Link between energy systems and weight loss

Running is seen as one of the most effective ways to lose weight, and it can be with the right approach.

The means to achieve goals are often oversimplified; if I run I’ll lose weight, if I runner faster I’ll lose even more.

Seems feasible but you have to look deeper at the biochemistry of generating energy to fuel your run.

You have around 2000-2500 calories of glycogen stored in your cells. You have 10000+ stored as fat (triglycerides).

When you run hard the body requires energy quickly and this comes from the glucose present in the blood and the stored glucose (glycogen) in the cells; it’s easy to access and fast to convert into energy.

There just isn’t time to convert fat as the primary energy fuel.

Running intensity directly impacts which energy system you are using. Faster more intense running uses the smaller anaerobic energy system (glucose/sugar burning system). Slower less intense running uses the bigger aerobic energy system (fat burning system).

The biggest problem runner’s face is running too hard leading to the run becoming high intensity/anaerobic. This does not train the body to burn fat as fuel during the run or to stimulate fat burning for the rest of the day.

If you just burn glucose/sugar during your run, you won’t use stored fat.

I believe that running doesn’t have to suck! I know you put in the hard work, effort is not at question here, but I know many runners who have quit their running journey through a lack of weight loss progress; left frustrated, maybe even injured.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I’m not always popular in social media forums when I drop truth bombs but I care about your wellbeing more than your PB. If you are carrying more weight than is healthy (chances are if you’re reading this, the answer is yes!) then running just might not be an effective method of weight loss for you in this moment.

Yep a running coach saying don’t run!

If running, even for just 30 seconds leads to fast, shallow and loud breathing, you are better off to just walk. You will not be burning any fat whilst running, but you can become a fat burning ninja when walking. Just a few months of walking can massively reduce your body fat.

At this point try another run, chances are now you’re carrying less weight your breathing will be more relaxed meaning you are still using your fat burning system, win! But you’ll still need to check in and walk when your breath indicates you are slipping back into the sugar burning system. This is where run/walk can help.

So next time you go for a run, check in on yourself. Breath is the best way to know how hard your body is working. If the breath is fast, shallow and loud, you are working your sugar burning system and weight loss will prove difficult (amongst other potential risks).

I can help you to build a plan (even a pre-running plan) that leads to a sustainable running habit. Click here to look at your options.

Barefoot Phil


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