It is a common question among bodybuilders and weightlifters: “Does cardio make you lose muscle ?”. And the answer is – Yes, cardio will make you lose muscle. But not in the way you think it will. Before you decide not to do cardio, read further.
Does cardio burn muscle ?
Cardio is a catabolic process by nature and yes, it will make you lose muscle, but breaking and building muscle is a natural cycle that occurs in our body every day, known as “protein turnover“. You lose muscle while you do physical work, while you walk and even while you sleep. This doesn’t mean you have to stop doing all those things, just to build muscle.
The number one reason for muscle loss while doing cardio training is probably low consumption of calories. This is simple math, if you burn way more calories than you consume you will lose weight. The body breaks muscle protein to conserve energy.
Daily protein intake
The next thing is your daily protein intake. Without adequate protein intake, you cannot maintain or build muscle.When physically active your body needs about 0.8 – 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight .The protein intake needs to be even higher when doing intense workouts.
Very low carbohydrate intake
Very low carbohydrates are the third reason for muscle loss.To burn fat you have to lower carbohydrate intake, but lowering them drastically is a mistake. A good rule of a thumb is to keep the protein intake constant and lower the calories by 300-500 under maintenance by lowering the carbohydrates. That’s cutting about 80g-120g carbs a day.
Too much cardio will make you lose muscle
Doing cardio alone to lose fat is the fourth reason for muscle loss. Many people are doing nothing but cardio in hope that they’ll get a slim and toned physique. Short and intense weightlifting sessions keep the muscle from breaking and create a muscle building environment.
On the other hand, cardiovascular training has many health benefits and as long you don’t overdo it (just like anything else), it will produce positive results for your body. Among the other benefits, these are the most important you’ll get from cardio workout:
- Development of the cardio circulatory system. While doing cardio more oxygen is pushed through the blood vessels, making them wider in size and also resulting in a greater number of blood vessels.
- Faster waste products exchange
- Increased metabolism and faster calorie burning.
- Faster recovery after weightlifting workouts