Does Too Much Cardio Burn Muscle?

by Lee Cork

Is It Really True That Too Much Cardio Will BURN Muscle?…does cardio burn muscle

It’s a little known fact that doing daily cardio is the number one best thing you can do for your health.  

But let’s assume you don’t care about your health, let’s talk about gaining muscle.

Now, I know a lot of you have heard that cardio burns muscle.  Well, in this blog post, I’m going to show you why that is not true.

Cardio will not burn muscle unless you take it to absolutely ridiculous, extremes.  

Like, running two marathons a day.  As a matter of fact, cardio can help you gain muscle.  

The reason cardio has gotten such a horrible reputation is that most people couple cardio with drastic diets where they’re trying to cut after bulking.

It’s not the cardio that’s burning their muscle, it’s the drastic, ridiculous diets people use.

When you do not consume enough calories or you have bad nutrition, your body will cannibalize your muscles in order to survive.

NOTE: If you don’t want to cannibalize your muscles then you need to make sure that you do not cut your calories more than 20% below your TDEE.  

That’s the amount of energy that your body needs in a day.

So, cardio does not burn muscle.

Let’s look at some ways that cardio might actually help you gain muscle; there’s three ways it can do this.

  • The first way is by helping relieve delayed onset muscle soreness.  

If you worked out really hard, you can be so sore that you can barely move the affected body part.

By doing daily cardio, you increase your circulation which has the effect of having more nutrients go by the affected muscle to help it recuperate faster.

  • The second way it can help you gain muscle mass is by keeping your cardiovascular system at peak performance.  

Not every workout has 5 minutes rest between sets.

There’s some workouts where you do need to have incredible cardiovascular capacity to perform the workout with sufficient intensity to gain muscle.

  • The third way that cardio can help you gain muscle is if you couple it with weightlifting exercises.  

These types of workouts go by many names: hybrid workouts, complexes.

But the basic idea is the same.  You’re taking compound exercise and doing them repeatedly for cardio.

So, for example, the farmers walk – walking with heavy dumbbells, doing the tractor tire flips or doing exercises like squats and deadlifts, repeatedly without rest.

Now often these workouts are done as intervals.  Also Known as Interval Training or HIIT.

So, you’ll do a certain number of minutes, take a break, and do another.  But that’s another way cardio can help you gain muscle.

Okay, side B, let’s look at the two circumstances where doing cardio can burn muscle mass.

  • The first is when you have very low body fat, dangerously low.  
  • The second is when you do ridiculous amounts of cardio.  

Let’s look at the really low body fat case first.

Your body needs a certain amount of body fat to survive.

NOTE: If you try to go below 5%, 3%, your body is going to want to cannibalize muscle so that it can keep what it thinks is essential body fat.  

This can be an issue for example really skinny teens who no matter how much they stuff their face, they cannot gain an ounce of fat or an ounce of muscle.

For them, doing cardio might cause problems; talk to your doctor.

It’s very few people who fall into that category.

Let’s talk about the second, people who do ridiculous extremes of cardio.

There was an amazing research project that was done on about 50 Trans-Europe runners; they ran nearly 3,000 miles in 60 days.

I think they were running 50 miles a day; complete, extreme athlete.

Now, some really surprising results from this.

They did lose muscle mass, yeah, but what’s interesting is they lost very little.

Guess where they lost it?  They’re running every day; do you think they lost it from their upper bodies?  No, they actually didn’t lose anything from their upper bodies, they only lost it from their legs.  

And, the reason they lost it from their legs is overtraining.  

They were overtraining their legs, it had nothing to do with all the cardio they were doing.  So, check that study out if you’re interested.

So, cardio does not burn muscle.

Bad nutrition and crash diets burn muscle, not cardio.  

Doing cardio is the best thing you can do for your overall health and it can actually help you gain muscle, too.

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