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Does Cardio Affect Muscle Growth? What You Should Be Aware Of

Does Cardio Affect Muscle Growth

In fitness, cardio and strength training are prominent pillars for improving health and physique. Cardio, characterized by running, swimming, or cycling, boosts heart rate and oxygen intake. Strength training, involving weights or resistance, focuses on muscle development through exercises like squats and bench presses. This blog explores the interplay between cardio and muscle growth, addressing whether cardio hinders strength gains or complements muscle development. We delve into the scientific and practical aspects, offering insights on balancing cardio and strength training. By the end, you’ll grasp how cardio impacts muscle growth and gain valuable insights for your fitness journey. Let’s begin and answer the question: “will cardio kill my gains?”

Cardio’s Potential Effects on Muscle Growth

Cardio exercise, commonly known as cardio, has long been debated in the fitness community regarding its potential effects on muscle growth. While some argue that cardio can hinder muscle gains, others believe it is beneficial in a well-rounded fitness routine. This section will delve into the science and practical aspects of cardio’s potential effects on muscle growth to provide a balanced perspective.

The Cardio-Muscle Growth Connection

Before we dive into the potential effects of cardio on muscle growth, it’s essential to understand the fundamental principles behind muscle hypertrophy. Muscle growth primarily occurs through resistance training, such as weightlifting, which places stress on the muscles, leading to microscopic damage. The body then repairs and reinforces these damaged muscle fibers, increasing muscle size and strength.

The Cardio Conundrum

The concerns surrounding cardio and its impact on muscle growth often stem from the idea that excessive cardiovascular exercise can lead to muscle loss. This notion is rooted in several factors:

Caloric Expenditure

Cardio burns calories, and when in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume), it can break down muscle tissue for energy. However, the extent to which this occurs depends on various factors, including diet and the type and duration of cardio.

Muscle Protein Breakdown

Prolonged full body workout cardio sessions can increase the release of cortisol, a stress hormone promoting muscle protein breakdown. Again, the degree of this effect varies from person to person.

Nutrient Depletion

Cardio can deplete energy stores and nutrients needed for muscle repair and growth, potentially hindering recovery.

Cardio’s Potential Benefits for Muscle Growth

While the concerns are valid to some extent, cardio also offers potential benefits that can complement muscle growth efforts:

Improved Cardiovascular Health 

Regular cardio can enhance heart health, increasing your overall stamina and allowing you to perform better during resistance training sessions. This, in turn, can lead to more effective muscle-building workouts. A more muscular cardiovascular system ensures that your muscles receive adequate oxygen and nutrients, improving endurance and reducing fatigue during intense strength training. Cardio and muscle development synergy can enhance your overall fitness and performance.

Reduced Muscle Soreness

Cardio can promote blood flow, aiding in delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to muscles. This can help alleviate post-workout muscle soreness, allowing for quicker recovery. Enhanced blood circulation also assists in removing metabolic waste products from muscles, further reducing soreness and improving overall comfort after intense resistance training sessions. By incorporating cardio strategically, for example, by finding out the best time to go gym you can minimize the discomfort associated with muscle soreness. 

Fat Loss and Muscle Purpose

Cardio is an effective tool for burning excess body fat, improving muscle definition, and showcasing your hard-earned gains. A leaner physique can make your muscles appear more pronounced. Incorporating cardio into your fitness routine can shed body fat, revealing the underlying muscle tone you’ve built through strength training. This combination of reduced fat and enhanced muscle definition can help you achieve a more sculpted and aesthetically pleasing physique, reinforcing the value of cardio in your muscle growth journey.

Balancing Cardio and Muscle Growth

The key to harnessing the benefits of cardio while minimizing potential drawbacks lies in finding the right balance. Here are some tips for achieving this equilibrium:

Individualized Approach: Recognize that what works for one person may not work for another. Tailor your cardio routine to your fitness goals, body type, and preferences.

Nutritional Support: Ensure you consume enough calories, protein, and nutrients to support muscle repair and growth. Proper nutrition is crucial for offsetting the potential muscle loss associated with cardio.

Periodization: Implement a periodized training program that alternates between phases of increased cardio and resistance training emphasis. This approach can help you achieve cardiovascular fitness and muscle growth without negatively impacting others.

Timing: Consider the timing of your cardio sessions. Performing cardio on separate days from resistance training or in a different session can reduce the interference with muscle-building workouts.

Finding the Right Balance

Balancing cardiovascular exercise (cardio) and muscle growth through resistance training is a common challenge for fitness enthusiasts. While both forms of cardio exercise offer unique benefits, finding the proper equilibrium is essential for maximizing your overall fitness. In this section, we will explore strategies for achieving this balance effectively.

The Importance of Balance

Balancing cardio and muscle growth is crucial because each type of exercise serves different purposes:


Cardiovascular exercises, such as running, cycling, or swimming, primarily target your heart and lungs. They improve cardiovascular health constancy and help burn calories, making them essential for weight management and overall fitness.

Muscle Growth

Resistance training, including weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance bands, focuses on building and strengthening muscle. It increases muscle size, definition, and functional strength.

The Challenges

One of the main challenges in achieving this balance is the potential interference effect. Excessive cardio can interfere with muscle growth due to factors like:

Caloric Deficit

Cardio often burns calories, potentially leading to a calorie deficit if not appropriately managed. This can result in the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy.

Cortisol Release

Long-duration cardio can trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone promoting muscle protein breakdown, counteracting the muscle-building process.

Energy Depletion

Cardio can deplete glycogen stores and essential nutrients required for muscle recovery, potentially hindering your progress.

Does Cardio Kill Muscle Gains?

No! The idea that cardio impedes muscle gains is only sometimes universally applicable. It largely depends on how you approach your training. Recognizing that individuals’ bodies react differently to cardio and strength training is crucial.

Strategies for Finding the Right Balance


Recognize that the right balance varies from person to person based on your goals, fitness level, and preferences. Consider what works best for you and your body.

Nutritional Support

Ensure you maintain an appropriate caloric intake to support muscle growth. Consume enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats to provide energy and aid recovery.


Implement a periodized training program alternating between cardio and resistance training phases. This approach allows you to prioritize one aspect while maintaining the other.


Consider the timing of your cardio sessions. Separating cardio and resistance workouts into different days or sessions can reduce interference and allow optimal performance. Keep in mind, when packing your gym bag essentials, prioritize items that support your workout goals and post-workout recovery.

Intensity and Duration

Adjust the intensity and duration of your cardio workouts to align with your goals. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be a time-efficient way to improve cardiovascular fitness without extended sessions.


Prioritize recovery strategies, such as adequate sleep, hydration, and stretching, to help your body repair and grow after workouts.

Sample Workout Plans

Here are two sample workout plans that demonstrate the balance between cardio and muscle growth:

Plan 1: Muscle Building Emphasis

  • Monday: Upper body strength training
  • Tuesday: Lower body strength training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper body strength training
  • Friday: Lower body strength training
  • Saturday: Rest or light cardio (e.g., walking or cycling)
  • Sunday: Rest

Plan 2: Balanced Approach

  • Monday: Upper body strength training
  • Tuesday: Moderate-intensity cardio (e.g., 30-minute jog)
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Lower body strength training
  • Friday: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) for cardio
  • Saturday: Rest or light cardio (e.g., swimming)
  • Sunday: Rest

These sample plans illustrate how you can effectively structure your week to balance cardio and muscle growth. Adjust the frequency, intensity, and type of cardio to align with your goals and preferences.

Blog Conclusion 

The impact of cardio on muscle growth varies depending on its integration into your overall fitness regimen. A balanced diet and a combination of weight training and cardiovascular exercise can aid in achieving both muscle growth and cardiovascular health. Don’t dismiss cardio, but embrace it as a beneficial tool to enhance your fitness. Dedication and consistency are crucial in achieving your fitness objectives and improving yourself. Keep up the excellent work!


Does Walking Kill Muscle Gains?

Though not as intense as weight training, walking engages muscles, especially at brisk paces or inclines, promoting micro tears that stimulate muscle toning and gradual growth rather than hindering muscle gains.

Is Cardio Good for Muscle Gain?

If one aims to increase muscle mass, more than just relying on exercises is required. Weight training is crucial in achieving this goal. The most effective approach to making noteworthy progress is maintaining a well-rounded routine that includes both types of exercises.

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