Cardio • 10.05.2017 • Vera Schwaiger

Helpful Weight Loss Tips: How to Burn Fat While Running

Who are you? I mean, what kind of runner are you?

Are you usually looking forward to a run and enjoying the movement while out on the road? Or are you glad to hit the shower afterwards, with the feeling of having done your body some good?

Let’s be honest: Many of us don’t (just) lace up because we love running. But rather because of yesterday’s piece of chocolate cake, that half bottle of wine from the birthday party or because we want to “run off” the planned 5-course meal. Does that work? Here’s a few facts about fat burning & running.

Is it better to run on an empty stomach to boost fat burning or to jog at a low heart rate to stay in the right “zone”? Or, should we do short but exhausting intervals to fight off those extra pounds? Today, I want to shed a light on how to best burn fat while running.

young woman running at sunsetFeel better, look better! Get stylish workout gear!

What does fat burning mean?

Fat burning refers to the ability of our bodies to oxidize or burn fat and use fat as a fuel instead of carbohydrates. This is an aerobic process – fat is decomposed with the help of oxygen. In general, more fat is burned during high-oxygen activities like Nordic walking, running or biking.

When do we burn fat?

Most fat is burned during low-intensity physical activities. The better your shape, the higher the percentage of fat involved in the metabolic process. And, the longer the activity, the higher the amount of fat oxidized (burned).

How to burn fat when running

You burn fat ideally while running at a pace where you would be able to maintain a full conversation. According to experts, this should be a pace that you would theoretically be able to maintain for up to 8 hours- slow! Plus, you can benefit from losing body fat even after your run as your body keeps burning fat for 2 to 3 hours after finishing a run. If you want to shed a few pounds, make sure you only ingest liquids and maybe a little protein during that time frame.

Training on an empty stomach

If you feel fit enough for a slow, pre-breakfast run to improve your fat metabolism, do it:

  • In the morning, on an empty stomach – 40 minutes max.
  • At a max. oxygen consumption (VO2 max) of 50-60%*

(* These values are estimates. Your can determine your individual, ideal workout intensity through a lactate test.)

young man running at sunset

High-intensity training

What’s better? A longer, yet slower “fat burning run” or a few sprints at a higher heart rate? On the one hand, during a slower run you’re in the ideal fat burning zone. On the other hand, intense interval training challenges your muscles even more. When we’re pushing our heart rate until reaching the anaerobic zone, our bodies resort to our carbohydrate reserves and burn more calories due to the hard muscle work – even AFTER the run. Then, you can benefit from post-workout fat burning (EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).

During high-intensity, anaerobic training sessions the percentage of fat in the metabolic process is lower. However, due to the intense exercise the total calorie consumption is higher. Plus, the body needs more energy for recovery, thereby burning even more fat.

In my opinion, a possible solution would be to combine both slower, relaxed runs in the aerobic zone (where it’s easy to maintain a conversation while running) and short, intense interval runs (which should be done only about once per week anyways).

Whether your body burns fat efficiently or not depends on the right diet and on your sleep quality, too, as fat burning takes place 24/7, especially when you’re fast asleep.

Bye for now,

P.S. Have an espresso or a cup of green tea before your morning run to really boost your metabolism (due to the caffeine contained).

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Vera Schwaiger

Vera studied dietetics & psychotherapy and lives her life according to what Einstein once said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

View all posts by Vera Schwaiger »
  • Manuel

    Thanks for the post. It was a good read! Learned something.

  • Michał Białoskórski

    I like runtastic

  • Bruno Fialho

    I had these doubts.. no more! Bye bye fat.. Ty

  • Richard Meade

    I don’t drink coffee or tea – is there something else I could drink instead?

    • Runtastic Team

      Hi Richard, even a big glass of water before your morning run can help to stimulate your metabolism. Squeeze in some fresh lemon for an extra boost!

    • Rob Zimmerman

      Foods rich in B vitamins, give an energy boost similar to caffeine. Green tea is a great natura energy boost also

      • Runtastic Team

        Dear Rob, we agree 😉 Thanks for your input!

  • Hi Vera! Being a fitness trainer I always go for running early in the morning. It keeps me healthy and full of energy through out the day. Also I don’t drink till yet.

    • Runtastic Team

      Hey you, thanks for the positive feedback. Stay active 🙂

  • Nirmala

    Nice piece of information, thanks for sharing.

  • I loved the post! It’s important to know what kind of exercise we need when running, that is not just run.
    I’m from Brazil, and I love the app.
    Unfortunately I had the Pro version… but I needed to reset my cellphone, and now isn’t allowed to use it, so I’m using the free one… 🙁


    I downloaded this app in my cel. Where can I carry my cel while running
    to measure the calories?

    • Runtastic Team

      Hello Rosa, you could use our Runtastic Sports Armband:

      Stay active 😉

  • Gustavo Woltmann

    These advises are really cool, thank you for sharing it with us… Great article!

  • Einars Mednis

    Why only 40 min run on empty stomach? Im running 2.5 hours and no problems.

    • Raghav

      Probably for those who dread running on an empty stomach to start slow…

  • Susan Stukes

    This is really an interesting blog..Thanks for sharing..

  • Giacomo Baratella

    Sorry but what would be the ideal running pace for fat burning on a slow run? Because I usually run 7km on a 4.50 mins/km pace and I’m afraid I don’t burn that much fat…

    • Runtastic Team

      Hi there, your optimum zone for burning fat during running is 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.