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Fact Check: Should You Do Cardio Every Day When Your Goal Is to Build Muscle?

Should you do cardio everyday? (Image via Pexels/Photo by Max Vakhtbovych)
Should you do cardio everyday? (Image via Pexels/Photo by Max Vakhtbovych)

It's a question every individual who begins their transformation journey asks. It has taken quite a bit of time for fitness coaches and enthusiasts to understand how much cardio should be done in a week and how that affects muscle mass and strength.

There’s no doubt that becoming stronger is usually one of the goals when you start lifting. However, does that mean you have to completely stop your cardio sessions? Let’s find out.


Should You Do Cardio Every Day?

To answer this question, there is something you need to ask yourself first. Do you enjoy doing cardio?

If the answer is 'yes', you can do a low-intensity session every day. That can include walking, ellipticals or even cycling.

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You can combine low-intensity and high-intensity sessions to gain the optimum benefits from your cardio sessions.

If your only goal is weight loss, you should combine cardio and weight lifting regularly to ensure the body burns more calories for the extra energy.


Will Doing Cardio Every Day Affect Strength and Muscle Mass?

In an ideal world, one can do cardio and resistance training at high intensity and achieve weight loss while adding muscle mass. Unfortunately, that’s not how the body works.

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It so happens that when you want to lose weight, you’re in a calorie deficit. When you’re giving yourself less food, your muscles also deplete and so does your strength. However, it pushes the body to burn the stored calories to provide you with additional energy, resulting in weight loss.

Now, to improve strength, you need to lift heavy. That's because when you put heavy resistance on your muscles, the fibres tear. When you give your body protein, it helps the muscles grow back thicker and stronger. However, to add muscle mass, you need to be in a calorie surplus.


Where Does That Leave You With Cardio?

You do not need to necessarily give up cardio if your goal is to build strength. What you can do is separate the two sessions.

If you do cardio before strength training, a significant portion of your energy is lost during cardio. However, the best option is to separate the two sessions and stick to low-intensity cardio to not affect muscle hypertrophy.

You should keep a gap of at least six hours between the two sessions. Moreover, don’t overdo your cardio sessions.

It’s better to stick to two to three sessions of 20 to 30 minutes rather than doing intense sessions every day. In fact, even if you do cardio right after lifting, it should still be a low-intensity session, as you want to save your recovery.


Bottom Line

If you’re wondering about doing cardio every day, the answer isn’t a straight no, but it’s more aligned with what you don’t need to.

The impact of one HIIT session lasts over 24 hours. If you want to lose weight, combine cardio and resistance training for better results. If the goal is to build strength, lower the cardio intensity sessions and time spent on cardio. Also, the timing you choose for cardio and strength training is important as well.

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Edited by Bhargav
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