Train Body To Burn Fat

Training your body to burn fat

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about goals for the New Year, and I keep coming back to this one!

During training for both of my marathons I gained 5 pounds- 5 very unwanted pounds.  I went into training thinking that I would lean up and lose a couple pounds, but nope.  After gaining 5 pounds the first time, I thought I knew better the second time.  I was careful not to eat back my calories after a run.  I ate whole foods and counted calories, and I STILL gained 5 pounds. Hmph.  I didn’t understand why this was happening when I was running 20-30 miles per week.

Now that it’s winter, my workouts have shifted to maintenance mode instead of training mode.  I’m running less, but still working out with cross training and weight lifting.  I started doing some research on why this was happening to me every time I started training, and I think I found the answer- metabolic efficiency.

Metabolic efficiency is all about your body burning glycogen vs fat.  You can run hours a day, but if your body is trained to burn glycogen, then your body composition won’t change!  This was CRAZY to me!  This also explains why you bonk or hit the wall during long runs.  Sugar reserves run out fast.  If you can train your body to tap into the fat stores, then you have more energy to use.  And yes, you can train your body to burn fat instead of sugar…. Or so they say.  I’m going to put it to the test.

After searching and learning about training your  body to burn fat, I’ve come up with three strategies I’m going to test out as I start back into training.  I will be using this for running, but you can incorporate it into any type of workout.

  1. Take more time to warm up.  I admit, I am TERRIBLE at warm ups on runs, especially short runs.  I usually do a few squats and lunges to warm up the legs, a few simple stretches, and I’m off.  Apparently, this immediately sets my body into burning glycogen mode.  I’m immediately demanding a significant amount of energy from my body, and it turns to the easy and quick glycogen source.  The plan is to start out slow, take the time to ease into the run to allow your body time to adjust and sink into those fat stores.  Try walking for a few minutes, then running so slow you’ll want to hide your face from people.  Take 10-15 minutes to warm up to your race pace.
  2. Go slow!  Run slow, bike slow, just go slow.  Keep your heart rate at only 60-70% of your max.  For me, this is between about 115-130.  This is kind of hard for me.  I’m used to working out with my heart rate in the 150-180s.  The goal is to stay in the aerobic fat burning zone.  Over a long period of time, we’re talking weeks here, slowly increase your pace to your desired race pace.
  3. Practice running on just water.  Restrict sugar before and during runs.  Yikes!  This will be a huge change for me.  I usually eat a banana and drink some oj before my run.  Then during my run, I eat oranges and gels.  No wonder my body depends on glycogen so much during my runs- that’s all I feed it before and during!  Some great pre run snacks include whole wheat bagel or bread with some nut butter and hummus with whole wheat pitas.  Mid run snacks can be nuts, vegetables, and avocados.  The No Meat Athlete likes pinole.  Interesting, definitely want to try that. 

I’m excited to put this to the test while I start training in the New Year!  I’m hoping this will help me run more efficiently.

Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this!


Women's Running Community


  1. Hi Jo! I found your post throught the new LinkUpParty and I find it perfect for my needs right now! I trained for my first marathon and lost sooo much weight! You cant imagine. So I wondered what I did ‘right’. I figured out that I trained at a very very slow pace, that embarrasing pace that you talk about and that was the key answer. So… For the my second marathon Im trying to be very mindful on my long slow runs and the easy runs of the week. But… I was wondering what to use as a midrun snack?!?! I told my husband few hours ago that I just needed to know that and prepare for next Sat 16miler. And so… I found your blog, how cool is that?!?!
    Anyways! This was very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I also found your post from the link up party. Thanks for the information you’re sharing. I’ve been warned about marathon training weight gain and am currently training for my first one (happening April 3rd!)

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