Does Cardio Burn Muscle?

In the fitness world, you may hear that cardio can burn away muscle and some people even recommend leaving it behind completely if you are trying to gain strength and size. The truth is yes, cardio can burn muscle but only if you are not doing enough weight training or supplementing your workouts with a nutritious diet. Cardio doesn’t automatically burn your muscle. But, it can burn muscle if you do it too much, do it before your weight training session, or do ‘high impact’ cardio. 

Building Muscle 

Before we get into how cardio burns muscle, we need to go over how muscle is built in the first place. 

Start With The Right Weight 

If you are just starting out, or a more experienced weightlifter, it is always important to know how much weight to start with. If you are intimidated about the whole idea, start with only using your bodyweight. This is a great way to not only get a great strength training workout, but also to get comfortable with the movement patterns in strength training. Once you have conquered these moments and understand how to move your hips, butt and knees, it may be time to try dumbbells and more. 

Invest in Equipment 

With many gyms still closed during the Coronavirus Pandemic, a great idea to improve your strength training is to invest in some quality equipment. Dumbbells are a great place to start and may be considered to be the most user friendly. As you continue to get comfortable using weights, we suggest adding kettlebells and even barbells. Kettlebells are a great way to improve core strength and  stability. Non-weight equipment is another great way to add more variety into your workout and these can include mini-bands, resistance bands, sliders and much more. These kinds of things are a great way to stimulate the muscles and to focus on stretching. 

Burning Muscle 

These are the ways you may be including cardio into your workouts that can be hindering your muscle growth processes and encouraging muscle catabolism. 

High-Impact Cardio 

High-impact cardio is cardio that requires both your feet to be off the ground at the same time. We’re talking about running, jumping, high-knees and all that jazz. While there’s nothing wrong with high-impact cardio, what it can do is impede your recovery which can cause your muscle growth to slow. 


Part of the muscle growth progress is the rest and recovery time. In fact, it can be just as important as what you do in the gym. So cardio that is intense and hard on the body and joints like running, can make it harder for you to recover from your workout and be ready for your next training session. High-impact cardio has much more of an effect on your body than other forms of cardio so if you have other goals than just improving cardiovascular endurance, it may not be the best choice.

What To Do Instead

A great idea is to switch to low-impact cardio that will still give you the cardiovascular benefits without as much negative impact on your body. Some options include cycling, either outdoor cycling or on the stationary exercise bike, the elliptical machine, the rowing machine and the ski erg, You can even try hitting the battle ropes for a low-impact, intense workout. Not to mention, swimming is the ideal cardio session for those who want to work their cardiovascular system without causing too much stress to your joints and muscles. 



Building muscle doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. Remember to start small and work toward your goals at your own pace. Once you stick to your routine, you will be pleased with the  results.