The Truth About Cardio and Muscle Loss

What do you know about cardio? Should you really avoid it if you want to gain muscles? Even some certified personal trainer’s advice their clients not to do cardio while trying to gain muscle mass. Can cardio really hinder you from gaining muscle mass?

When I started training I didn’t do any cardio because I was skinny and I didn’t want my muscle gains to slow down. Of course I gained muscles but also lots of fat which I had to get rid of. Therefore I included cardio in my diet but it took me a while to lose most fat. I repeated this a few times because it was common and the only way to build muscles but then I got tired of that procedure and started doing cardio constantly. And you know what happened? I gained weight very slowly but most of these gains were lean muscle gains and nearly no fat. Well, maybe I changed my diet which made new muscle gains possible but actually I didn’t change my diet at all although I included a cheat day every 5-7 days.

So why do you always get told stuff like “stop all cardio because it inhibits muscle growth”, “cardio leads to a decrease in strength” or “cardio isn’t necessary, just lift weights and eat clean” ?

I think it’s because of old beliefs which are still present in most people heads and lots of them probably don’t even want to know about new methods when it comes to fat loss. They would be quite disappointed to find out their methods are antiquated and not as effective as they thought. Or maybe because they just hate dong it.

Then I started doing some research and there were several studies which I found quite interesting because they backed up my experience. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology which was performed at the University of Kansas Department of Exercise Science, cardio can actually increase muscle growth.

The study divided 30 men into 3 different groups, endurance training, resistance training (weight training) and concurrent training (both). The subjects were men who worked out at least 3 times a week for a year. The resistance training group used free weights as well as machines and divided workouts into upper and lower body i.e. a 2 day split. They performed 3 sets of 10-15 reps in the first week and increased weight progressively over the 10 week study.

The endurance group did a running program which increased in duration and intensity to achieve a new training goal every 2 weeks. They started at 65% of their max heart rate for 25 minutes and by the end of the study the subjects were at 75-85% max heart rate for 40 minutes.

Interestingly the BMR (basal metabolic rate) of the resistance training group and concurrent group increased while BMR in the endurance training group decreased.

The concurrent group experienced fat loss as well as gains in lean mass and strength. That’s what we all wanted to hear, right? Gains in lean body mass while losing body fat is possible if you know how to do it.

Research shows that excessive cardio can lead to strength and muscle loss but moderate amounts of cardio can actually increase lean body mass while decreasing body fat. A lot of people would benefit from cardio in their muscle gain programs, maybe you too.

Here are some quick recommendations on how to include cardio in your muscle building cycle:

–       20 – 45 minutes per session

–       3 – 4 times a week

–       Higher intensity (75-80% of max. HR) for sessions up to 30 minutes

–       Moderate – high intensity (70-75% of max. HR) for sessions up to 45 minutes

–       Persons with little time do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

–       Depending on your metabolism you might have to do more or less cardio

I highly encourage you to give it a try because it worked great for me and so it can for you!

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