Contrary to popular belief, extended cardio isn’t a direct trigger for significant protein breakdown;
it takes hours of running to provoke a substantial cortisol response.
This myth, rooted in a flood of assumptions and ‘bro-lore,’ overlooks a key fact:
while runners engage in extensive cardio, they often have robust lower body strength, debunking the notion that cardio negates muscle building
Ryan Hall US olympic marathon runner
Speed and muscle: Achieving a 6-minute mile is a feat, yet Mr. Hall averages an astonishing 4:45 mile in marathons, highlighting his impressive leg strength.
His lack of pronounced upper body muscles isn’t due to cardio but a strategic choice for his sport as an Olympic marathon runner.
Maintaining muscle mass while engaging in extensive cardio requires proper nutrition and strength training.
While cardio increases energy demands, making weight gain challenging, it’s certainly not unattainable with the right approach.
Want an example of a built marathon runner?
David Goggins, former Navy SEAL, Marathon runner
Does Cardio Build Muscle?
There’s a study that was done where they gave athletes different kinds of drink before a work out. They found that a combination of amino acids and carbohydrates during a workout actually caused better fat loss, but also improved muscle gain:
[Charts and study commentary: Cortisol And Muscle-Building: Does It Even Matter?]
When you exercise (even if you’re weight lifting), your body will produce cortisol afterwards. These short term cortisol doses will not do anything to your musculature. If you don’t feed them, however…
After a long race, like a marathon, it can take nearly a week to get your body back to normal. That’s okay, if you plan for it.
The point of this answer?
Cardio will not keep you from getting muscles. Not eating properly will. Unless you’re basically training for distance running, cardio isn’t going to interfere with your ability to add muscle.
Eat taking your cardio into account and you’ll be fine.
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