We all run for different reasons, including reducing stress, improving health, and competing in races. And most people wonder, does running make your legs bigger?
Running is a great way to slim your entire body, not just your legs. In general, running will not make your legs bigger; however, it will help reduce fat in your legs and thighs. Therefore, it will just tone your legs, making them slimmer.
Read on to discover effective tips to tone your legs with running.
See also: Does Running Burn Fat: Helpful Running for Weight Loss Tips For Beginner.
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Does Running Make Your Legs Bigger?
It depends on what you eat, how you run, and what else you do. Generally, running will make your legs slimmer, not bigger. This is because you are replacing the fat with muscle.
Running is a cardio exercise that burns fat from your legs and anywhere else in your body. When you burn the fat, you create room for the muscles, making your legs stronger and muscular but not bigger because the fat you burned was an enhancement on the leg’s size. Consequently, usually, running will make your legs look lean.
Try interval training by alternating back and forth between sprinting and light jogging. It is an exercise method consisting of intense bursts of effort alternated with lighter efforts. Interval training burns more calories than regular training, according to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Interval training also causes you to burn more calories for several hours after you are finished working out.
If you follow proper running form, your calves will get a little bigger at first, along with your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, particularly as you start with medium intensity and shorter distances, including intervals of work and rest, to get you used to the activity.
I would also suggest yoga help you lose weight, get more toned, and be more flexible. Depending on how many calories you take, you might see your legs slimming down or not. The general idea is that you might lose body fat after running, which would slim your legs and thighs if you lost weight. You probably see a better definition of your leg muscles due to running because of calorie expenditure from jogging.
See also: 9 Amazing Tips On How To Start Running Again
How Does Running Help You Tone Your Legs?
Running can develop your lower body muscles; however, it mainly depends on the intensity and duration of your runs. A study of 12 recreationally trained college students performed high-intensity interval training (HIIT), including four running sets at near maximum capability for 4 minutes followed by 3 minutes of active rest.
Long-distance running can also significantly increase muscle protein breakdown and thus hinder muscle growth.
For instance, in a study of 30 male amateur runners who ran 6.2, 13, or 26.1 miles (10, 21, or 42 km), all groups experienced significant increases in markers of muscle damage.
These studies suggest that high-intensity, short-duration running builds leg muscles, while long-distance running causes significant muscle damage, inhibiting muscle growth.
After ten weeks of HIIT exercises three times per week, the students showed close to an 11% gain in the muscle fiber area of their quadriceps located at the front of the thigh compared with the control group.
Weight lifting can be a great addition to running if you want to tone your legs.
See also: 12 Best Tips On How To Love Running
Clean Diet For Toning Your Legs With Running
Running will make you hungry. But to tone your legs with running, keep your diet clean with many vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Also, keep a close eye on your calorie intake and avoid eating things like pepperoni pizza after a great run.
Running is excellent for cardiovascular conditioning, which can help to tone your legs. However, excessive running without proper nutrition can be detrimental to your health.
Why do you need a clean diet? Because you need to eat enough calories to repair and build muscles along with “refueling” your muscles with energy. However, if you eat high-calorie junk food such as burgers, fries, and high-sugar drinks, you will gain weight in fats, including excess energy and stubborn energy. Therefore, you should cut your high-calorie food to a minimum, and you will see a difference.
See also: 32 Foods That Burn Belly Fat Fast – Based on Science.
Good nutrition is just as crucial for toning your legs as running itself. Without sufficient nutrients, particularly protein, your body can’t help the muscle-building process.
Experts suggest consuming about 0.64–0.91 grams of protein per pound or 1.4–2 grams per kg of body weight daily if you want to gain muscle, according to another study. For example, 96–137 grams of protein for a 150-pound (68.2-kg) person.
One of the reasons people drink protein is because protein enhances and promotes more significant muscle gains, according to a 2015 study.
Foods that contain good protein include dairy, meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, soy, and legumes.
See also: How Long Does it Take To Get Good at Running: 5 Things To Keep In Mind.
Different Ways To Build Bigger And Stronger Legs
You can build bigger and stronger legs if you follow the proper training and nutrition plan. Here’s what you need to do to build stronger legs while running.
1- Healthy Fats and Carbs
Carbs are your body’s favored energy source, particularly for anaerobic workouts such as sprinting. And fat serves as an energy source during lower-intensity exercises like long-distance running, according to a study by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program.
If you want to fuel your workouts and ensure sufficient vitamin and mineral consumption, aim to get 45–65% of your calories from carbs and 20–35% from fat, according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Good sources of healthy carbs include whole grains, fruit, dairy products, starchy vegetables, and beans, while foods with good fat sources include extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish, whole eggs, avocado, seeds, nuts, and nut butter.
See also: 18 Veggies That Destroy Stomach Fat – Backed By Science
Water helps adjust body temperature and other vital functions. Our water needs depend on various factors, including age, body size, diet, and activity level.
The general recommendation from the National Academy of Medicine generally is men, and women get 125 ounces or 3.7 liters and 91 ounces or 2.7 liters per day, respectively.
These recommendations are for adults ages 19 and older and combine water from both foods and beverages.
3- Combine Strength And Running
One of the best ways to get more muscular and beautiful legs is to combine strength and cardio training, such as running.
Combining strength and running will help you run longer, strengthen your thighs, and prevent injuries.
See also: 40 Fat Burning Exercises That Are Proven To Work – Backed by Science.
Doing squats will help you build the foundation for all lower-body exercises, including running.
This workout essentially uses your quads, thighs, and hips to perform the movement. The benefits of doing squats include strengthening your core, reducing your risk of injury, and burning many calories.
Squats can help you build and keep a stronger lower body, making movement easier and allowing you to stay active, according to Andy Sobuta, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Center.
5- Step Ups
A step-up is a simple body resistance workout that works muscles in your legs and buttocks, according to experts.
Practicing step up is a great general lower body conditioning exercise.
Lunges improve your muscle mass and help you build up strength and tone your body, particularly your core, butt, and legs.
They are also great if you are trying to improve your posture and range of motion and strengthen your knees.
7- Grab a Resistance Band
Resistance bands strengthen your glutes and tensor fasciae latae, a muscle located in the lateral aspect of the thigh.
Benefits of residence bands include increased functional capacity, improved strength, and endurance with enhanced muscle activation, and enhanced body composition, potency, and quality of life, according to a study.
Resistance bands are practical to use, low cost, and can use them everywhere.
Different Types of Running
Running up/down hills or inclining the treadmill is beneficial at helping create muscle in your legs to keep them leaned out. Replacing fat with some muscle keeps your metabolism high and the fat off.
Interval training is much more beneficial as it is short bursts of high intensity, which not only improves your cardio capacity but also builds more muscle in your legs in comparison to long-distance running.
Sprints will build a little muscle and slim you down. So your legs would grow a little or stay about the same size but will have that “toned” look.
Longer, slower runs will mainly cause slimming with very little growth. How you eat will be a more significant factor in whether your thighs will grow or not.
See also: Here’s How To Motivate Yourself to Run Regularly
Fast-twitch vs. Slow-twitch
Whether you are running, jogging, or sprinting, you use one of two muscle fiber types: slow-twitch or fast-twitch. On the one hand, long-distance running exercises slow-twitch fibers, which are not as strong as fast-twitch; however, they have a good oxygen supply and can work for long periods without tiring.
On the other hand, fast-twitch muscle is stronger; however, it tires quickly, so it works when you sprint.
For example, the leg muscles of sprinters are due to more fast-twitch muscles, while the lean legs of distance runners are essentially slow-twitch muscles.
Regardless of what type of running you do, you will burn fat and tone your legs in different ways. For example, if you do a lot of long-distance running slowly and steadily for an extended period), you will develop toned legs and slimmer thighs.
If you do a decent amount of sprinting, short bursts of speed, and hill run, along with running long distances, you will develop more toned and bulkier legs. Because when you do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), such as sprinting and hill runs, your body adapts to these demands by promoting muscle growth. Over time, your legs will be more toned, bigger in size, and have more dense muscle fibers.
Check out the video below for a further explanation of fast-twitch vs. slow-twitch.
See also: 17 Benefits of Running In The Morning – Science-Based
Running is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, lose extra pounds, and tone your legs. Overall, it is better to keep your training optimal and combine it with strength training. Above all, clean up your diet and keep your calorie intake low.
Regardless of what size or shape you are, try and celebrate your body every day. Instead of looking in the mirror all the time, close your eyes and feel your body from the inside. Celebrate your strong legs, powerful heart, and peaceful mind.
Physical beauty fades at the end of the day, but the essence and beauty you build in your mind and heart will shine brighter as each moment passes.