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Does Cardio Make You Lose Muscle

does cardio make you lose muscle

The age-old debate surrounding cardio and its potential impact on muscle mass has long been a point of contention among fitness enthusiasts and professionals alike. While some argue that cardiovascular exercises are essential for overall health, others fear that too much cardio could lead to muscle loss. In this blog post, we will delve into the complex relationship between cardio and muscle mass, addressing the myths does cardio make you lose muscle and misconceptions and highlighting how you can strike the right balance between these two essential elements of fitness.

Does Cardio Make You Lose Muscle? The Truth Unveiled

Myth 1: Cardio is the Enemy of Muscle Growth

The first myth we need to debunk is that cardio is inherently detrimental to muscle growth. Cardiovascular exercises, such as running, swimming, and cycling, primarily target the improvement of your cardiovascular system’s efficiency and endurance. While these exercises might not be the most effective at building muscle mass, they do not directly cause muscle loss. In fact, incorporating a balanced amount of cardio into your routine can actually improve your overall fitness and support muscle growth by increasing blood flow, improving nutrient delivery, and promoting recovery.

Myth 2: Cardio Makes You Burn Muscle for Fuel

It is a common misconception that during cardio exercises, the body lose muscle tissue for fuel. While it is true that your body utilizes multiple fuel sources during exercise, including carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, the idea that your body prefers muscle tissue as a primary fuel source is misleading. In reality, the body will primarily rely on carbohydrates and fats for energy during cardio, only turning to protein (and thus, muscle tissue) as a last resort when glycogen stores are depleted.

Key Factors Affecting Muscle Loss During Cardio

Several factors can influence the potential for muscle loss during cardiovascular exercises. Being aware of these factors can help you tailor your cardio routine to minimize muscle loss while reaping the numerous health benefits of cardiovascular training.


High-intensity cardio exercises, such as sprinting or HIIT, are more likely to preserve muscle mass as they recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers and stimulate muscle protein synthesis. On the other hand, low to moderate intensity cardio exercises, such as jogging or steady-state cycling, may lead to muscle loss if done excessively or without proper nutrition.


The duration of your cardio workouts also plays a crucial role in determining if you lose muscle. Longer cardio sessions increase the risk of muscle catabolism, especially when combined with a caloric deficit. To minimize muscle loss, keep your cardio sessions short and intense, ideally between 20-45 minutes.


Engaging in cardio exercises too frequently may impede muscle recovery and growth, leading to muscle loss over time. Aim for a balanced approach by incorporating 2-3 cardio sessions per week, allowing adequate time for recovery and muscle growth.


Proper nutrition is essential in preventing muscle loss during cardio. Consuming enough calories and macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) is crucial for supporting muscle growth and recovery. Ensure you are consuming an adequate amount of protein (1.2-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight) to maintain and build muscle mass.

Resistance Training:

Including resistance training in your fitness routine is essential for maintaining and building muscle mass. Incorporating strength training exercises, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, can help counteract potential of losing muscle from cardio, as well as improve overall body composition and physical performance.

Striking the Right Balance Between Cardio and Muscle Growth

To optimize both cardiovascular health and muscle growth, it is essential to strike the right balance between cardio and resistance training. Here are some tips to help you achieve this balance:

Prioritize Resistance Training:

Prioritize strength training in your fitness routine to promote muscle growth, and include cardio exercises as a supplementary component to improve overall fitness and cardiovascular health.

Combine Cardio and Resistance Training:

Incorporate circuit training or supersets, which involve alternating between cardio and resistance exercises with minimal rest, to maximize your workout efficiency and minimize the possibility of you getting to lose muscle.

Tailor Your Cardio:

Choose the type, intensity, duration, and frequency of cardio that best suits your goals and preferences. Experiment with different forms of cardio, such as HIIT, LISS (low-intensity steady-state), or moderate-intensity cardio, to find what works best for you.

Fuel Your Workouts:

Ensure that your diet provides adequate energy and nutrients to support both your cardio and resistance training efforts. Consume a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on protein intake to support muscle growth and recovery.

Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to how your body responds to your cardio and resistance training regimen. Adjust your workouts, intensity, and frequency as needed to promote muscle growth and prevent overtraining or injury.

The notion that cardio inherently make you lose muscle is a common misconception fueled by myths and misconceptions. Cardiovascular exercises, when performed in moderation and combined with proper nutrition and resistance training, can support muscle growth, improve overall fitness, and contribute to a well-rounded workout routine. By understanding the key factors that influence muscle loss during cardio and implementing strategies to strike the right balance between cardio and muscle growth, you can optimize your fitness journey and achieve a healthy, strong, and resilient physique.

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    Men’s Fit Club was started with the goal of empowering men to get the most out of their lives. This meant going beyond exercise and diet tips to really address the broad range of issues that men face on a daily basis – topics like recreation, finding love, sexual health and even sound fashion advice.