As I mentioned in “Reasons to Run Other Than Weight Loss” running lowers your cortisol levels (aka your stress hormones). This happens due to the increase in the size of the left ventricle of the heart which stores and sends oxygenated blood throughout the body now with fewer heart beats. The increase in efficiency and fewer heart beats required lowers your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). A lowered RHR comes with the added benefit of lowered cortisol levels in the body. When cortisol levels decrease, testosterone levels increase.
So why all this scientific information … because the myth that running burns muscle is simply not true. It’s the exact opposite if you balance it correctly with diet and other exercise routines. In fact, running and other forms of cardio may even be able to help you ADD muscle mass!
Running puts your body in an anabolic state longer throughout your day which means that you “rest” more effectively. The anabolic state is where the magic happens. During the anabolic state is when the body focuses on cell growth and repair which increases your ability to rest and boosts your muscle mass. This increase in testosterone compounded with the increased anabolic state helps amplify muscle mass growth.
An increase in testosterone is not just a bonus for men, it’s great news for women as well. Running is one of the best ways to gain muscle mass in your legs. Not only is this sexy, but it also leads to additional fat loss and muscle gain. Ladies, losing fat does not eliminate cellulite, that’s another myth to bust for another day. The only way to lose cellulite is by toning your body. One of the best ways to tone your body is running. Running will tone your legs, glutes, core and arms. It’s a full body workout every time! It’s important to remember that the number on your scale may not move right away as you had hoped. You may be gaining weight by loosing low density fat and gaining high density muscle. This journey is all about how you feel in your clothes; how you feel in your own skin.
Here are some tips to find the balance between cardio, exercise, and nutrition to ensure you’re gaining that muscle mass instead of depleting it:
Do NOT stop strength training. All exercise routines are best when you incorporate all the pillars of fitness (cardio, strength, flexibility, nutrition and mental). If you focus strictly on running you run the risk of losing muscle mass and injuring yourself.
Aim for 2-3 runs per week at roughly 45 minutesmaximum for each. Supplement with other workout regiments for the remaining days in your week.
Be sure to eat a good meal with the appropriate amount of protein and carbsafter a run. You want to aim for somewhere between a 3:1 or 4:1 ration of carbs to protein. The carbs will help replenish your energy stores and protein will repair muscle damage and replenish your glycogen stores.
Do NOT, I repeat do not, crash diet!Crash diets deprive the body of nutrients needed, such as Essential Amino Acids (EAA), which are called essential for a good reason. If you’re cutting calories and low on EAA your body will pull from your muscles to make up for the missing nutrients.
Do a post workout yoga session. Not only to cool down but to limber up and get your mental state back in alignment with your goals.
Bottom line, running is great for building muscle mass when compounded with proper diet, rest and a variety of fitness programs. The lower levels of cortisol, the higher levels of testosterone and the increased anabolic state you get from running all promote muscle mass growth. Myth busted!
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