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Recently we were talking about one of my friends about his workout routine.
The guy at the moment has some extra pounds that he wants to get rid of, and he wants to build lean muscle mass. He lifts weights three times a week to build muscles.
To burn fat he told me he has cardio workouts for 1 hour or more at least five times a week. He does activities such as rowing, running and uses the elliptical machine as well.
He thinks that that amount of cardio is too much because he usually feels himself under-motivated and tired. In addition, he sees only minimum muscle and strength growth. (What are the signs and symptoms of overtraining?.)
In his case, I have to say that amount of cardio is too much! And I recommended him having shorter workouts.
He is the victim of the big misconception that to lose weight and get lean muscles long and hard cardio workout is required.
The problem is that if you overwork your body it switches itself into a surviving mode. That is the catabolic state when your body starts to burn the muscle to get the energy it needs.
Obviously, that leads to muscle loss. Plus, since you have less muscle mass, your metabolism will slow down, and that leads to weight gain.
In his case, the solution is focusing more on his diet that he had not paid attention to yet. He did not have enough protein daily, and he took in too many calories from bad carbs. A proper diet is vital for losing weight and building muscles.
When done properly, cardio can improve your health, help you lose fat faster, and even help you build muscle. But when done improperly, it can do the opposite: impair health, fail to help you lose weight, and negatively impact body composition.
To sum up, cardio is crucial but doing too much will not help if you want to build muscle mass.
Longer cardio training is for those who only want to lose weight or because they are in a sport that requires it such as long-distance runners.
You need to test what works you the best. For example, for me 40 minutes aerobic training is optimal to keep my muscles but enjoy the benefits of cardio.
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