Cardio does a body good, but when it comes to building muscle you can get too much of a good thing. Don’t skip the cardio, just know when and how much to get in to maintain your gains.


Why cardio?

Don’t let the fear of lost gains keep you from the benefits cardio offers for overall health. These include stronger cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Better lactic acid clearing so you can lift longer, and even reduced risk of diabetes. Working in some cardio can help you avoid overuse injuries too.


How much is too much?

When it comes to cardio, a little goes a long way. Add in one to three, 20 to 30-minute sessions on your rest days. This is ideal for getting in a little variety without losing gains. If you need to work in double sessions, avoid doing cardio before you lift. After is best.


What kind of cardio should I do?

Too much high-intensity cardio will definitely erase your gains. Aim for a steady state – maybe a few laps in the pool, the elliptical or even a vinyasa yoga class. No need to run a marathon here, just get your heart rate up a bit and show other muscle groups a little love while you’re at it.


What else is important?

Diet, diet, diet…what you eat will have a significant impact on your fat to muscle ratio. If you aren’t seeing gains and the culprit isn’t cardio, it is likely diet. Eat quality protein like lean fish, chicken, and beef. Plan your post-workout snacks carefully. You should have a good ratio of whole grain carbs and protein. Skip the junk most of the time. High fat, greasy, high-calorie foods will erase your gains faster than cardio will.


Rework your plan

Muscles learn quickly. Vary your routine to boost results. Add in extras like high-intensity days when you reduce rest periods between sets and use weights you can only lift for 8 to 10 reps before failure. Don’t forget sleep and rest. Muscles benefit from TLC.


The bottom line is cardio can actually improve your gains if you don’t overdo it. For best results don’t do more than three, 30-minute cardio workouts each week. Never do them before you lift. Again, watch your diet and lift like you mean it. Show up and do the work, don’t phone it in and don’t use a hard workout as an excuse to blow your diet. Finally, keep a log to keep yourself honest.