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Muscle Building and Cardio: How to Create a Balance

muscle building and cardio

Since the start of the pandemic, exercise is up 88% in the US, but people are still trying to find the right routines. We all want to be in shape, but not all of us want to put in the work for a well-rounded fitness program. 

Luckily, we’re here to help you develop the right program for your needs, and it’s easier than you think. Let’s talk about how to balance muscle building and cardio and why it’s so important!

Why Balancing Muscle Building and Cardio Is Important

Weight training is an enjoyable experience for most of us, but if that’s all that we’re doing, then we’re missing out on a lot of key benefits. Our hearts and lungs not only keep us alive, but they make weight training possible, especially when training with a large volume.

On the other hand, if we only train cardio and not strength, we’re missing out on a lot of important, functional movements that we use in our everyday lives. This could lead to chronic pain or other conditions later in life.

If we cycle the two, we’re still missing out on a lot of benefits. It only takes 2 to 4 weeks to lose significant volumes in our VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen our bodies can hold. It doesn’t take much longer to lose strength or muscle.

For these reasons and more, finding the right balance is key.

Balancing Options

Cardio and strength training are the pillars of fitness, and every person who is serious about their health and fitness goals should utilize both. Here are a few options to consider for balancing muscle building and cardio.

Safely Cycling

Now, we need to be as clear as possible. We would never suggest eliminating either strength training or cardio exercises from your routine for any portion of the year. They are both too beneficial to our overall health to give up.

However, a lot of people, especially in the bodybuilding niche, choose to go through cycles of “bulking” and “cutting.” If done carefully and mindfully, this can be very beneficial.

For your body to reach the anabolic (muscle-building) state, you will need to adhere to a fitness program for at least 4 to 6 weeks before seeing any results. We recommend your bulking session lasts a minimum of 12 weeks and a maximum of 6 months. Most people choose to do this in the winter to make it easier to hide any accumulated body fat.

To minimize body fat increases and improve your performance in the gym, you should still utilize cardio exercises during your bulking session. Generally speaking, we suggest high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which has shown that it can increase muscle gains rather than hinder them. Also, you don’t want your cardiovascular system to fail before your muscles do, as this will substantially hinder your strength and muscle gains.

During your cutting season, we recommend going heavy on cardiovascular training at least three times a week and never neglect your strength training. If you’re only doing cardio, you’ll lose the gains you made during your bulk, and you won’t burn fat nearly as quickly. Doing this under the direction of a personal trainer is always the best option!

Try a Recomposition

There’s nothing wrong with trying to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously. It’s entirely possible as long as you eat the right foods and keep your calorie intake as close to maintenance levels as possible. If you develop a routine that works, then you’ll see noticeable results.

The training for a recomposition includes the best of both worlds; strength training and cardio. Incorporate both of these into your fitness program as much as you can without overtraining, and make sure your diet aligns with your goals.

Don’t Worry About It

Finally, your last option is to not worry about specific goals with burning fat or building muscle. For your general health, you need 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, and you can add strength training as you please.

If you focus on a well-rounded training program that includes both, and you follow it up with a healthy diet, you’ll see results. If you’re constantly worrying about seeing results as quickly as possible, then you’re less likely to adhere to your fitness program, which is what matters.

Of course, we aren’t suggesting that you don’t worry about your fitness goals, but rather that you not worry so much about the timeframe. If you’re serious about living a healthy fitness lifestyle, then you’ll include strength training, cardio exercises, and a healthy diet into your routine. Just make sure that whatever you do, you stick to it!

Eat the Right Diet

Whether you want to run a marathon, build 20 pounds of muscle, get a six-pack, or just be healthy, diet is the key. No matter what your dietary restrictions are, make sure that the majority of your calories come from whole foods. The more plants, the better.

A well-rounded diet of legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help you achieve any of your fitness goals as long as you’re eating the right amounts. Consider using low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and eggs for a quality protein boost, but as research suggests, these aren’t entirely necessary.

Also, try to get as much color on your plate as possible and eat smaller meals throughout the day. Other than that, aim for 8 hours of quality sleep, and try to hit the gym at least three times a week.

Make Your Fitness Dreams Come True

Now that you know some tips on balancing muscle building and cardio in your fitness program, enjoy the best of both worlds and make your dreams a reality. Remember, fitness is a lifelong habit, not a one-time thing.

Stay up to date with our latest health and fitness tips, and feel free to contact us with any questions or for help getting the results you want!


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