Does Running Burn Or Build Muscle?

does running burn or build muscle
There has been much debate over the benefits of running for fitness in the past decade. Regular cardio is essential for getting your heart rate up and boosting your overall health, particularly heart health. This is why running is a top choice for many people, whether outside or on a treadmill. Yet, running can have some drawbacks related to impact, time, and how energy is utilized in the body.

This leads to the common question: Does running burn or build muscle? The short answer is no, as long as you have the right plan in place. Let’s dive into some practical tips for deciding if running is proper for you and your fitness and muscle building goals.

The Health Benefits of Running

Running is a traditional form of exercise that we have been partaking in as humans since the beginning of time. If you like to run, the key is to keep it as low impact as possible with good form to minimize strain on the joints (especially if you want to run on a treadmill). There are many great benefits to regular running; these include:

  • Optimal lung and heart health
  • Improved endurance
  • Weight loss
  • Stress relief
  • A general sense of well-being

Does Running Affect Muscle Gain?

The answer to this common query is much more complicated than a direct yes or no. On the one hand, muscles in the legs, core, and arms can gain endurance, toning, and even muscle mass from regular running (translating to long, lean muscles).

However, if your running routine involves grueling distances and time, it could affect your muscle bulk. When your body needs energy, particularly with endurance activities like energy, a small amount of power will be derived from breaking down muscle. However, this can be minimized with the right attention to how you’re fueling your body, both before a workout and with recovery.

The Bigger Question: What are Your Fitness Goals?

Ultimately, your concern really shouldn’t be if you’re going to lose muscle with running. The bigger question to consider is what your actual fitness goals and preferences are. If you love running and it is an integral part of your weekly fitness routine, it’s unnecessary to worry about muscle loss, but instead find ways to optimize your muscle health and function. On the other hand, if your goal is to build muscle bulk then running (at least a lot) might not be the right choice for you.

Can You Run Without Losing Muscle?

While running is an excellent form of cardio exercise, it can become monotonous and lead to muscle loss with overtraining. While a small amount of muscle breakdown is inevitable with any type of workout, you can minimize this with the right tools. Keep these tools in mind to maximize your recovery and muscle bulk with running or any other activity you enjoy.

  • Add strength training to your weekly workout routine for two-three sessions- focusing on the primary muscle groups. You can do a full-body routine or alternate between legs, arms, and core. You can choose a high weight and low reps or low weight and high reps, depending on your lifting goals.
  • Try swapping out some of your longer runs for a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout each week. You can get all of the cardiovascular benefits while reducing the time and strain on the body.
  • Properly fuel the body before and after a workout to prevent unnecessary muscle breakdown for energy and recovery. Focus on eating balanced meals with complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats to boost your energy reserves.

The Bottom Line

Exercise inevitably leads to a small amount of muscle burn. However, this shouldn’t be a concern when you have clarity on your fitness goals. If you enjoy running, continue doing so without worrying about your muscle bulk. Simply keep the tips we reviewed above in mind and enjoy moving your body!

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