Does Cardio Hurt Muscle Growth?

There’s a myth that doing cardio limits muscle growth. 

Is this true? Yes and no!

The truth is doing intense cardio for prolonged periods of time can limit muscle growth. This is because our body is getting mixed signals. Our muscles can’t adapt both to aerobic and resistance training. Simply put, the more you train for one, the harder it will be to achieve the same levels in the other.

Having said that it doesn’t mean that cardio and strength training can’t be combined. If programmed correctly, cardio can actually help you gain muscle.

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2013), it suggests that moderate amount of cardio can actually help you gain muscle. The key is there has to be the right blend of cardio and resistance training.  Two to three days a week of cardio will complement your resistance training.  The right cardio will help your cardiovascular system supply the muscles with oxygen and nutrients. Your stamina and your ability to work harder will get a boost.  This in turn will allow you to lift heavier and for a longer time, which means more reps, more sets, resulting in more muscle growth.   

So then what is the right type of cardio? Some studies have shown that 30-40 minutes of low impact cardio is much more beneficial than long periods of intense cardio like running. In this type of cardio the muscle damage is much more and recovery time is longer than low impact cardio like cycling.

In order to get the optimal benefit of combining cardio and resistance training, it is important to give enough of a gap between the two sessions.  A study published in The International Journal of Sports Medicine, states that the effects of resistance training or cardio can last up to six hours. Therefore one must give at least that much time between cardio and resistance training to get the best results.

Bottom Line

Cardio has many health benefits including aerobic ability. But it can also aid in resistance training. It not only improves your stamina but also body composition. The combination of the right type of cardio and resistance training and the timing of your workouts seem to be the key factors in optimizing your results

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