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No two disagree about the benefits of cardio on general health. It strengthens the immune system and improves heart health. It also helps burn more calories, improves metabolism in the body, and stimulates it to use the fat stored in it.

Contrary to what most exercisers think, if done correctly, cardio can be beneficial for building muscle. But the question that arises is whether cardio burns muscle or not?

The answer is not in black or white, but rather there is a large gray part that we invite you to learn about in this article.

Does cardio burn muscle?

A 2012 statistical study showed that improperly combining cardio and iron exercise reduced muscle growth by approximately 31% and strength by 18%.

With data like this, it might seem logical to stop doing cardio to maximize muscle growth, but it's not so simple to come up with such a conclusion.

You can't say that cardio burns or builds muscle without going into details. But what can be said with confidence is that there are some behaviors that can make cardio burn muscle instead of fat.

Mistake #1: Performing cardio at the wrong time

The timing of your cardio performance is what separates you from getting good or bad results in building muscle.

Some trainees tend to start with the difficult task, and in our case start with cardio and then resistance exercises (iron exercises), this mentality may be useful, but when it comes to bodybuilding and fitness, it is completely wrong.

The main goal of weightlifting is to build muscle, and therefore you must invest your maximum energy in performing resistance exercises and what remains can be invested in cardio and not the other way around, otherwise you will lose your ability to perform iron exercises properly and thus get few muscle gains and limited strength and make cardio a weapon against you instead of Make it serve you.

In a 2016 study , exercisers who did 20 minutes of cardio before resistance training had a significantly lower training performance. The results of the study showed that the exercise performance of the cardio exercisers before the iron exercise was 9.1-18.6% lower than that of the people who did not exercise the cardio before the iron.

If you do cardio exercises right before your iron exercises, your strength will likely suffer as a result, and you will not make much progress in lifting weights over time, but worse than that, you will make cardio burn muscle effectively.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of São Paulo divided ten men into three groups to try to understand how cardio affects resistance exercise performance:

The first group did four sets of squats for as many repetitions as possible to 80% of their one-rep max (1RM).
The second group did 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio (HIIT) cycling, followed by a short period of squat.
The third group did 30 minutes of HIIT with running, followed by the same period of squats.

The researchers found that the first group lifted more weights on more repetitions, which is not surprising.

This study doesn't tell us much about muscle mass , however, since increased strength is the primary driver of muscle growth, the first group is likely to achieve more muscle gains than the rest of the groups.

Best cardio time.

If you are going to do moderate to high intensity cardio, it is best to do it on a different day than your iron day.

Never do cardio right before iron exercises, because you will not benefit from your training session for resistance exercises, your energy will be low and a lot of muscle gains will be lost.

In the event that you cannot do cardio after the iron exercises or make them on two different days, you can do the cardio at least 8 hours before the iron exercises.

Mistake #2: Wrong cardio performance

When most bodybuilders and fitness players hear about cardio, the first thing they think of is running.

Indeed, running is one of the best cardio exercises to ensure better health for the individual, but for a bodybuilder, it may not be the best option.

Running is a stressful type of cardio, as it causes great damage to the lower part of the body, which makes the body invest its resources in cardio recovery instead of recovery from iron exercises, especially leg exercises.

The best types of cardio for bodybuilders and fitness players

- Walking
- Bike riding
- Elliptical

Mistake 3: Doing Too Much Cardio

I know you're trying to challenge yourself in the gym and always strive to make progress in your level of training, but body chemistry doesn't care how motivated you are.

More cardio means more calories burned , but this does not necessarily mean more fat burning, as it is possible to reach an advanced level of body dryness without performing any cardio exercise, the whole thing depends mainly on diet.

On the other hand, a lot of cardio can be accompanied by a lot of hunger and therefore more eating and calories consumed.

This doesn't mean that cardio is bad and you should stop doing it, but the point is that more doesn't always mean better.

What is the ideal amount of cardio exercise?

There is no perfect amount that suits everyone, but with time and the accumulation of experience you have, you will be able to find the right amount for you personally to benefit from the benefits of cardio and achieve maximum muscle growth at the same time.

What you should keep in mind to reach the right amount for you is to monitor your recovery speed, so that if the cardio does not affect your performance in resistance exercises, you can consider increasing the amount of cardio .

If you find yourself tired and have no energy to perform resistance exercises after including cardio in your training plan, you should consider reducing the amount of cardio.

In general, start with less than 2-3 sessions per week, with one session being 20-30 minutes of low-intensity cardio.

a summary

Cardio can make you burn muscle and you can also make it build muscle and improve your athletic performance, it all depends on your flexibility and experience in making the right decision at the right time.

Most of the time, continue to do low to moderate intensity cardio, at least 6 hours before exercise or at least 2 hours after exercise, and for best results, do both cardio and iron on different days.

Focus on gentle forms of cardio, such as walking and bicycling, and avoid muscle strain so that it does not affect your resistance training sessions.

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