Muscle and Fitness Blog for Women

Cardio and Muscle Loss

Does Doing a Lot of Cardio Burn Muscle?

A lot of people seem to be scared to incorporate cardio into their daily routines when they are looking to get bigger and build more muscle mass. I’m sure many of you have heard that cardio is bad for you when attempting to build muscle.

Cardio is bad for you because it will burn away your hard-earned muscle and be counterproductive in terms of muscle growth. Cardio is bad for you because you are trying to put on muscle weight and not lose it.

All these statements are completely false. How people can say cardio is bad for you is beyond me. So does cardio really burn muscle?

The truth is yes! Cardio is proven to burn muscle fibers during long periods of exercise, but before you decide to totally eliminate cardio from your routines let me explain. Our bodies are constantly breaking down and re-building muscle tissue. This process is called protein turnover. Throughout the day your body will alternate between these cycles all the time. The two cycles are called anabolic and catabolic.

Cardio Workout Elliptical

An anabolic cycle is where your body is in a state to build or rebuild muscle tissue. You will enter this state once you start eating regularly throughout the day and do not go hungry. The catabolic cycle, on the other hand, is where your body is placed in a state where it needs to break down muscle tissue to use for energy. You will fall into a catabolic state when you go long periods without food or perform an exercise.

The trick to building muscle is to tip the scales in favor of the anabolic cycle. You want to keep your body in an anabolic state for as long as possible to provide the right environment for your body to build new muscle tissue.

Staying in an anabolic state is not possible to do 24 hours a day but by keeping it in an anabolic state for longer periods of time we increase the chances of muscle growth. Yes, cardio will cause your body to breakdown a small percentage of muscle tissue, as well as going 3-4 hours without food, as will going to sleep for 8+ hours. But let’s be realistic here.

Everyone needs to sleep. We are not going to stop sleeping to keep our bodies in an anabolic state just to improve our chances of muscle growth. Everyone at one stage or another encounters a hectic work schedule and will not be able to consume a meal every 2-3 hours. At some stage or another, whether we intentionally do it or not, we are all going to perform some sort of strenuous exercise. All these things can take our bodies out of an anabolic state and into a catabolic one but does not mean we should stop doing them.

So What Does This All Mean? Does Cardio Burn Muscle?

As I stated earlier on, cardio will burn muscle to a certain degree but this is perfectly normal. People need to realize that when we exercise for prolonged periods of time our bodies will enter a catabolic cycle.

Just like it will when we wake up in the morning after 7+ hours of sleep. It’s completely natural. Long periods of exercise will place the body in a catabolic state and will breakdown a small amount of muscle tissue to use as energy. This happens because your body is running low on its preferred energy source which is carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are stored as blood glucose or glycogen, which our bodies will use for energy during exercise. Once these stores get depleted muscle tissue can be burned up to use as energy. The amount of muscle tissue that gets permanently burnt through cardio will depend upon the individual. An individual has the ability to minimize any permanent muscle loss from their cardio workouts by following 3 simple steps.

Muscular Woman Flexing

Eat Over Your Body’s Maintenance Level Of Calories. Ensure you are taking in enough calories to promote muscle growth and take into account the calories burnt off from cardio. On the days you perform cardio feel free to eat an extra 200-400 calories for the day to ensure calories burnt through exercise do not have a negative impact on your calorie intake.

Get in at Least One Gram of Protein Per Pound of Bodyweight. Proteins are the building blocks for our muscles and help them to rebuild and grow. Keep your protein intake around 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle.

Keep Carbs in Your Diet. People looking to lose weight often try and drop carbohydrates out of their diet as much as possible. When trying to build muscle you should not be doing this. Keep a moderate amount of carbs in your diet. Carbs are our main energy source. Without them muscle breakdown is more likely to occur, you will feel more fatigued throughout the day and your focus and concentration levels will be affected.

Did you know that carbohydrates are the only form of energy that is used by the brain? Keep your carb intake up to help spare muscle tissue and give you more energy for your workouts.

Summary of Cardio and Muscle Burning

Cardio does not burn any noticeable muscle tissue if you have a solid diet in place. If you consume enough calories, take in a good amount of protein every day and keep carbohydrates in your diet you will not burn away any of your hard-earned muscle tissue.

Muscle breakdown occurs on a regular basis in our bodies whether we realize it or not. Yes, your body is likely to be placed in a catabolic state after exercise but once you have eaten your body will switch back to an anabolic state, perfect for building new muscle.

The only logical reason I can give you as to why people begin to burn off muscle tissue through exercise is that their diets are poor and do not contain enough calories and protein. Either that or they simply exercise too much. When I say exercise too much I am talking about a long-distance runner for example. These people will run every day for extremely long periods of time.

You can easily get away with 40-60 minutes of cardio every single day without having to worry about losing any muscle tissue whatsoever, as long as your diet is in check. If you browse around the internet there have actually been studies published that show how regular cardio can benefit you when it comes to building muscle.

After all, who wants to be big and strong and be unable to walk to the shop without being out of breath?

Cardio has a number of benefits to the human body and will help strengthen your circulatory system as well as your heart, lungs and leg muscles. I find morning cardio to be the best. Cardio will improve your mood and make you feel refreshed and focused for the day ahead. Even when your main focus is to build muscle, I would always recommend some sort of cardio to go along with it!

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