burn Belly Fat Fast?)

Trying to lose weight? Running for fat loss? Let me guess. What you really want to know is “Will running burn belly fat fast?

  • Running is one of the best ways of burning calories, burning approximately 100 calories per mile.
  • It’s impossible to target a specific body part. Stomach crunches will define your muscles but they won’t get rid of belly fat. You have to reduce your overall body fat percentage.
  • If you’re running for fat loss and not getting results, your diet will be the culprit.

Does Running Burn Fat?

There’s a picture somewhere in my home showing me part-way through a 180 mile run from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu. I’m 22, the lightest I’ve ever been, before and since, and guess what? I still have a little belly fat!

Now not all belly fat is equal. That little tummy in my old picture is my store of essential body fat. It protected my organs and gave me a little reserve to cope with such high mileage. I was on a “see food eat” diet at the time, eating anything and everything I could get my hands on just to maintain my body weight.

I certainly had a 6-pack at the time but it was covered over by a layer of subcutaneous fat. Without this reserve, I doubt I would have made it to Kathmandu on this record breaking run.

Now a little belly fat can be good for you – your own personal energy store. But as that belly grows it can start to seriously damage your health. So let’s look into the different types of belly fat and find out if running will help shift the unwanted excess…

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running for fat loss
Fitness Couple giving each other high five after hard training session on the beach

The Two Types Of Belly Fat

Not all fat is equal and when it comes to belly fat there are two types of fat we need to know about:

Subcutaneous fat is the wobbly bits you can see. Too much and you don’t look so great at the beach but it’s less of a problem for your health.

It’s the visceral fat that gets doctors worried. It’s the fat stored in the spaces around our organs. A little provides some protection. A lot and the space becomes packed tight pushing out your waistline. The classic beer belly look.

The Health Risk Of Visceral Fat

Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is often thought of as a “passive” fat store waiting patiently until it’s needed, visceral fat is very active.

It acts like a gland releasing free fatty acids into the liver, pancreas, heart and other organs. The free fatty acids build up in cells not designed to store fat and the consequences are organ dysfunction; impaired regulation of insulin, blood sugar, and cholesterol, as well as abnormal heart function. Source: Harvard Medical School – Abdominal Obesity And Your Health.

Basically it’s really bad news and excess visceral fat is linked to:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dementia
  • Asthma
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer.

There are probably other risks but that’s enough to get me sucking in my stomach and wondering if I’m at risk.

running for fat loss

What Is Too Much Belly Fat?

Like most things body image related, there’s a big chasm between the medical guidelines and a desire to flaunt the coveted six pack.

FYI most of us have six packs. They just happen to be covered by a layer of subcutaneous fat. No amount of stomach crunches will make a difference. That layer of fat will just sit there covering your fantastic abs.

If you want to be in the next Mr or Mrs Universe competition this is the wrong site for you. Love Life Be Fit is about being healthy and enjoying life. Chasing extremely low levels of body fat will suck the fun out of anyone.

From a health point of view, around 25% body fat for women and 20% for men is a good target. Your mates will think you look good and your doctor will stop giving you grieve.

Current health guidelines like to use BMI or waist measurements which can both be misleading. You can check the guidelines here. Or you can get a rough estimate of your body fat percentage with this calculator.

Can I Lose Belly Fat By Running?

Running is one of the best ways of burning calories. You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound in weight. Running one mile will burn approximately 100 calories.

Run 5 miles a day, everyday and you can lose 1 pound a week. Easy huh?

It’s easy if you’re a 20 year old male and just about any change to your lifestyle will see you burning up those pounds. For the rest of us “Will running burn belly fat?” gets a maybe at best.

Exercising more will always be good for you in the long term. You get a big tick in the living a healthier life box. Trust me – this will make a big difference to your enjoyment of life. It just doesn’t always give you the perfect body you’re looking for.

That’s even if you’re being realistic and not striving for that artificially airbrushed idea of perfection you’ve seen in Instagram!

The problem is your calorie intake – the food you put in your mouth. It’s estimated Americans have an average intake of 3600 calories a day and Europe isn’t far behind.

Compare that with the daily recommended guidelines; 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 calories a day for men. If you’re an adult woman putting away 3600 calories of food a day, you’d need to run 16 miles every day just to maintain your weight!

does running burn belly fat fast

Will Running Burn Belly Fat?

My gut feeling is there’s something wrong with this argument. I’m sure if my body could cope with running 16 miles a day, (and it has for short periods in the past), I would be able to eat ANYTHING and still lose weight.

I spent 3 months at Everest Base Camp once eating copious amounts of M&M’s and still lost weight. The mess tent was stacked with goodies and the team ate constantly. (Spend time at altitude and you will lose weight. The best weight fix I know is trekking in Nepal).

It’s just that if you’re eating a high calorie diet and only run short distances, it’s not going to be enough. It’s important to watch what you eat.

What About Spot Reduction?

The idea you can target fat loss in a specific area is a myth. Stop doing those stomach crunches now! They don’t work. Great for toning your muscles but abdominal exercises won’t get rid of the overlying subcutaneous fat or the visceral fat lying deep within your belly.

There are no quick fixes. You have to work on reducing your overall body fat percentage.

There is some good news. Visceral fat may be the most dangerous but it’s also the easiest to lose. It’s the first fat store to be depleted when you start losing weight. It responds better to diet and exercise than fat on the hips and thighs.

What Exercise Burns The Most Belly Fat?

When it comes to exercise and burning belly fat, running burns the most calories per hour. The faster you run the more calories you burn.

Run at a 6 min/mile pace and you could be burning over 1000 calories per hour!

That’s why High Intensity Interval Training Sessions (HIIT) sessions are popular. You can burn large amounts of calories in just 10 to 15 minutes of exercise.

Of course 6 min/mile pace is really fast but even beginner runners will burn around 500 calories per hour of exercise.

Running isn’t the only way to burn belly fat. Cycling can be just as good if you’re mountain biking or maintaining a fast pace. Circuit training, swimming laps and hiking up hills are all good ways to burn calories.

Does Running Help Lose Belly Fat?

Running will burn belly fat as part of a diet and exercise plan. Watching what you eat, switching out high calorie foods for fruit and vegetables, and increasing your exercise level will make a big difference to your health.

Small changes could be all in takes to go from the slow creep of constantly gaining weight to losing 1 pound a week.

This might not sound very much but gradually losing weight and keeping it off permanently is always going to be better than following a crash diet. Lose weight too fast and your body adapts by going into starvation mode and messing with your metabolism.

I’d rather play it safe and aim for 10 pounds in 10 weeks of permanent weight loss.


Will running burn belly fat fast? It’s certainly one of the best exercises to combine with a healthy diet if you want to lose weight. Getting enough sleep and reducing stress levels are also important when you’re trying to lose belly fat.

It’s best to make some small changes to your diet and activity levels and track if they’re working. If not, adjust your calorie intake, increase your exercise intensity and build in strength training sessions.

Have you recently taken up running? I’d love to know how you got on?

Will running burn belly fat fast?
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Will running burn belly fat?

Running burns approximately 100 calories per mile so it’s a good way to build up a calorie deficit. Completing 5 miles a day will burn 3500 calories a week which equates to 1 pound of fat. Running will only burn belly fat if you also control your calorie intake recommended at 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 for men.

What exercise burns the most belly fat?

Running burns the most calories per hour making it the best form of exercise to reduce belly fat. Yet if you’re short of time High-Intensity Interval Training HIIT is a good option. The higher intensity will increase your calorie burn per minute and is an excellent metabolism booster. It’s not possible to target belly fat directly. Those stomach crunches may strengthen your abs but you won’t be able to see them unless you reduce your overall body fat percentage.

How can I lose belly fat fast?

To lose belly fat you need to reduce your overall body fat percentage. Specifically targeting belly fat won’t work. Exercise and diet are the only solutions. Running is the best exercise for burning calories and combined with controlling your calorie intake is the most effective way to lose weight. Aim for a slow and steady weight loss of 1 pound per week to lose weight and keep it off permanently. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and find ways to minimize stress. Stress and sleep deprivation can sabotage your weight loss goals.

Running but not losing belly fat, why?

Your diet will be the culprit. There’s a saying you can’t outrun your diet and it’s very true. Go for a 5-mile run and burn around 500 calories. If you then treat yourself to a latte and double chocolate brownie in Starbucks that’s 600 calories blown and you’re still gaining weight.

Thato

Sunday 29th of November 2020

I recently also started running and I must say, it is not as easy as it looks... However, after a few days of kicking the blankets to go for a 30minute run, I keep wanting to go back for more runs.

I have not lost any weight as test but I am being patient with myself as my belly fat is embarrassingly large, I wasted time and MONEY buying ridiculously expensive supplements that helped me lose 4kg per week and the minute I stop buying them, I would gain double of what I had initially lost.

I'm not excited to take things one step at a time, running is so exciting. I can see changes in my metabolism as well. I'm excited

Alison

Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

Hi Thato, I hate that you were sucked in by the snake oil salesmen selling diet pills. These products should be banned and are extremely harmful to your health. Your past history of dieting will mean it takes a little longer for weight loss to kick in. It's wonderful that you're enjoying your running. Concentrate on your running and it will give you the motivation to keep going with your health and fitness goals. Often your body needs time to adjust to change. You've just started running and your body's saying "Hey what's this! Let's hang onto these fat reserves until we know a bit more about it". Eventually your body will realise the food is still coming in and the extra fat reserves are just getting in the way. At least that's my experience! Weight loss is rarely a steady downward trend. I find you lose a little then plateau as your body gets used to the "new normal" weight, then lose a little, plateau, lose a little. Hang in there and be patient. You're looking for a downward trend in your weight loss that's all. If the number is going down on the scales, no matter how slowly, you're taking the right steps to improve your health. Everyone has some belly fat but visceral fat is the one to worry about. It's dangerous for your health but the good news is it's the first fat store to be depleted when you start to lose weight. You can read more about burning belly fat here. Be patient with your weight loss. As running becomes a regular habit, start making changes to improve your diet. Aim for slow steady weight loss rather than a restrictive diet that does more harm than good.

Dilip

Monday 14th of September 2020

Absolutely...true! Watch your intake. I just lost 70 pounds and I felt like I am 20 years younger. Now I am 40. Manage your life with 80/20 rule and you will loose weight like 1 pound a week.

Alison

Monday 14th of September 2020

Yes Dilip losing excess weight makes you feel so good about yourself! Plus of cause it makes you fitter and healthier. A slow and steady weight loss is best. Gradually adopting healthier habits and exercising more. So pleased you've made such a difference to your life!

Elena

Thursday 30th of January 2020

Hey Alison. Amazing post. I also want to lose weight but I have failed terribly so many times. But after reading your post I feel motivated and now again I am going to start running and dieting from today only. Thanks for sharing.

Alison

Thursday 30th of January 2020

Hi Elena, Pleased you enjoyed the post. It's important to aim for a healthy weight and not get carried away trying diet gimmicks. Just exercise regularly and try to eat healthy food!

Tommy

Tuesday 7th of January 2020

Wow if I could only spread a message across the world reinforcing what you said, "Stress and sleep will sabotage your weight loss".

I have many clients getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night! It's not enough and does horrible things to your body.

Not to mention you'll be hungrier and angrier at anyone in your path.

People need to sleep to keep high energy, good appetite, and a good mood.

Your article was incredibly well written by the way, I love how in-depth you went especially with the different types of stomach fat.

Alison

Tuesday 7th of January 2020

Aw thanks. I've had spells of getting by on 6 hours sleep a night and it just makes me want to eat instead of exercising. And yes I just get grumpy! Stress can be hard to manage but most of us can benefit from shutting off those devices an hour earlier at night!