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How to Run to Burn Fat

Updated on December 26, 2012

Train your Body to Burn Fat

Running is an activity most people learn early and easily in life. It also burns a lot of calories, and if you run a lot, most of those calories are likely to be from fat. The reason is simple: The body likes efficiency, and the most efficient way to fuel long runs is with calorie dense fat stores.

But before you go lacing up your running shoes to burn off those love handles, consider this: It takes time to train the body to use fat first. The good news is, you don't have to focus on teaching your body to burn fat in order to lose weight.

5 Ways to Run to Burn more Calories

Running with more intensity will burn more calories than a constant slow or steady pace. Here are 5 ways to add intensity to your runs:

1. Sprint/Jog: Start off jogging at a steady pace. When you are warmed-up, set your watch timer for 30 seconds and take off at a full sprint. Repeat this 3-5 times, stay at a steady pace for a few minutes and repeat. Best for runs under an hour.

2. Take the Stairs: Find a tall building and head for the stairwell. It takes more energy to go up then down!

3. Hill Repeats: Instead of taking a flat route, find a hilly one. Or, find one good hill and do several "sets" followed by a jog.

4. Fartlek Training: Vary your pace throughout your run, speeding up and slowing down for several minutes at a time. This prevents the body from getting comfortable and forces it to expend more energy.

5. Incorporate Bodyweight Exercises: Snap your body out of drone mode by dropping on the ground every few minutes to do some burpees, pushups or jump squats. This is another way to get the body to expend more energy by shifting energy system priorities.

Exercise Intensity Determines Fuel Source

Almost all exercise uses more than one form of energy. A long, steady run may start off using glucose to produce ATP (the anaerobic system,) but if the pace stays constant, the body will find a more efficient fuel source.

The fuel the body will begin using is fat. This shift to drawing from fat stores preserves the limited stores of carbohydrates in our bodies. The more often the body practices this shift, the faster it happens, as with long distance runners or other endurance athletes. "Teaching" the body to do this requires consistent, repeated efforts over weeks and months.

It seems clear then, that to burn off fat you need to do long and steady bouts of exercise, right? While this type of exercise will make the body more efficient at using fat for fuel, it is not the best way to burn more calories.

To lose weight, which will always include losing fat, you need to burn more calories than you take in each day. To do this, kick up the intensity at regular intervals throughout your runs. This will burn more calories during the workout, but also create and "afterburn" effect, or EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.)

The afterburn effect means the body continues to burn more calories than it would at rest for up to 48 hours after exercise. Why does this work? The body uses 5 calories for every liter of oxygen you consume, and an intense workout puts the body in a state of oxygen deprivation. The greater the intensity, the greater the afterburn.


Your New Running Workout

To begin running to burn more fat and calories, replace one or two of your long and steady runs with a higher intensity running workout. Any more and you risk injury, so give the body time to adapt to the new workload. Keep in mind that with higher intensity sometimes comes greater appetite. To lose the fat, maintain a healthy diet and don't give into the cravings!

Total Calorie Burn per Mile
Net Calorie Burn per Mile
For running: .75 x your weight in lbs.
.63 x your weight in lbs.
For walking: .53 x your weight
.30 x your weight in lbs.
You probably know that running burns more calories per mile than walking, but do you know what your net calorie burn is for these exercises? The net calorie burn tells you how many calories you are burning after subtracting the resting metabolic calo


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    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 3 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Yes Kim! I love to hear that people are getting motivated and moving. You must be feeling great, good for you!

      Cheers, Mo

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 3 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      I have just started running again and found this very motivating. Thank you, MosLadder! I am down 8 lbs already and am feeling more energy. I must say, I've missed the rush running gives me. I hope to be in for the long haul. Thanks, Kim.

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 4 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Hey alocsin! Thank you, there's no substitute either, no matter how many jump squats and kb swings I do!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I agree that running is an excellent way to burn fat, plus it doesn't need expensive equipment to get started. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 4 years ago from Irvine, CA

      LOl, even colder there than it is here! Some warm water and tradewinds would nice right now :-)

    • KawikaChann profile image

      KawikaChann 4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      lol! No bruddah - I'm in Oregon right now - and it's cold for this pineapple transplant... anyhoos, I guess I'll put down my pint of Haags now :( Peace. Kawi.

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 4 years ago from Irvine, CA

      What? Brada! Cold in da islands? You killing me, cuz! Ah well. It doesn't matter if you do it on your feet or on the bike, just don't do it with a pint of Haagen-Daas.

    • KawikaChann profile image

      KawikaChann 4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      ahh mos, it's soooo cold, I'm huddled over my ipad feeling that layer of jelly belly - I want to run but it's too cold!!! I'll try to work out the intensity on my sta-bike. Nicely done, voted you up/useful. Peace. Kawi.

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 4 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Jump in prokidwriter! Start throwing in 10 minutes in the morning and 10 at night, keep it simple and sweaty.

    • prokidwriter profile image

      KA Hanna 4 years ago from America's Finest City

      Thanks for the interesting hub! One of my goals this year is to shake up my workout to (hopefully) get in some fatburning exercise!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Very interesting. A good reason to add some intense running back into my walking. Thanks.