QT: Weight Loss Goals for Runners Aren’t as Straightforward as You Might Think

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When I start working with a new athlete, they fill out a form answering various questions that help me as their new coach.

Current running routine. Upcoming races. Long-term running goals.

I also ask if they have other goals that aren’t running focused, and at least occasionally, someone will respond that weight loss is another goal that they have.

Today I’m going to attempt to talk about running and weight loss, without somehow upsetting every person that reads the post or listens to the episode.

First Things First

I’m not saying or hinting or insinuating that any runner should have weight loss as one of their goals.

As far as I’m concerned, all shapes and sizes and weights and whatever else are welcome within the running community.

When it comes to your weight, that’s your business and only your business.

If weight loss is a goal of yours, my hope is that this post/episode will help you do so in tandem with working toward your running goals.

And with a little luck, I’ll avoid putting my foot in my mouth along the way…


One last disclaimer before I try to tiptoe through the minefield that is this post, I’m not a dietician or nutritionist.

So take all of the following as information and not actual nutritional or medical advice.

Some Thoughts on Weight Loss for Runners

This may be a bit meandering, but that’s because there are so many layers to the topic that it’s virtually impossible to not bounce back and forth.

I’ll do my best to keep things semi-organized, but I’m making zero promises.

Weight Loss Happens in the Kitchen

This is maybe the most important thing to keep in mind if losing weight is a goal of yours.

Your food choices are the most important factor in weight gain or weight loss.

To be clear, I’m not saying you need to follow any certain dietary plan.

Keto. Vegan. Carnivore. Vegetarian.

Whatever your dietary preference happens to be is fine.

Fuel Your Body Sufficiently

When you’re running consistently, and especially if/when you’re in the depths of training for a big race, you need to fuel your body.

Not only to fuel your performance but also to fuel the recovery process.

So if losing a few pounds leading up to your race is a goal, that’s fine.

Just make sure you’re eating enough to fuel your body.

Otherwise, not only are you risking a poor performance due to under-fueling, but you’re also raising your risk of injury.

Count Calories?

I’m not the biggest fan of counting calories.

That said, counting calories can be massively helpful when trying to lose weight.

Another potential benefit of counting calories?

It helps make sure you’re actually eating enough to fuel your training.

Forget About 24 Hours

Time is a man-made construct.

Near as I can tell, our bodies don’t recognize the difference between today and tomorrow.

So don’t get too carried away about every 24-hour block, especially if you’re counting calories.

Listen to your body. Trust your body.

If you’re hungry? Eat something.

Your body needs the fuel, remember?

And if that puts you over your calories for the day? Oh well.

Play the Long Game

When it comes to losing weight, slow and steady is probably the way to go.

Especially for us as runners, because we need to fuel our bodies remember?

The rule of thumb, in general, is to aim for no more than two pounds of weight loss per week.

For us runners? I’d say a general target of one pound per week is about right.

Yes, this will take longer to get to your weight loss goal.

But it’ll give you a better chance of success with your running goals to focus on slow/steady weight loss.

Don’t Panic

Our bodies are complicated, in case you didn’t know that already.

For any number of reasons, our body weight can easily fluctuate by several pounds from one day to the next.

So if you jump on the scale and don’t see the weight loss you’re looking for, don’t panic.

And by don’t panic, I mostly mean don’t decide to dramatically cut calories to help move the needle on your scale.

Stay the course, keep playing the long game, and trust the process.

Losing weight while training for a big race is trickier than it might seem. #runchat Share on X

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