Many people believe or have heard that doing cardio while trying to build muscle mass is something that you should never do because it apparently destroys your hard earned muscle tissue. However the answer depends on many factors such as the type of cardio being done, your current fitness level and what your ultimate goal is (to purely build muscle, lose fat or do both for beginners). By learning how cardio can affect your body you’ll be able to decide whether doing cardio is bad or good for you.
Steady State Cardio
Steady state cardio is the most common form of aerobic exercise and shouldn’t be very intense. It doesn’t burn many calories and normally consists of exercises like walking, cycling, stair climbing or jogging. This form of cardio can actually help you build and keep more muscle mass because it speeds up muscle recovery among other benefits, here’s a more detailed explanation on how it can help with muscle growth:
Enhances Blood Flow
By doing this kind of cardio the blood flow to your muscles will be enhanced so that the substances needed to repair the damaged muscle tissues is transported quicker, waste products will also be removed at a faster rate which speeds up muscle recovery. Although, since most forms of low-moderate intensity exercise only involves your lower body these benefits will primarily be seen in the legs. Nonetheless, there are still a few forms of steady state cardio that works the whole body such as the rowing machine or elliptical. So just bear in mind that the type of cardio you do needs to be specific to the muscles you worked on.
Increases Muscle Growth
In a 2013 issue of the “Journal of Applied Physiology” researchers discovered that the participants who did a form a steady state cardio 6 hours before resistance training experienced an increase in muscle hypertrophy compared to those who only performed resistance exercise. If your schedule allows it there’s no harm in trying this, especially if you end up gaining more muscle mass !
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Doing steady state cardio naturally improves your insulin sensitivity so your muscles better absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat, leaving less available for fat storage.
High Intensity Cardio (HIIT)
High intensity interval training (HIIT cardio) has risen in popularity over the past few years and for good reason because it’s amazing for fast fat loss. However, this type of cardio is very intense so it increases your recovery time and burns many calories so it can negatively affect your muscle growth. If you’re a hardgainer or ectomorph then it would probably be best for you to stay away from HIIT cardio when bulking, but for others who have no problem eating enough/gaining weight you can still do 1-2 sessions of high intensity cardio each week for no more than 20 minutes if you like.
As for recovery it shouldn’t be affected if you keep the HIIT cardio sessions short, but if at any point you feel as if HIIT negatively impacts your strength or weight gain then switch to steady state cardio instead.
To sum up doing cardio while you’re trying to build muscle is actually beneficial and when implemented properly it will speed up your muscle recovery and even increase muscle growth. A good guideline to how much cardio you should do to enjoy it’s benefits, while avoiding it’s drawbacks is 2-3 cardio sessions a week, for no longer than 30 minutes.
If you have anymore questions about this topic then please feel free to leave a comment below.