What is Belly Fat?
One of the main reasons why we might take up running (you know, besides running for weight loss, becoming more fit and improving your general health), is burning belly fat.. So, how does it accumulate and does running burn belly fat? We’re going to take you through the best guide for 2020 on what causes belly fat, the right pace to burn it at and does running help burn belly fat?
The term “belly fat” refers to fat cells that build up and accumulate around the abdomen.
The two types of belly fat are:
- Visceral – The type of belly fat that surrounds a person’s organs
- Subcutaneous – The type of belly fat that sits underneath the skin
Scientifically speaking, visceral fat is much more dangerous than the subcutaneous fat that sits underneath the skin. Visceral fat can both damage your organs and affect their function.
Visceral fat can also cause serious health conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- Certain types of cancer
What Causes Belly Fat in Runners?
So, does running burn belly fat? Unfortunately, whether you’re a runner or not, you’re still susceptible to belly fat.
The factors that initially influence belly fat have little to do with whether or not you’re a runner. In fact, the majority of them have to do with how you treat your body, before exercise is even a thought. Here are few internal factors that influence belly fat:
- A Poor Diet
Frequently consuming food or drinks that are high in sugar or high-fructose corn syrup will cause an increase in belly fat. Sugar turns to fat through a process called lipogenesis. This is the act of your body converting carbs into fatty acids, which are the building blocks of fat that store inside our bodies.
A poor diet also leads to weight gain and a slow metabolism, which in turn reduces a person's ability to burn fat in the first place.
Stress is another major factor in your body’s ability to metabolize fat and avoid storing it in your midsection. When a person is stressed, it is not uncommon for them to reach for foods that are high in fat and/or sugar. When your body is stressed, it produces the hormone known as cortisol, which helps the body to adapt. Unfortunately, the consumption of fatty and/or sugary foods does not mix well with cortisol and causes these extra calories to set up camp around your midsection.
- Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep is another factor that has been linked to weight gain and a decrease in the ability to metabolize fat. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine confirms that both the lack of sleep and a poor quality of sleep can lead to the storage of belly fat. It can also potentially lead to unwanted behaviours such as emotional eating, which in turn puts on more belly fat!
Unfortunately, genetics can naturally play a role in your body’s ability to metabolize belly fat – and there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. Those who naturally hold onto fat need to be even more conscious of other internal factors that influence the production of belly fat.
The Right Pace to Burn Belly Fat
So, does running burn belly fat? When it comes to burning belly fat fast, there are methods to the madness when it comes to pacing yourself, whether running outside or on the treadmill.
Does running burn belly fat when it comes to running outside? Let us just stress, there is no “set pace” that you should be running to burn belly fat. However, there are certainly some rules you should be going by.
- Studies have shown that interval training is an excellent way to burn belly fat and is more effective than intensive, constant forms of exercise. Therefore, running as hard as you can for as long as you can all at once is not the best way to go about burning belly fat.
- Running at a steady-state (roughly 75% of your running race best) has also been considered beneficial for outdoor running, as it reduces your body’s reliance on carbs. This results in your body directly attack its fat stores
If you’re feeling a lack of motivation to bite the bullet and just go run outside, you can check out our collection of inspirational Running Quotes to get you going.
Running on a Treadmill
Now, when it comes to the treadmill, we must ask the age-old question – does running burn belly fat? Well, that depends on how you go about it.
When it comes to burning belly fat on the treadmill, using tools such as the incline can be very helpful. The additional buttons and tools on your treadmill are there to simulate an outdoor running experience as best they can and you should be taking advantage of it!
Therefore, some of the best way to burn belly fat on a treadmill is both by running in intervals and trying out different inclines. Due to the limited challenges that a treadmill presents on your body, you’re going to need to rev up your routine if you’re looking to seriously burn belly fat.
So, when it comes to the question, does running on a treadmill burn belly fat, we can confidently answer - yes it does!
And just an FYI, if you don’t have a treadmill at home and are looking to get in your run at the gym, we got you covered - check out our article on What To Wear To The Gym.
Best Workouts to Reduce Belly Fat
1. Aerobic Intervals
Aerobic interval training is a great way to increase your caloric burn during a workout and target that stubborn belly fat.
Aerobic intervals practice the 1 to 2 method – therefore, your recovery cycle is twice as long as your work cycle, with the intense phase lasting no more than 30 seconds.
Here’s an example of how to use aerobic intervals to burn belly fat fast:
- Run at your submaximal sprint for 20 seconds – your submaximal sprint is almost the speed of your maximum sprint, but not quite. We’re talking about 85-90%.
- Follow this work cycle by a recovery phase of slow walking, for 40 seconds.
- Repeat this cycle for no more than 20 minutes, for a total of 20 intervals – that’s truly all you need in order to target those stubborn fat cells.
2. Tempo Run
Does running burn belly fat when it comes in the form of a tempo run? Tempo runs present a variety of benefits, that go beyond simply burning belly fat. They are meant to build endurance and are the standard workout for a runner who wants to run for a longer period of time.
Tempo runs are known for improving your lactate threshold, which means you’ll be able to run faster while exerting less energy – perfect for those who are looking to build up to running a marathon.
Here’s an easy example of how to go about a 30-minute tempo run:
- Warm up by jogging at a leisurely pace for 10 minutes. A leisurely pace is whatever feels easy and effortless to you, while slightly accelerating your heart rate.
- Follow up by 10 minutes of hard effort. Hard effort in this case means slightly quicker than your best time if you were to race a 5k. If you have previously ran a 5k, divide the distance you ran with the time it took to complete it, to calculate your 5k running pace.
- End your 30 minutes with 10 minutes of cool-down time.
3. Hill Intervals (Treadmill)
Hill intervals are not only fantastic for developing your glutes and hamstrings, but are an excellent way to burn belly fat. And there’s a way to do this from the comfort of your own home - on the treadmill.
Surprisingly, there is an advantage to hill intervals on the treadmill, as opposed to outside. While hill intervals require a recovery period, your recovery period outside will be jogging back down the hill – which is not much of a recovery at all. Your recovery period on a treadmill will be jogging on a level surface, which is more beneficial.
Here’s a simple way to try hill intervals on your home treadmill:
- Begin with 10 minutes of jogging for your warm-up.
- Set your treadmill to a 4% grade/incline for 90 seconds, running at a quick pace.
- Return to 0% grade or a flat surface, jogging for 120 seconds for recovery.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 repetitions.
- End your workout with 10 minutes of cool-down time.
4. Steady-State Run
Does running burn belly fat if you do a steady-state run? As previously mentioned, running at a steady state is extremely beneficial for accessing those fat stores. A steady-state can be considered 75% of your running race best and should be an important part of your training in addition to interval training.
Here’s how to go about a steady-state run:
- It’s important to still have a warm-up period, regardless of if you’re engaging in a steady-state run or interval training. Warm up for 10 minutes at a leisurely pace before going into your steady-state run.
- Gradually increase your pace until you reach your steady-state running pace. It is recommended that you perform a steady-state run for anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour.
- As always, end your workout with a 10-minute cool down period.
5. Varied Treadmill Intervals
Treadmill intervals come in many varieties and this routine seriously targets fat loss. This at home workout will target and burn stubborn belly fat and give your heart, muscles and lungs a workout at the same time.
Here’s how to get in a varied treadmill interval exercise:
- It’s always important to warm up for any form of exercise. However, the first part of this run is essentially a warm up, so it’s up to you if you wish to start with your own before proceeding.
- Keeping your treadmill at 0% incline, walk for 3 minutes at 3.5 mph – keep close attention to your posture while walking, to make sure your body is reaping the maximum benefits.
- Keeping the incline at 0%, increase the speed to 4 mph and jog for 2 minutes.
- Raise your incline to 4% and reduce your speed to 3.5 mph, slowing down to a brisk walk for 3 minutes.
- Keeping your speed at 3.5 mph, raise your incline to 6%, continuing for another 3 minutes.
- Increase your speed to 4.5 mph and decrease your incline to 4%, jogging for 2 minutes.
- Bring your treadmill back to a level 0% incline and walk for 2 minutes at 3.5 mph to cool down.
- Finish with an optional 10-minute cool-down of your own.
Looking for some more great workouts for running that focus on building some serious leg muscle? Visit our article on Leg Workouts For Running here.
Best Diet for Reducing Belly Fat
As previously stated, keeping up with a healthy diet is an integral part of keeping additional belly fat at bay and reducing what you already have.
Here are some healthy and nutritious foods that will provide you with numerous health benefits, as well as diminishing that pesky belly fat. If you’re specifically looking for foods to avoid, Medical News Today shines some light on this in Which Foods to Avoid When Trying to Lose Weight.
Almonds contain monounsaturated fats, which help to banish belly fat. Since they also contain vegetable protein and fiber, they help keep you fuller longer and banish unhealthy cravings.
Avocados are also high in monounsaturated fats, which help to reduce fat around your midsection. Monounsaturated fats regulate blood sugar, which decreases your body’s need to store belly fat.
Oatmeal is full of fiber, which helps keep your body’s insulin levels low. Oatmeal also helps keep you fuller longer, decreasing unhealthy cravings.
Bananas are full of potassium, giving your body a full 422 milligrams on average, per serving. Potassium can help combat sodium, decreasing your belly bloat.
Not only can the consumption of green tea rev up your metabolism, but it also contains the plant compound ECGC, which helps reduce belly fat.
Many swear by yogurt for reducing belly fat. The probiotics in yogurt help balance the bacteria in your gut. The result? A healthy digestive system and less gas, bloating and constipation.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage contain phytonutrients, which have been thought to help banish belly fat.
Benefits to Running & Losing Belly Fat
When it comes to the overall benefits of running, enough positive things cannot be said. Running completely changes your life in a variety of ways, that go beyond just the aesthetic appeal of a tightly toned body. (Although, nobody’s exactly going to say no to that).
Like any form of exercise, running boosts the natural supply of serotonin into your body, which instantly improves your mood. However, setting yourself constant goals that you can consistently beat (and prove to yourself how awesome you are) does great things for your mental state.
Therefore, if you’ve asked yourself, “does running burn belly fat?”, you should also ask yourself what else it’s doing for your body.
Running boasts fantastic benefits for your health, including:
- Improving your immune system
- Strengthening your lungs
- Improving high blood pressure
- Increased bone density
- Increased joint strength and stability.
Of course, your self-confidence will also see a huge boost. Losing belly fat can be a huge confidence booster, especially when you have worked hard in order to lose it. A healthy body equals a healthy mind (and feeling confident enough to show off that new swimsuit bod certainly helps both).
Check out our article on the Benefits of Running to find out more on how running can change your life.
We hope we have given you some serious motivation to take up running and banish that pesky belly fat. Next time you’re wondering, “does running burn belly fat?” We hope you keep this article in mind. The decision to take up running is truly a lifestyle change. However, it’s a lifestyle change that can benefit your health and your self-confidence for years to come, so we think it’s definitely worth it.