Runners seem to come in two forms. There are the sleek gazelles, whose lean, athletic bodies dart around the roadways effortlessly. And then there are the rest of us, plodding along, adding up the miles and wondering why we’re still not losing weight no matter how many pairs of sneakers we burn through.
But the key to losing weight when you run isn’t to run longer or harder. It’s to run smarter. So says Eric Orton—the rule-breaking running coach who starred in Christopher McDougall’s 2009 best-seller Born to Run. An ultramarathoner (he once ran for 36 hours straight), Orton knows a lot about extreme running. But going over the top with your training isn’t the best way to fire up those fat burners. In fact, running less often, and less hard, might be the secret key to losing more weight.
Orton has collected his best secrets in a book of his own, The Cool Impossible. But Eat This, Not That! got him to share his absolute best weight-loss tips with us. And after hitting the pavement, make sure you’re maximizing your fat burn with these 50 Best-Ever Snacks for Weight Loss!
FAT BURNER SECRET #1:
Be strategic when you hit a road block.
If you’re not losing as much weight as you want when running, it may be because you’re trying too hard: “The tendency can be to push too hard on all of your runs,” Orton says. “But rest and recovery is when the body rebuilds and gets stronger and during this time is often when great weight loss occurs. So if you’ve been hitting it hard, take a rest and recovery week where you do 50% [less running than usual],” he says.
Eat This, Not That Tip: Pregame your run with a cup of green tea. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4 to 5 cups of green tea each day with 25 minutes of exercise lost 2 pounds more than those who didn’t drink the tea. We love green tea so much, we made it part of our brand new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!
FAT BURNER SECRET #2:
Lose weight fast, and then slow.
When the time comes to make your runs more rigorous, try very short, faster efforts interspersed with walking or easy running breaks in between – rather than running steady and hard for a long period of time. “And when bumping up run intensity, look to do hill repeats or inclined intervals on the treadmill,” Orton says. “The hills recruit more muscles than flat running and allows you to get in the important higher intensity with less impact.” Or change up your routine to intersperse long, slow runs with days of short, quick runs. “It could be as simple as adding in more intensity to one or two of your weekly runs,” he says.
Eat This, Not That! Tip: Your run isn’t the only thing that should be slow. Consider investing in slow carbs—meaning carbs that are digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer. Sweet potatoes are the king of slow carbs, loaded with fiber and carotenoids, antioxidants which stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, helping to prevent calories from being converted into fat. And their high vitamin profile (including A, C and B6) give you more energy to burn on the road. For reliable energy, turn to these 9 Best-Ever Carbs for Weight Loss.
FAT BURNER SECRET #3:
Focus on consistency, not intensity.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking every run has to be long, strong and perfect. “Aim to make the majority of your weekly miles as easy as you can, so running is enjoyable,” says Orton. “Consistency and frequency is key for weight loss. Focus on doing less, more often.” For example, he continues, “If you are used to running 3 times a week for 45 min, strive for 4-5 times per week at 20-30 minutes and build from there.”
Eat This, Not That! Tip: Don’t be afraid to eat carbs the night before your run. One study in the European Journal of Nutrition put two groups of men on identical weight loss diets. The only difference? Half of the group ate their carbs throughout the day, while the second group reserved carbohydrates for nighttime. The result? The nighttime carb group showed a significantly higher diet-induced thermogenesis (meaning they burned more calories digesting their food the next day).