You’ve been running for ages. You lost a bit of weight, maybe even a significant amount when you first started, but something happened. You plateaued. Your running may have improved, you may even feel fitter, but you’re not really losing as much weight as you’d like to. WTF.
Well let’s look at this from another perspective. Your body is basically a very intelligent machine. It has its own sensory processes and systems, and it might not be operating in accordance with your thoughts.
Let me be clearer. Your body recognises you have been running, and that you’ve been doing quite a bit of it. Glycogen gets burned, calories are getting burned. But then after having lots of running sessions, your body reckons it’s time to get better at this. In fact, your body starts to become more efficient at doing that activity, by trying to conserve energy, as in, calories. Your body becomes more efficient at running, while using the least amount of calories. In other words, you could be slowing down your metabolism.
And once you finish your run and go replenish yourself with more calories, there is very low to no metabolic activity. Get ready to go for another long run if you want to burn that meal off.
Not to mention, if you’re not doing strength exercises, appropriate warm ups/cool downs and stretches, you can be prone to muscle injuries and also wreak havoc on your central nervous system (which plays a HUGE part in muscle building, metabolism and fat loss).
Another factor to consider is that running has been known to increase cortisol levels in most people. The unfavourable implications of heightened cortisol levels on body fat and health have already been discussed here. When we are trying to build muscle and/or lose body fat, being able to lower cortisol levels is of high importance.
So in summary, there isn’t anything wrong with going for runs here and there, but if one of your running goals is for metabolic support or fat loss, you’re better off reducing your running or cardio frequency, and focusing on a form of metabolic resistance training. Resistance training builds muscle and sends signals in the body which encourage metabolic activity.
The best sustainable form of cardio for fat loss, which doesn’t have the cons running does, is power walking. I’ve recently written about the benefits and mechanisms of walking on our bodies here.
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