You must have come across “gym culture” and its hateful relationship with cardio. Many fitness enthusiasts believe that cardio kills gains, which isn’t entirely true.
Building muscles has ample health benefits. Not only does it tone the body, but it also promotes an empowering strength. Building muscle and endurance through strength training is phenomenal. However, cardio shouldn’t be left behind as it is essential and equally crucial for your overall fitness regime.
So, if you are avoiding cardio due to its stereotypical attachment to “weight loss,” then you are entirely in the shadows. As a matter of fact, a well-structured cardio routine perfectly aligns with resistance and strength training. It gives a burst of energy to a routine when combined with a healthy sleeping and eating pattern.
But what is the dynamic between cardio and muscle growth?
How Does Cardio Benefit Muscle Growth?
- The Right Amount of Cardio Can Promote Muscle Growth
Cardio only burns muscle when you vigorously do high-impact training, do too much cardio, or do it before a strength training session. Interestingly, the ideal cardio for muscle gain is low-impact training that gradually progresses without causing any shocks to your body. Cycling, stationary exercise bikes, rowing machines, elliptical machines, and ski ergs are all good options. Battle ropes, swimming, and sprinting are some of the more strenuous but slow-paced options.
When preparing a workout plan, start with weightlifting and end with cardio training. This way, you can get the best of both worlds. Just remember to warm up and cool down to relax the blood flow and muscles.
Lastly, set up a routine. Overdoing cardio can lead to burnout, so cut back on it while remaining realistic. According to physiologists, you should do cardio 1-2 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Nutrition Paired with Cardio Training
One of the most critical components for building muscle is nutrition. No matter what type of training you want to do, nutrition is the game-changer. When it comes to muscle gaining with cardio, the first thing to focus on is fuelling your body with enough carbs and protein. This way, your body has enough nutrition to avoid breaking down muscle for fuel.
Many expert nutritionists recommend increasing your protein intake while lowering carbohydrates to see changes in your body. These meals will aid in your recovery and provide you with the energy you need for the next session. Therefore, be mindful of what you put in your body.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health
Looking at it from a holistic perspective, strength training focuses on endurance by consistently overloading the muscles. Another way to increase endurance is by working on the cardiovascular system. This is where cardiovascular exercise comes into place.
Active rest days can help you build muscle by reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Moreover, low-intensity cardio is a great way to get some exercise while allowing your muscles to rest and recover. Hence, muscle growth will not be reduced, but they will recover quickly.
- Cardio Compliments Strength Training
The main difference between cardio and strength training is that cardio workouts burn fat quickly. In contrast, weightlifting keeps on burning fat for a longer period. Many people believe that the way cardio burns fat acts as a hindrance to their muscle building. However, the best way to grow muscle is by finding common ground between the two forms of workouts.
It is important to ensure that you are getting the most out of your aerobic workout. Even low-impact cardio exercises are beneficial to heart health and muscle sustainability.
- Cardio Provides a Recovery Period
The human body is not a machine, and it needs time to unwind and relax. So, make sure you give your muscles ample time to heal in between intense workouts. Many people engage in “active recovery” as part of their daily routine. They do this through walking, jogging, and cycling, among other activities that keep them moving.
This form of steady-paced recovery relaxes the muscles and increases blood flow. Some people also adopt the strategy to section off their days. For example, a person may decide to do strength and resistance training four days a week and dedicate three days to cardio-interval or HIIT workouts. This likely adds strains to the muscles if not administered properly.
Interestingly, a study published by the National Library of Medicine explains how HIIT or high-intensity interval training helps preserve the muscle more than steady-state cardio. Even though it is a form of cardio, regulating blood at intervals helps the muscles contract and let the blood flow.
- Develops Newbie Gains
One of the most exciting experiences in fitness is “newbie gains.” This occurs when your body undertakes the effects of weightlifting. This new uplifting stimulus changes your body, and you end up developing initial muscles.
The results are quick and steady and require an extensive amount of cardio to shake them up. When you start seeing growth, add a moderate amount of cardio to your routine and amplify the results. You will burn more calories while doing HIIT and weightlifting as the body burns them even while resting.
- Immense Results
Various studies have shown how aerobic training, like cycling, walking, and running, diminishes fat and increases muscle mass. In a study reviewed by Exercise and Sport Science, the younger and older participants did 45 minutes of cardio four times a week with 80% of their full potential. At the end of the research, they had respectively gained 5% and 6% muscle mass. This shows that aerobic exercises can lead to muscle growth at up to 80% heart rate capacity.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity weekly. This routine helps in improving cardiovascular health, which further aids endurance.
Tips to Boost Muscle Growth with Cardio
- Sprinting is the Best Form of Cardio
Have you ever heard of sprinting? Unlike running, you use all of your energy and strength to complete the rep in sprinting. In this form of cardio, your lungs expand rapidly as oxygen enters them.
Furthermore, the bursts of speed are shorter but highly effective. According to the study done by the School of Medical Sciences at the University of South Wales, sprinting causes rapid fat loss along with muscle gain throughout the core of the body. However, the catch is that you must be alert and consistent.
- Build a Balance
When you dive into the fitness world, you will see the diversity in cardio and strength training. Not only this, but everyone reacts differently to various physical activities. Some quickly achieve results, while others jump around to find the routine that suits them.
Cardio training is the most common beginner workout. Have you ever noticed how lots of fitness-enthused households have a treadmill? Or how do people go out for runs and jogs to get their daily dosage of serotonin? These trends prove that cardio training is necessary to maintain a healthy weight and build endurance.
Many celebrity trainers have also commented that doing cardio, HIIT, or even simply jogging barely hinders muscle-building if paired with the proper nutrition.
The goal is not to let cardio excessively interfere with your resistance or strength training. Sadly, with packed routines, it becomes a nuisance to do every form of exercise regularly.
Generally, for building muscles, it is preferable to lift heavier weights in a repetitive set format. For example, you have to repeat the same motion under tension for 60 to 90 seconds. This type of training causes metabolic damage to the muscles and fuels them with amino acids that enable repair and growth. Adding HIIT or cardio training after weightlifting provides a sudden rush throughout the body that amplifies the burning.
However, keep in mind that doing anything in excess is dangerous. The more cardio you do, the more your body will burn up and eventually shed muscle as fuel. Therefore, doing cardio twice a week is enough to make gains and preserve muscle mass.
- Other Forms of Cardio
Movement should be a part of your lifestyle. For example, many people believe that cycling is better at preserving muscles than running. However, your options aren’t limited. Individual differences play a significant role in deciding what type of workout will work for you.
Overall, looking at it from a broader perspective, cardio does not directly help build muscle. Instead, it aids in strength training. This leads to a better routine that enables you to achieve your desired goals quickly.
Keep in mind that you should write down your goals, analyze them, and try them out for a week to see the effectiveness and tolerance of a workout routine. Then, stay consistent with the routine that satisfies your goals.
Remember that mindfully performed cardio routines with proper nutrition will nourish and change your bodily conditions drastically — and it will do it without burning muscle.
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