Cardio’s effect on Muscle Mass

What are the effects of cardiovascular exercise on muscle mass?

Cardiovascular exercise, also known as cardio, has long been associated with weight loss and improving overall health. However, there is a common misconception that cardio can also reduce muscle mass. In this article, we will explore the relationship between cardio and muscle mass, examining the evidence to determine whether or not cardio can truly reduce muscle mass.

Muscle mass and Cardio explained…

First, it is important to understand that muscle mass is primarily influenced by two factors: exercise and nutrition. Resistance training, such as weight lifting, is the most effective form of exercise for increasing muscle mass. Additionally, consuming a diet high in protein is crucial for providing the necessary building blocks for muscle growth.

Cardio, on the other hand, is primarily focused on improving cardiovascular health and burning calories. While cardio can be a great form of exercise for weight loss and improving overall health, it is not typically associated with building muscle mass. In fact, some forms of cardio, such as long-distance running, have been shown to actually reduce muscle mass in some individuals.

One reason why cardio may lead to muscle loss is due to the body’s adaptation to endurance exercise. Endurance exercise, such as running or cycling, places a greater demand on the body’s aerobic energy system. This can lead to a reduction in the body’s anaerobic energy system, which is primarily responsible for powering short bursts of high-intensity activity, such as weight lifting.

Additionally, cardio can increase the body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can break down muscle tissue. This can be especially true for individuals who engage in excessive amounts of cardio, without adequate rest and recovery time.

However, it is important to note that the relationship between cardio and muscle mass is not always clear-cut. For example, moderate amounts of cardio may actually help to improve muscle mass by increasing blood flow and providing the necessary nutrients for muscle growth. Additionally, some forms of cardio, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), have been shown to improve both cardiovascular health and muscle mass.

Ultimately, the relationship between cardio and muscle mass is complex and depends on a variety of factors, including the type and duration of cardio, the individual’s diet and rest habits, and their overall fitness goals. While cardio alone may not be the most effective way to build muscle mass, it can still be a valuable form of exercise for improving overall health and fitness.


In conclusion, cardio can lead to muscle loss in some individuals, especially if it is performed excessively and without adequate rest and recovery time. However, the relationship between cardio and muscle mass is not always clear-cut, and moderate amounts of cardio may actually help to improve muscle mass. Ultimately, the best approach to building muscle mass is to incorporate both resistance training and cardiovascular exercise, while also consuming a diet high in protein and getting adequate rest and recovery time.

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Diet Trends: should you be trying them?

Over the past few years, obesity has become a consistently increasing public health issue. In response to this, there is now an influx of diet trends that all give you ‘the fastest weight loss results’; and everyone on the internet is suddenly more qualified to advise you than a professional nutritionist.

Now, in no way am I saying I am an expert in nutrition, but I’d like to think my experience and knowledge in the line of work I am in makes me slightly more educated in this field than Sarah on that yummy mummy Facebook group. However, if you genuinely need detailed advice into your own personal nutrition, please seek advice from a professional (I cannot stress this enough).

Whilst fad diets have been around for several years (Atkins, Weight Watchers etc), there is now a much greater pressure to try them due to the constant celebrity endorsement we see everywhere. In my personal opinion, I believe social media can be an extremely dangerous place for someone vulnerable to this pressure. You sit on your phone, scrolling through Instagram and catching up on George’s recent holiday photos and up pops an advertisement of that amazing looking celebrity rambling on about how their fat loss coffee has given them great results within a week. Why wouldn’t you want to give it a go? Fat loss in a week, just from drinking coffee, great right? Wrong. News flash people, most of these celebrities are paid a pretty penny to be pushing these products on their followers. Now, I don’t deny that they fully deserve their brilliant figures, but that is through a lot of strength training in the gym and a calorie deficit for fat loss. Most of these before and after photos with the product are taken on exactly the same day, they just put make up on, wear more flattering clothes and find better lighting for their after picture.

In all honesty, all of these diets rely on creating a calories deficit, whether that’s through restricting carbohydrate intake, replacing meals with shakes, only eating between certain times of the day, creating ‘sins’ on certain foods; it doesn’t matter how they dress it up, they aim to make you eat less calories than you use and therefore weight loss will follow.

I’m sure you’ve probably thought which diet is best for me to lose weight at some point. We all have, you’re not alone. Well, in my opinion, the balanced diet that creates a sustainable calorie deficit for you is best. Now, remember a calorie deficit is purely burning more calories than you consume, therefore you can also create this through exercise if you are already happy with your diet, and that is perfectly okay too. Just remember, don’t beat yourself if you have a bad day and eat too many calories, life is too short for scorning yourself for that doughnut; enjoy the doughnut, just take the dog for a slightly longer walk on that day.

Here’s a few quick tips on how to avoid fad diets and poor diet advice:

Promises of quick fixes.
Recommendations of detoxes where you are to avoid certain foods.
Pushing supplements and a number of other ‘fat loss’ products onto you.
Single study or no academic research available (relying on celebrity personal success stories).
Claims of magical benefits of certain foods (e.g coffee or grapefruit).
Promises of weight loss through tablets, without changing any other aspect of your lifestyle.
Recommendations to consume non-food items (cotton wool diet).
Promotion of eating one type of food (e.g cabbage soup diet, raw food diet).

If you are interested in discussing nutrition and a healthy considered approach to losing weight then please get in touch with one of our team.