So you've recently completed a gaining period and you're headed for a beach bod in the next three months. The first thing that comes up in your mind is that you have to start doing your cardio to get ripped, right? Even today, majority of the population hitting the gym thinks that you need to do tons of cardio sessions to melt that layer of fat and get lean. What you don't understand is that too much of cardio can also lead to muscle loss. Yes, you read that right. If you put too much stress on aerobic training and prolonged cardio sessions are a regular for you, you may actually be killing all the gains that you made in past couple of weeks or months.
Cardio is Catabolic and Resistance Training is Anabolic
Your body is in an anabolic state when it builds more muscle fiber than it breaks down. So when you do resistance training and provide your body a good nutritious diet, it becomes anabolic and you gain muscles. However, the opposite happens if you do not weight train and do not have nutritious diet. Your body becomes catabolic and eats up the muscle glycogen stores in the body making you look thin. You have to lift weights in order to build muscles. Cardio sessions alone can't help you with any muscle gain.
What is Cardio?
Cardio is generally a term that is used for cardiovascular exercises in fitness Industry. This includes any and all the activities that elevate your heart rate and keep it elevated for a certain period of time which generally lasts for about 30 to 40 mins. Cardio could include any of the following activities, running, jogging, bicycle, elliptical trainer, zumba, aerobics, tabata, etc. Cardio exercises could be boring for majority of individuals as you have to do the same repeated movements daily again and again without much variation.
Does Cardio Lead to Muscle Loss?
Well, not in every case. What matters here is the diet that you are taking and the intensity with which you are doing your workout. If you fuel your body with enough carbs before and after your workout, you will probably not lose your muscles to those cardio sessions. This is because if your body has enough carbs and muscle glycogen available, it will not target muscle tissue for fuel source. However, if you are in a calorie deficit diet, and your cardio sessions make up for hours of prolonged sessions, there is quite high probability that you will suffer muscles loss. Because in this case, your muscle glycogens will be depleted and your body will turn catabolic as it needs fuel to support the energy required to perform the cardiovascular exercise.
How to Prevent Muscle LossYes, there is a way to prevent the muscle loss that may happen due to long cardio sessions. First, if the motive of your cardio session is to burn fat, then prefer a moderate intensity cardio over an HIIT. A moderate intensity cardio uses higher ratio of fat to glycogen than HIIT. When you do HIIT, your body uses more glycogen and carbs. Secondly, limit your cardio sessions for only a couple of days in a week. Too much of cardio is boring and undesirable. Even if you're doing it for fat loss, there are better ways to achieve a lean physique, which is mindful eating and weight training. Thirdly, if at all you do plan to do lots of cardio, make sure to feed your body with enough carbs so that your body does not turn catabolic.