Wanting to lose belly fat is one of the most common fitness and physique goals.
But what is the best way to burn belly fat? Does running burn belly fat?
In this article, we will discuss whether running can help you lose belly fat and tips for how to lose belly fat by running.
So, if you have been asking the question, “Does running help lose belly fat?“ keep reading to learn if and how running can help you lose that belly fat.
We will look at:
- What Is Belly Fat?
- How to Lose Belly Fat
- Does Running Burn Belly Fat?
- Does Running Help Lose Belly Fat?
- 4 Tips for Losing Belly Fat By Running
Let’s get started!
What Is Belly Fat?
Before we discuss whether running burns belly fat specifically, it’s helpful to discuss how to lose body fat or how your body burns belly fat in general.
As a society, we tend to demonize body fat and want to do everything we can to get rid of it, but it’s important to remember that we do need some amount of body fat to survive.
Body fat cushions the organs, helps absorb certain vitamins, produces necessary hormones, and insulates the body.
However, while a certain amount of body fat is essential for survival, excessive body fat is associated with an increased risk of various diseases and adverse health conditions.
For example, obesity, which is a condition marked by excessive body fat or a high body fat percentage, is associated with adverse health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
When measuring your body fat percentage, your total fat mass is added together and compared to the weight of your lean body mass, which is all the tissues in your body that aren’t adipose (fat).
While muscle comprises the majority of lean body mass, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels, connective tissues such as tendons and fascia, cartilage, blood, lymph, and other tissues are also part of your lean body mass or fat-free mass.
Your fat mass is all of the fat in your body.
There are two different storage sites or types of fat storage in the body:
Visceral fat is located deep in the abdomen, where it surrounds your organs.
Although this type of fat plays an important role in cushioning and protecting your organs, excess visceral fat is even more strongly associated with adverse health conditions such as metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease than fat located elsewhere in the body.
Subcutaneous fat is located just under the skin, on top of your muscles and bones.
You have subcutaneous fat underneath the skin around your entire body, but the specific distribution pattern of body fat depends on factors such as your sex, hormones, genetics, anatomy, age, and training status.
For example, men often store more body fat in the abdomen than women, and women tend to accumulate more body fat in the breasts, buttocks, and thighs than men.
The majority of belly fat is visceral fat—the body fat found deep in the abdomen surrounding the organs, with a lesser contribution of subcutaneous fat right under the skin.
Therefore, losing belly fat can be a great way to reduce your risk of various lifestyle diseases.
How to Lose Belly Fat
So, how do you lose belly fat?
Belly fat, like any adipose tissue, is essentially stored energy. Food that you eat contains calories.
When you consume more calories than your body needs—whether from carbohydrates, dietary fats, or proteins—the excess energy gets primarily stored as triglycerides, which are fat molecules, that then get stored in fat cells.
When your body needs energy for everyday processes or exercise, and you’re not taking any in, the body can burn body fat by breaking down the triglycerides in the fat.
Therefore, to burn belly fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit, which means that you need to be burning more calories than you consume, which takes us to running.
Does Running Burn Belly Fat?
Interestingly, the questions “Does running burn belly fat?” and “Does running help lose body fat?” are actually somewhat different.
Let’s start with, “Does running burn belly fat?“
The energy the body needs while running can come from a combination of stored glycogen (carbohydrates) and stored fat.
The more vigorous the exercise, the greater the percentage of energy that will come from carbohydrates. Therefore, if you are running at a high intensity, you will actually be burning a lower relative proportion of calories from fat.
In contrast, a higher percentage of the calories burned during low-intensity exercise, such as easy running or jogging, come from fat.
However, this isn’t to say that the total amount of fat burned during a high-intensity run is less than that during a low-intensity jogging or running workout.
Remember, a smaller piece of a really big pie can still be larger than a big piece of a really small pie, meaning that if you burn 800 calories during a hard run and 40% are from fat, you will still burn more fat than if you do an easy run and burn 400 calories with 50% of the calories coming from fat.
All of this is to say that running can burn belly fat, but the amount of fat you burn during the run will depend on the intensity and duration of the workout.
Does Running Help Lose Belly Fat?
For the second question, “Does running help lose belly fat?” the answer is much simpler.
No matter what your running workouts look like, running can help you lose belly fat over time by helping you generate the caloric deficit you need to lose weight.
For every 3,500 calories that you burn above what you are eating, you will lose one pound of body fat. Although you can’t spot reduce where you lose weight, some of this fat loss will be belly fat.
Thus, running can be an effective way to lose belly fat if you are controlling your caloric intake through your diet and using running as a way to create a caloric deficit.
However, running will not help you lose belly fat if you are consuming as many calories as you burn or more.
The good news is that studies suggest that exercise, such as running, may help control appetite, potentially helping you stick with your diet goals.
4 Tips for Losing Belly Fat By Running
Here are some tips for losing belly fat through running:
#1: Know Your Numbers
Although losing belly fat, or body fat in general, involves the interplay of multiple factors, including your hormones, genetics, and even the particular foods you eat, the primary determinant of whether or not we will lose body fat is the relationship between the number of calories you are eating and burning.
Make sure you have a good idea of your total daily energy expenditure (BMR, calories burned through exercise, daily life physical activities, and digestion).
Then, track and record the calories you are consuming to ensure that you are indeed generating a caloric deficit necessary to sustain weight loss.
If you want to lose one pound of fat per week, you need to eat 500 fewer calories than you burn per day.
#2: Do HIIT Training
Studies suggest that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective way to stoke the metabolism and burn belly fat.
For example, one study found that compared with moderate-intensity continuous training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) burned 28.5% more absolute fat mass overall.
Incorporate fast intervals or hill sprints into your runs a few days a week rather than running at a steady pace every single day.
#3: Run More
Increasing your training volume by running longer or more days per week will help you burn more calories through running.
However, it’s important to increase your mileage gradually, jumping up by no more than 10% from week to week.
#4: Strength Train
Strength training increases your lean body mass, which is the primary determinant of your metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn in a day.
By putting on more muscle mass, your body cranks through more calories, which helps you burn belly fat and optimize your body composition for running.
Overall, running can be an effective way to help you lose belly fat. Stay consistent with your training and disciplined with your diet, and you should see results.
For some examples of HIIT workouts you can do to start burning those calories, check out our article: HIIT Running Workouts!