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Runners often have muscular legs, but that doesn't mean running alone is sufficient for developing a lean and muscular lower body. Running does strengthen specific muscle groups within your legs, but developing all of your lower-body muscles requires other forms of exercise. Weight-training movements, for example, challenge your leg muscles and can build mass when combined with a suitable diet.
Assuming you burn more calories in a day than you eat, running regularly will decrease your fat levels, including the fat stores on your thighs and lower legs. As the fat disappears, the muscles in your legs will become more prominent, giving you a leaner, fitter physique.
Losing Leg Fat
It's not possible to target the fat stores on your legs. The only way to decrease fat on a specific body part is to lower your body's overall fat stores through some combination of exercise and diet that leaves you at a daily caloric deficit. For example, a 125-pound person burns 270 calories in 30 minutes of running at 5.2 mph, according to Harvard Medical School. If that amount of running brings you to a caloric deficit, you will lose fat over time.
Whether running will increase your leg muscles depends on your current fitness level. If you never exercise, chances are your leg muscles will develop somewhat as your body grows to handle the new physical challenge. But your rate of muscle growth will eventually decrease as your body becomes accustomed to running. At some point, running alone will not develop your leg muscles as much or as effectively as dedicated strength training.
Building Leg Muscles
Building leg muscles requires regular strength training and a caloric surplus. Intense lower-body exercises, such as weighted squats, challenge your body, forcing it to increase the amount and size of muscles in your legs. Eating a caloric surplus ensures your body has the necessary building blocks for repairing and rebuilding the muscles you train. Eating sufficient protein is also vital for muscle growth. Typically, 0.6 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight is sufficient for building muscle mass, according to Brown University Health Education.