Can You Lose Belly Fat By Running? Here’s What You Need To Know

Can You Lose Belly Fat By Running? Here’s What You Need To Know

Runners run for many reasons. Fitness, achievement, and adrenaline, for instance. Achievement and adrenaline are obvious motivators. While fitness is a broad term, meaning different things for different people, we can say generally that it’s mostly about maintaining a desired weight. Belly fat in particular, however, is notoriously difficult to lose. That’s why this article is focused on answering the question, “Does running burn belly fat?”

What’s Belly Fat? 

Before you confront the enemy, you have to know it. I think I’m paraphrasing from Sun Tzu or Machiavelli. One of those two.

Anyway, belly fat is also known as “visceral fat.” It’s not only an eyesore and source of shame for many, but it’s also a danger to your health. Visceral fat surrounds the organs in your abdomen, creating the rounded shape of the stomach and increasing your waist size.

But that’s the least of it. 

Visceral fat has been linked to serious health conditions, including type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a number of other dangerous illnesses. 

The fact that’s it’s difficult to get rid of is frustrating, especially when you aren’t sure how you got it or why your strategies for losing it haven’t worked already. While every person’s situation is different, there are many reasons why you have belly fat and why it hasn’t gone away despite your best efforts. 

What Causes Belly Fat in Runners?

Even if you’re an active person who is watchful of what you eat, your diet can still be hurting you. 

In some cases, it’s the protein–you’re eating enough but not the right kind. When you think of protein, you think of cheese and meat. Both are delightful, but there’s a better way. Instead, you should focus on lean protein, which can be found in chicken, turkey, and fish. For you vegans and vegetarians out there, legumes and beans are an excellent source of lean protein.

Unfortunately, right now, I’m also going to ask you to do some math. Once you know what lean proteins to focus on, you’re going to have to eat the right amount, which will keep you from going hungry and feed your muscles without growing your belly. According to Marina Chaparro, MPH, RDN, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you would be eating 1 gram of protein a day for every 2.2 pounds you weigh.

You may also think about increasing your intake of soluble fiber. Studies have shown that eating 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can decrease your belly fat by 3.7% over a five year period. You can almost double that by adding physical activities to your diet. For sources of soluble fiber, check out beans, cruciferous vegetables like kale, arugula, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Basically, any leafy green is a solid option.

Of course, the most likely dietary culprit is carbs. And we don’t even mean bread. You’ve probably done a good job at managing how much bread you’re consuming already. It’s the sugar itself. You might add some to your coffee for some extra bit of pep before your run. You might be eating some health or protein bars or drinking sports drinks before, during, or after your run for an extra boost. They all tend to have high levels of sugar. The sugar loves to stay in your body, particularly in the stomach region.

Combat this by drinking more water to replace sports drinks. Replace the sugar with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olives, olive oil, vegetable oil, nuts, avocados, and fish (herring, salmon, mackerel, and tuna for instance). 

And, almost perfectly, even if you’re an active person, you could be focusing on the wrong workouts. Focusing too much on strength-training or focusing too much on cardio can be why your belly fat isn’t going anywhere. Or, most strangely, you’ve struck the right balance, and you’re doing the right core exercises, but in the wrong way. 

Doing planks is great for the core, but you could be holding the plank for too long–you need to add some movement. A good plank should last 30 seconds. Then, move into an ab exercise that requires motion from the plank position. Your abs will suddenly lose a stable position and be forced to work harder to move into the next exercise. Your next exercises can be other versions of the plank the two outlined below. 

Planks for Belly Fat

Plank with Shoulder Taps (Beginner)

1-Plank position: Together, body weight on your forearms. 

2-Raise your arms up into the push-up position with your hands flat on the ground beneath your shoulders. 

3-Spread your feet hip-distance apart.

4-Hold the position, but intermittently use your left hand to tap your right shoulder.

5-Return to a normal plank position, and switch–using your right hand to tap your left shoulder.

6-Do 2 sets of 10 reps. 

NOTE: Your hips need to remain stable and unmoving to achieve this workout’s best benefits. 

Bird Dog (Advanced)

1-Start in the plank position.

2-Raise your arms up into the push-up position with your hands flat on the ground beneath your shoulders. 

3-Spread your feet spread hip-distance apart.

4-Slowly, lift your left hand off the ground, aiming ahead. At the same time, lift your right leg and aim it directly behind you. Keep the lifted limbs as parallel with the floor as possible.

5-Return to the plank position and switch. 

6-Do 2 sets of 10 reps. 

Now, we finally come to the main event: balancing your exercises so that running can help you lose that pesky belly fat. 

Running Exercises to Help You Lose Your Belly Fat

Is running to lose belly fat the best solution? The trap many runners fall into is thinking that endurance runs will solve their belly fat issues. While endurance runs build endurance and burn calories, they’re not the best for dealing with body fat. Endurance runs have you run for longer, but its steady pace doesn’t have the intensity runners need to lose the flab. Instead, runners should look to cross-training the variations on interval running. 


Cross-training involves a primary exercise (in this case, running) that’s supplemented by secondary exercises on off-days that will aid in making gains in your primary exercise. Since the primary exercise is running and the primary goal is to decrease belly fat, choose swimming, bicycling, and crunches (if you have a bad back, don’t do the crunches). These supplementary exercises are meant to be low to no-impact and only be done for 30 minutes. For a more detailed look, check out our article on cross-training here

Interval Runs

Studies have shown that intermittent high-intensity workouts have been linked to the loss of body fat–particularly in the belly. While there are many variations, all interval runs share a common trait: by using different speeds, you’ll increase the oxygen to your muscles, which will help boost your metabolism and shed calories faster. Also, they’re very intense. While in the past, we’ve given you Beginner, Advanced, and Expert options, interval runs are best for runners ready for the physical demands of the workout. That said, if you are new to interval runs, here’s a good way to dip your toes in the water:


Standing for high-intensity interval training, HIIT workouts have become incredibly popular over the last few years, so it’s getting top billing here. It’s something of an umbrella workout, as well, branching off into several variations, one of which is mentioned below. HIITs don’t exactly have a regularly timed schedule, though they tend to last 30 minutes or under (not including the warm-up or cooldown). It depends on the runner’s conditioning. They’re highly effective at burning fat in the whole body (including the belly), while improving endurance and glucose metabolism. 

HIITs are simple: you go until you can’t. For runners, focusing on your heart rate is key. They’re very focused on cardiovascular health–the more oxygen for the muscles, the greater your endurance will be, the more the muscles are strengthened, the more fat you’ll burn. 

For the sake of understanding potential success, we’re going to shoot for the stars. Let’s say your conditioning is good. Including your warm-up regimen and necessary cooldown run, the entire ordeal (and yes, it will feel like an ordeal–it’s supposed to) should last 45 minutes. Of course, especially at the beginning, it’s not likely you’ll hit the full 45. As we say, you’ll go until you can’t. Eventually, you’ll hit the 45. We’re just using this as an example.

For a more detailed look at what HIIT is and how you can apply it to reach your running goals, click here.


Fartleks are an older interval training exercise, coming from 1930s Sweden. Fartleks roughly translates to “speed play.” Fartleks combine aerobic and anaerobic benefits. During cooldowns, you’ll allow oxygen to replenish your muscles; during the sprints, you’ll be depriving your muscles of oxygen, forcing them to do more with less. The fast changes in speed allow for more flexibility in your muscles, burning calories, and stimulating growth. 

What separates the fartleks from the other exercises, is that it asks more of your body. You won’t enjoy fartlek exercises until you suddenly do. It’s weird. Just go with it. Or try something else on the menu. You have options.

If you’re willing to give the fartleks a try, click here


Tabata falls under the umbrella of a HIIT exercise while also being a cousin of cross-training. These are exercises that are meant to be done two to three times a week alongside your main running schedule. Tabata exercises only take a few minutes, but are meant to be grueling. They’re also not strictly a running exercise. They’re meant to be done by any athlete. However, since we’re focused on running to lose fat in the stomach, here’s how Tabata can fit in.

The basics of Tabata is this: you work as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds. You rest for 10 seconds. You then repeat this for 8 repetitions. The whole thing is done in under 5 minutes. But it’s hell on earth. 

Click here for more.


Yeah, a rose by any other name. Threshold or Tempo runs, whatever you’d like to call them, are intense. There are no points where you stop to catch your breath. You’re always moving. Like fartleks, tempos affect your aerobic and anaerobic health. They also target your lactate threshold in order to make you run faster. Of course, for our purposes here, tempos can also help you lose weight. 

Unfortunately, it’s going last because it’s definitely for established runners. You’ll need endurance for this one, as well as a history of already losing weight while running. Let’s say your regimen has allowed you to lose a good deal of belly fat, but your body is stubbornly clinging to those last misshapen rolls of dough the way most celebrities desperately cling to relevance by tweeting obnoxious hot takes on Twitter with mind-boggling degrees of grammatical liberty.

Anyway, we’re talking about hour-long tempo runs. Tempo runs are generally used to increase your speed. This can be used to your advantage: the faster you run, the more calories you’ll burn. 

And of course, we have an article on that too: click here to check it out.

And that’s all there is to the question, “does running burn belly fat?”.

The answer is yes. Belly fat can be gotten rid of. All you have to do is diet and work very, very hard.

Easy as pie.

We’re kidding, of course. It does a lot of work, but it pays off in the end. Where there’s a will, there’s a way; where’s there’s belly fat, there’s a way to get rid of it.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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