Running for weight loss is tough, and it rarely works. I remember the first time I went on a diet. It was a few years after college. I had managed to pack on quite a few pounds since High School but was by no means an obese looking person. Looking back on old photos I was a little bit thick.
I was a hefty 220 pound and 5′ 11″ tall. I managed to get down to 180 with calorie restriction, cutting out soda, running, and lifting weights a few times a week. I dropped 40lbs.
But I never feel below 170, which I managed to get down to without calorie restriction and eating a mostly raw vegan diet. Around that same time I started running like crazy, but the pounds never came off like I was hoping.
Fast forward to 2020. I’m sitting at 178 lbs and carrying all that extra weight around my mid section. I’m considered “skinny fat” and at risk for Type II Diabetes, even though I was eating a predominantly plant-based diet.
Another interesting thing to note is that just going off my BMI, I’m in “healthy range” but definitely not experiencing optimal health.
I decided I had enough of the extra weight. My New Years Resolution was to finally get the weight off.
I began how must people probably would: by reducing my calories. It worked for a while, but I suddenly stopped losing weight, even though I was restricting calories and running 4-5 days a week.
But then something changed. I began eating more plants, and getting back to my vegan ways. And I discovered a lot of other cool weight loss hacks that actually worked, and are backed by real science! A lot of these sound gimmicky, but trust me. They really do work.
If you are struggling to lose weight with running and calorie restriction alone, this article is for you. (Side note, I’ve lost 20lbs using these techniques along with calorie restriction, running, and a plant-based diet)
Here are some crazy weight loss tips backed by science. Many of them from the book, How Not to Diet by Dr. Michael Greger
Your fitness app is lying to you
Ok, I’m leading off with this one because it’s one of the most important ones when it comes to tracking calories.
If you are using an app like MyPlate or MyFitnessPal to track your calories there is something very important you need to know. – Don’t “eat back your calories.”
Once you input your workouts into the app it then gives you a calorie deficit, leading you to believe you’ve “earned some extra calories” to eat that day.
That simply is not the case. Do you remember when you set up the app? It asked you what your activity level was. So it was already accounting for your workouts when you set up your profile.
Whether you are at a light activity level or a very active level. The app takes this into account when it tells you how many calories to consume and meet your goal. You should also consider the fact you likely under report your calorie intake and the exercise tracking apps overestimate calorie burn. So if you REALLY want to lose weight simply follow a standard weight loss formula based on your height and weight.
If you are “eating back” your calories burned you are sabotaging yourself. You are better off NOT inputing in your workouts into the app.
But let’s say for instance you went on a two hour run which is longer than your typical run, then by all means, eat some extra calories, but don’t do so on a regular basis.
Bottom line is this, if you are running for weight loss. You still have to watch your calorie intake.
Have a Consistent Bedtime
This one I’ve been good at for the past few years. It makes a huge difference when it comes to maintaining weight. Did you know that shifting your bedtime on the weekend is essentially like “social jet lag” putting unneeded stress on your body?
We all know how actual jet lag can make us feel, but did you know that shifting your bedtime but just an hour on the weekends creates the same effect?
Travel induced jet lag goes away in a few days, but what happens to our bodies if we create “social jet lag” every weekend?
One study showed that individuals who have an hour of social jet lag once a week have twice the odds of being overweight. WOW.
So sleep regularity is just as important as meal regularity. Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm for a reason. And it only makes sense that if weakening or circadian rhythm can lead to weight gain, strengthening it can only benefit us.
Make dinner your smallest meal of the day
You may have heard the phrase, a calorie is a calorie no matter what. That simply is not true. If you consume 100 calories of coconut flakes, it’s not going to have the same effect as consuming 100 calories of chocolate. The same is true when it comes to the time of day we eat.
Calories consumed in the morning have less negative impact as calories consumed in the evening. One study looked at two groups. One was given a large breakfast, with a small dinner. The second group was given a small breakfast, but a larger dinner. Both groups at the same number of calories. The group that ate most of their calories in the morning lost significantly more weight than the group that at most of their calories in the evening.
It makes a lot of sense too. If you consume most of your calories just before going to bed you won’t burn as many of them off as if you had most of your daily calories in the morning. The larger your evening meal is the more net calories you end up storing as fat.
So the lesson learned here is, eat breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper. (and here is the scientific study)
Thus the old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” really does hold true. But you should also remember that it’t not just the calorie content, but the quality of those calories.
Take Some Vinegar – Amping AMPK
AMPK is your “master energy sensor” and “fat controller.” It stands for Activated Protein Kinase.
It flips the switch in your body from storing fat to burning fat.
So how can we “boost” AMPK and burn more fat. Simple – by consuming vinegar into your diet. The ideal dose is about two teaspoons twice a day. It’s best to mix it into water or to top on a salad. Never take vinegar straight, it could burn your throat.
Apple Cider vinegar is a great way to promote fat burning and weight loss. This is what I take personally, and usually put it in my flavored water 2-3 times per day.
Don’t believe me? Sound too good to be true. Check out the study that proves it!
Also, it’s worth mentioning that increasing AMPK helps endurance runners go faster and further, which is why the World Anti Doping Agency has banned AMPK-activating drugs. Thankfully this is something that can be done naturally without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.
Weight yourself twice a day
When it comes to marketing there is a saying, “you can’t grow what you can’t track.” The same is true for goals. If you can’t track your progress you will never get anywhere. Knowing how much progress you are making can actually serve as a motivator to keep going.
It’s also important to weight yourself twice a day: Once in the morning after first waking up (and after going to the restroom), and once before bed. This is because our weight fluctuates throughout the day.
Knowing how much you weight each day seems counter productive to some, but trust me, it’s a huge motivator when you see the numbers dropping each day. And if they are not dropping, you know you need to change something.
Hydration and pre-loading
Did you know that drinking two cups of water increases metabolic rate in men and women by 30%? So don’t forget to hydrate well. And best of all it’s totally free.
One study showed that inadequate hydration is associated with obesity and high BMI. The study also suggests that water, an essential nutrient, may deserve greater focus in weight management research and clinical strategies.
There are other factors that might contribute to water intake impacting lower weight. Simply put, if you are drinking more water, you are drinking less soda.
You can also pre-load your meal in order to help consume less calories. Another randomized study observed older obese men and women at a buffet-style-meal. The individuals that drank two cups of water before their meal consumed 13% less calories than the control group.
A similar study was performed on young healthy adults and even more impressive results were found. The water pre-load group consumed 20% less calories, that is more than one hundred fewer calories.
Burn Fat, Preserve Muscle – Through Hydration
I bet you already knew staying hydrated was important, but did you know it can help lead to weight loss. At the ver least, prevent weight gain.
When well hydrated, our bodies respond in a similar fashion to acute fasting. We go into fat burning mode, while trying to preserve muscle. One study showed that well hydrated individuals increased fat burning and decreased protein breakdown.
Another interesting thing to note is that milk can impair fat burning! So you might want to consider switching to a dairy-free latte. Better yet, ditch the latte. It’s loaded with extra calories… but you already knew that.
So lesson here is, drink your water. Lots of it.
Time Restricted Feeding
This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about how a calorie is not a calorie in regards to the type of food it is. The same is true regarding WHEN you eat that calorie.
To start, let’s mention time restricted feeding. This is defined as going 12 hours per day without eating (fasting). Sound difficult? Not really. If you begin your daily fast at 7pm and eat breakfast at 7am, you have achieved a 12 hour daily fast.
What are the benefits of daily fasting and time restricted feeding? Better health, and higher metabolism for one. Which can lead to weight loss – without even changing how much you eat. One trial showed that when people stopped eating between 7pm and 6am for two weeks, they lost about a pound each week compared to no time restriction. And this was without changing anything about the diet.
Pretty amazing huh? If you are looking to drop some pounds, intermittent fasting is great to implement on top of a calorie restricted diet.
Remember, calories eaten after 7pm have a worse effect than calories eaten earlier in the day.
Anti-Inflammatory – Eat Your Veggies
When it comes to weight loss, inflammation is the devil.
And the devil is… saturated fat. Yes folks, fat is fat, and it always has been.
And to contrast that, God is fiber. Fiber is the single most anti-inflammatory food component.
Eat more whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit and reduce inflammation. What this means is a plant-based diet is the best diet to reduce inflammation. Reducing meat alone does provide some benefit, but pales in comparison to an all plant-based diet.
One study pitted a totally plant-based group against a low-meat group and the plant-based group had significantly lower levels of inflammation.
But even if you don’t eliminate meat from your diet, you can still drop your inflammation significantly by eating more fruits and vegetables. Try to get 8-9 servings per day.
Consuming more fruits and vegetables will also help you lose weight. Think about it. Eating one apple itself is pretty filling, and only costs you 100 calories. Contrast that with an unsatiating candy bar that costs you 300 calories.
Simply put, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume fewer calories, lose more weight.
If you want to reduce inflammation even more take some turmeric daily…. and of course there is CBD oil! 🙂
It’s All About the Diet
Did you know that only 5% of daily calorie expenditure comes from exercise? That means 95% of the calories you burn during the day are just from existing! Depending on how active your daily life might be will vary the amount of calories the burn per day, but the point is this: you can’t outrun a bad diet.
If only 5% of calorie burn comes from exercise, it makes sense that our PRIMARY focus should be our diet.
This should come in the form of calorie reduction, and eating heathier foods.
In many cases you can still eat the same amount of food and still lose weight. Let me explain: 5oz of oatmeal cookies is approximately 700 calories vs a 5oz of apple is only about 100 calories. So by eating the same “amount” of food you can still cut your calories and lose weight.
But if you want faster results you are going to have to also restrict calories by at least 3,500 per week, but often times more to get the results you are looking for.
Bottom line is this. If you want to lose weight all the fat burning and weight loss tips I mention here are wonderful, but they will be ineffective if you are not reducing your calories and eating more of the right kind of foods.
If you have historically struggled to “outrun your weight” it might be time to consider some major dietary shifts. I can speak from personal experience trying to focus more on running and exercise than diet. It just doesn’t work.
So focus on a great diet, don’t “eat back your calories” and implement some of these fun scientifically proven weight loss hacks, and you will be well on your way to success.