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Is running beneficial if I cannot achieve a calorie deficit, meaning my calorie intake minus burn remains the same? I have a difficult time being hungry.

My current workout regimen is running 3 mi 3x a week and lifting weight 3-4 days. After running, I usually feel famished and eat a lot of food so I don't think that running actually produces a calorie deficit. Lifting weights is the same way, however that builds muscle mass even if I am in a calorie surplus and gaining fat in addition. But if my fat stays the same because I make up the calories burned during running by eating, does running do anything good for me and should I redistribute those days on lifting weights that I know benefit me despite my inability to be in a calorie deficit?

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  • Are you keeping a detailed food log of everything you eat and weighing your food and portions? Do you know you're in a deficit or not? If the answer to the first question is no, then the second answer is also no.
    – JohnP
    Jul 26, 2022 at 13:11

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Yes, running is benefitial for you even if you are not in a caloric deficit. Yes it is true that to lose fat one needs to be in a caloric deficit and if your calories remain the same you won't lose fat. However, you shouldn't run just for the sake of burning calories. Running is also a great exercise to work your heart. Keep in mind that the most important muscle in your body is your heart. Doing cardiovascular activity is the best exercise you can do for longevity and overall health. Also the best your cardiovascular system is, the best your workouts for building muscle will be, hence you can actually have better workouts and build more muscle.

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    I think it is important to point out that the notion that we have to be in caloric deficit is not true in the way that many of us perceive it. If we go for a relaxed (60-65% of VO₂max) run, and for example expend 2,000 kJ of energy, for athletes approximately 50% of that energy will come from fats (triglycerides and free fatty acids) and the other 50% from carbohydrate (glucose and glycogen). If we then consume 2,000 kJ in food, we will almost certainly be left with a net deficit of fat due to elevated metabolic rate and the thermogenic effect of food.
    – POD
    Jul 30, 2022 at 15:22
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It is normal to have an increased appetite in response to increasing our physical workload. However, most people will never consume more energy than their combined Exercise Energy Consumption and augmented metabolic rate.

However, if we tend to binge eat or otherwise make poor food choices, it is prudent to change our choice of food: to eat 'clean' nutrient-dense foods, unrefined rather than refined foods, carbohydrates instead of sugar, and foods high in protein. Protein not only improves muscle growth and recovery, but it also increases diet-induced energy expenditure whilst also increasing our satiety, thereby making us less likely to overeat.

It is important, also, to consider longer-term trends. Long endurance training, be it running, cycling, swimming, or whatever, increases our cardiovascular fitness and power output. Whilst a recreational 75-kilogram (165-pound) cyclist, for example, may average an output of 80-90 Watts for a two-hour training ride, if well-trained, that same cyclist may average 250 Watts for the same time. The perceived effort would be identical, but with two to two-and-a-half times the power output, and therefore energy consumption.

Simply put, the fitter and more active we become, the more difficult it is to overeat. We should always make good choices for our health, but energy intake becomes something that is difficult to overdo and easy to curb.

I hope that helps.

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