There is a lot of conflicting information out there about whether running actually burns muscle. Some people say that running causes the body to break down muscle tissue, while others claim that running is a great way to build muscle. So, what is the truth? Does running burn muscle?
Understanding Anabolic Processes
Your body strives to find the right balance between muscle build-up and muscle loss every day. Increasing or maintaining your muscle mass is essential by increasing your muscle protein intake. Both physical activity and diet are important for muscle growth. It is crucial not to overtrain and to eat a balanced diet.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. This can be achieved by 150 minutes of light jogging during the week. You’ll only need to run for 50 minutes.
These guidelines recommend eating healthy carbs, protein synthesis, and fats. Make sure you eat lots of fruits and vegetables to get the necessary muscle-building nutrients. Consider taking a leucine supplement if you run a lot to ensure you get the right amount of amino acids. These nutrients are crucial in anabolic processes that build muscle tissue.
Does Running Burn Muscle?
It is true that running can burn muscle. However, it is a complicated concept. Other factors are involved, including how much fuel your body needs to draw from other sources.
Scott Saifer MS, head coach at Wenzel Coaching, has a master’s degree in exercise physiology. He has been working with athletes and cyclists for over 25 years. The common assumption is that 10% of endurance sport’s energy comes from protein. But the truth is more complex.
The availability of other energy sources, such as muscle glycogen and blood sugar, will determine how much protein is available.
Saifer explained that you would use more muscle protein if you have lower energy reserves in other areas. He explains that this is not a problem with running.
It is also similar to strength training. Your muscles are subject to some damage when you exercise. Your muscles will grow stronger and larger if you get enough protein. Saifer suggests that running can lead to muscle loss in the legs. However, you have control over how it happens.
How To Reduce Muscle Loss
Running will not stop muscle protein breakdown completely, but you can balance growth and muscle loss. You can decrease the amount of muscle protein pulled by your body if you ensure you have enough fuel from other sources. Saifer says that one way to achieve this is to get a quick carbohydrate boost after exercising to replenish muscle glycogen and maintain mass.
Saifer says, “Muscle continues breaking down after exercise.” Consuming foods with high insulin levels, such as moderate- or high-glycemic, can reduce this effect. Take a carbohydrate that is easily absorbed during long runs (such as an energy drink for athletes) and have breakfast before you start your morning run.
Cross-training may seem like a big part of building muscle. But Saifer states that it can differ from one runner to the next. A 2014 study published in Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews found that aerobic exercise can produce skeletal muscle growth.
Researchers concluded that these data support the idea that aerobic exercise training can increase skeletal muscle mass and is an effective countermeasure to lose muscle mass as we age.
Run To Increase Muscle Mass
Cardio can be thought of as a way to build muscle. The critical variable is to keep the intensity high. Sprinting will build muscle mass, for instance. This effect was observed in younger women, according to an article published in Applied Physiology in 2014.
Sprint interval training was performed three times per week over six weeks. This protocol resulted in a 1.3 percent rise in lean body mass. The protocol also led to an 8 percent drop in body fat. Intense running can reduce body fat and boost muscle mass.
The treadmill is a great way to get a quick workout and reap the benefits. Begin by running for 10 minutes at 5 miles an hour. Next, run a 30-second sprint at 7.5 miles an hour. For 90 seconds, return to the jog. You can repeat this cycle as many times as you like and increase the number of cycles each week. The best results will be achieved by doing this 30-minute routine three times per week.
Cardio Burns Muscle
Running can actually cause your muscles to deteriorate. For example, Olympic distance runners have little muscle and fat. Long-distance running causes the muscle to be destroyed rather than built. This was confirmed by a 2017 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
This study measured middle-aged men’s skeletal muscle mass before and after a 31-mile race. The results showed that the race resulted in a loss of more than 2 pounds. The loss of muscle mass can have many adverse consequences. According to an article published in 2015 in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, losing muscle mass can lead to injury risk.
You might be able to stop burning muscle with smart dietary choices. In a 2017 study, the American College of Nutrition Journal found that master triathletes who consumed a beef protein drink for 10 weeks had less muscle loss.
Protect Yourself While Running
Running can be used to improve bone health. According to a 2018 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, running three times a week over seven weeks can increase bone mineral density. High-intensity exercise can cause bone damage, so it’s important to keep it low in intensity.
Running can also cause cartilage damage. This soft tissue isn’t covered by blood vessels and nerves, so it can’t be repaired. Running for a few minutes can cause a 9 percent deformation of your cartilage. To avoid permanent damage, you may want to limit your running time. This will reduce your chance of developing arthritis.
Running on water treadmills is possible without taking any risks. Gait and Posture published a 2017 paper that examined the impact of water depth on treadmill running. Running with water at the waist reduced the effect but did not alter the physiological challenges.