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Why long stints of cardio can lead to muscle loss

One of the most common things that can happen the body during training or a new fitness plan is losing muscle instead of fat. What happens then is you get weaker and flabby instead of toned and tightened. This can often happen the average person on a slimming club diet and all the they do is walk for their exercise but also to people doing more advanced or endurance exercise.

 

We got asked a great question during the week from a client and why he lost about two or three kilos over the last couple of weeks by doing a lot of cycling however he didn’t seem to lose any around the mid-section but felt he was losing it around his legs.

 

Excessive amounts of cardio may lead to muscle loss for a few reasons. Firstly it may be due to focusing more on cardio and giving up on strength training in order to accommodate that time to cardio. To maintain lean muscle you have to keep strength training because what happens in the body with excessive cardio is that the body will turn to muscle stores as well as fat stores for fuel therefore eating into the muscle and causing it to breakdown.

 

The second reason involves protein intake. The recommended intake of protein is 1g per kg of body weight. However with greater amounts of training the protein content should be increased to about 1.3-1.6g per kg of body weight in order to preserve lean muscle.

 

So the two things that were happening with this particular client is that he was doing excessive amounts of cardio which was eating into his muscle for fuel but he also wasn’t taking in enough protein to prevent the body from using his muscle as fuel or for preserving the muscle that he already had.

 

So this client ultimately lost muscle in his legs which  will decrease his endurance and strength in his legs for cycling. Therefore he must keep up his strength training and increase his protein intake in order to improve at the cycling.

 

Another client I had did a lot of walking and lost five stone over the last five years on a slimming world plan but a lot of that is just down to just muscle loss as well because now she still has a lot of fat sitting around her mid-section. It also means that all she’s been doing as her exercise is walking therefore she’s not doing any strength training and therefore the body starts eating into its own muscle stores for fuel as well as fat stores but ultimately what happens is your lean muscle goes down therefore your metabolism goes down and you hit a plateaux. So when people come off these plans all that weight comes rushing back on. So it’s important to strength train in order to keep your lean muscle high so that you keep burning calories and keep your protein intake high so that your body goes into the fat stores for fuel and not your muscle stores. That’s what will help you in the long term to keep the weight off, keep fat burning and stay toned.

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