Running vs. Sprinting: What's Best for Fat Loss?


Should you sprint or run to burn stubborn fat? What's the difference between the two, anyway? Sure, sprinting poses more challenges, but is it more effective for weight loss?

The answer is yes. Due to its high intensity, sprinting burns more calories than running. It also boosts your metabolism, so you'll keep torching calories long after you finish training. However, long-distance running has its perks.

Let's take a quick look at the sprinting vs. running debate to help you make a choice!

The Differences between Running and Sprinting
Have you ever seen a sprinter? They have lean, muscular bodies with ab and leg definition. Runners, by comparison, are skinnier and have less muscle. Their bottoms are flat and their legs thin. Even though both running and sprinting target the same muscle groups, they have a different mechanism of action.

First of all, sprinting recruits more muscle fibers, which promotes hypertrophy and overall strength. It also raises your heart rate more compared to running due to the short, intense bursts of exercise. This helps increase your VO2 max by up to 13 percent and triggers the so-called afterburn effect. As a result, your metabolism will go up and you'll burn more calories at rest.

This training method is intense and has a short duration. Thus, the risk of catabolism aka muscle loss is lower. Running has a longer duration, causing your body to breakdown muscle protein. This may lead to catabolism. On top of that, your body can easily adapt to a running routine, so it becomes less efficient at burning calories.

With sprinting you'll also get stronger, faster, and more agile. This form of exercise also increases explosive power and cardiovascular endurance.

In a six-week study, subjects who did two-minute sprint sessions three times a week burned the same amount of fat as those doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. With this training method, you'll torch more calories and fat in less time. Minute per minute, it's more effective for fat loss than jogging, running, or steady-state cardio.

Should You Give Up Running?
Considering these facts, it's fair to say that sprinting should be the go-to choice for those trying to drop weight. However, this doesn't mean you should give up running altogether.

This form of exercise supports heart function, improves conditioning, and boosts your endurance. How many calories you'll burn depends on training duration. You can use an online calculator to get a more accurate figure.

According to sports experts, most people can expect to burn about 100 calories in a mile of running. The longer you run, the higher your energy expenditure. As you see, it's a major difference between the calories burned when running versus sprinting.
Compared to sprinting, running is less intense. Therefore, it doesn't increase your VO2 max and metabolic rate to the same extent as sprinting intervals. But you'll enjoy better health.

Running has been shown to improve lung function, raise good cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and even breast cancer. Moreover, it relieves stress and depression symptoms. You might have heard about the so-called runner's high, which causes the brain to release serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-good chemicals that lift your mood.

Who says you must choose between sprinting and running? You can do sprints two or three times a week, and go out for a run every other day or whenever you’re in the mood for it. Regardless of what you choose, consistency is the key.


  • Both sprinting and running can help with fat loss and improve your health. 
  • Sprinting is superior to running in terms of fat oxidation, calories burned, and hypertrophy. Due to its high intensity, it boosts your metabolism and increases VO2 max. 
  • When done in excess, running can slow down your metabolism and cause muscle loss. Sprinting builds and preserves lean muscle. 
  • Use a mix of running and sprinting to get the best of both worlds.