Cardio- The secret weapon? How and why to do cardio

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

| Published on

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You have probably stumbled upon people in the gym who do resistance training religiously but tend to forget about other aspects of their bodies.

If you’ve followed through our series of educational articles so far, you would know that the body just has different energy pathways.

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Which one gets triggered is a matter of the training parameters – Intensity, volume and density.

Cardio is a form of low-intensity exercise, which mainly triggers the Aerobic energy system.

The Aerobic energy system uses muscle and liver glycogen, as well as fatty acids, to fulfill the demands for energy.

Now, most trainees are afraid that cardio will make them lose gains, but that is completely wrong, if everything else is in check.

It is true that the Aerobic energy system uses protein to supply energy.


It only does so if glycogen or fatty acids are not present.

If you get an adequate protein intake of 0.8-1g of protein per LBS of bodyweight, you will literally have no reason to lose muscle, given that you do cardio rationally.

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On top of that… You can literally build muscle with cardio exercises, if you’re doing them in short bursts, like in the case of sprints.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic

sprint workout

By now you should know that when we train Anaerobically, we trigger the immediate energy systems of the body and also, the fast-twitch muscle fibers.

In doing so, we achieve adaptations on a neuro-muscular level and as a result, we have a more prominently pronounced muscle size and definition.

In the case of Aerobic work however, it is a bit different, as we train at a lower level of intensity.

On there, the goal of the organism is to become more efficient on a cardiovascular and respiratory level.

We also observe an activation of the slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for endurance, rather than explosive strength.

So, let’s look at some of the other benefits that cardio gives us, which will make you stop
believing it is bad for building muscle:

  • Improves aerobic endurance (obviously)

As you should know, the body can do much more than just contract and relax the

Looking good and being strong is just a part of the whole thing

The body can do so much more than that! Make use of it.

Being big, muscular and aesthetic shouldn’t mean being unable to run a 15 miles cross.


  • Improves heart and respiratory functions

Contrary to popular belief, cardio won’t make you lose muscle.

It will only lead to improved cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Due to those improvements, the body will become more efficient at deliverint nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to your working muscles.

Needless to say, cardio is your best friend for optimizing muscle gains, if of course, integrated properly.

  • Decreases stress

Even just a couple minutes of a consistent pace will allow your body to release stress-killing hormones.

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Soon enough, you will feel lighter and more relaxed.

More specifically, cardio activity is simply a cortisol buffer while also being a dopamine secretor.

Cortisol is the main stress hormone, while dopamine is one of the hormones of happiness.

It is worth mentioning here that if you’ve got a busy schedule and are under a lot of stress, finding 20 minutes per day for cardio activity is a good option.

  • Preventing diseases

In the USA alone, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death.

Cardiovascular issues are mainly an end product of poor nutritional and activity habits and last but not least, stress.

As a matter of fact, stress can make your whole body sick, not just the heart.

Think about it… If stress releases cortisol and cortisol stops the growth of the organism and the immune system, and also makes the heart beat incoherently… Well, then sooner or later the body will shut down for maintenance, if you know what I’m saying.

It is enough to know that by taking care of your body, improving
nutrition and cutting out the bad habits, you will lower the risk of strokes, high
blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.

How to Do Cardio Without Losing Muscle

cardio muscle loss

Alright, we know that doing cardio has many health and musclebuilding
benefits, but how do we go on about actually doing it?

Well, I’ll give you a scheme for implementing and structuring your cardio
workouts, in a way that won’t be painful or torturing.

For now, we will use the simplest cardio exercise- Running.

The most important mention here is- Picking your running surface.

Preferably, use a running track or a treadmill, or run outside in nature.

Avoid running near places with heavy traffic, as you want to be breathing in PURE
OXYGEN, rather than air full of toxic car emissions.

For men and women, we start at 2000 meters (1.2 miles) and 1400 meters
(0.9 miles), respectively.

The first checkpoint is being able to run that initial distance at once, without stopping.

Pick a comfortable pace and if it gets hard, lower the pace, if that gets harder
too, then walk.

Avoid stopping in one place or sitting- The slowest you should be going is
a walking pace!

Once you reach the point where you can run this distance at once, increase it gradually.

The upper limit for both genders should be 5000 meters (3 miles).

When you reach the point where 3 miles is easy and you can run them at once
without stopping, it is time for you to measure your time.

From then on, the goal is to DECREASE the time needed for completion,
rather than INCREASING the distance, as you have done up until that point.

In other words, up until now, you have been increasing the volume and once
you reach the upper limit, you will be increasing the running pace (intensity).

Once you reach the limit of your adaptation for that distance, you can keep
upping the distance.

Keep in mind though, your cardio workouts should not exceed 30-50 minutes, if your main goal is building muscle.

I recommend 2-3 weekly cardio sessions, each 20~40 minutes long.

Note- It is MANDATORY that you strike the ground with your toes when running.

Don’t beat your whole foot into the surface!

Now, a topic of discussion has always been WHEN to do cardio… Check out our article on this, where you will find out whether it’s better to do it on an empty stomach or fed!

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