A common misnomer in the fitness community is that "cardio kills your gains." By this, fitness enthusiasts mean that doing cardio inhibits your ability to build and maintain muscle.
As someone who balances running and lifting weights on a weekly basis, I'm here to contradict that claim with my anecdotal experience plus proven evidence. But first of all, let's get the simple answer out of the way.
Does cardio kill your gains?
It can, but only if performed incorrectly. When cardio is approached in the proper manner, it can be a great tool to improve your overall health and body composition.
Today we'll discuss the possible misconceptions surrounding cardio and provide intensive research studies that actually suggest just the opposite!
Where does the misconception that "cardio kills gains" come from?
Firstly, it's important to note that this claim is usually opinion-based. I also think it's important to understand who the claim is being made by.
The idea of cardio-killing gains is overstated by a long shot. Sure, cardio can kill your gains, but only if you are careless about your workout routine.
People think cardio kills gains because they see marathon runners, skinny as a twig. Marathoners' and cyclists' sports are cardiovascular challenges, and their bodies must reflect that; they adapt to be the best possible athlete.
However, a little bit of cardio after pumping iron in the gym is not going to detract from your muscle growth. In fact, it may actually stimulate even more gains!
I have completed two half-marathons along with a handful of shorter-distance races and never have I had trouble keeping my muscle on. Eat big and you'll stay big.
How can cardio help me build muscle?
Certain forms of cardio, like HIIT, are proven to boost testosterone levels, a necessary hormone for building muscle.
Testosterone helps the body through the muscle synthesis process so that exercise-induced injuries can be repaired even stronger in new muscle.
The key to using cardio in a muscle-building sense is to perform the right forms of cardio. For example, long-distance endurance running is less conducive to building muscle than something like battle ropes.
Essentially, your goal is to pair resistance exercise with cardio. Provide an opportunity to stimulate your muscles while simultaneously giving your heart a workout as well.
Tips for doing cardio without killing your gains
As we've established, the way in which you perform cardio is an important factor in building and maintaining your muscle and strength.
Here are our top tips here at 6 Pack Center for performing cardio effectively:
- Do cardio after you lift weights so you can devote your energy to lifting weights
- Eat a high-calorie diet with around 0.7g to 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight
- Pair cardio with a resistance exercise (HIIT, sprints, sled work, etc.)
- Separate your cardio from your lifting sessions if possible
- Don't overdo cardio (too much cardio burns too many calories if your goal is to maintain or gain muscle)