Study-level design characteristics that inform the optimal design of obesity randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been examined in few studies. A pre-randomization run-in period is one such design element that may influence weight loss. We examined 311 obesity RCTs published between 1 January 2007 and 1 July 2009 that examine d weight loss or weight gain prevention as a primary or secondary end-point. Variables included run-in period, pre-post intervention weight loss, study duration (time), intervention type, percent female and degree of obesity. Linear regression was used to estimate weight loss as a function of (i) run-in (yes/no) and (ii) run-in, time, percent female, body mass index and intervention type. Interaction terms were also examined. Approximately 19% (18.6%) of the studies included a run-in period, with pharmaceutical studies having the highest frequency. Although all intervention types were associated with weight loss (Mean = 2.80 kg, SD = 3.52), the inclusion of a pre-randomization run-in was associated with less weight loss (P = 0.0017) compared with studies that did not include a run-in period. However, this association was not consistent across intervention types. Our results imply that in trials primarily targeting weight loss in adults, run-in periods may not be beneficial for improving weight loss outcomes in interventions.