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Why only 1 - 3 hours of cardio a week?


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Hello,

I am new to this forum but not new to exercising. I have been browsing the threads and see a common suggestion to keep cardio around 1 1/2 hours to no more than 3 hours a week. Can anyone give me some background on this? I just don't understand why one would suggest only 90 minutes of cardio per week.

Along with my strength training (twice a week), I typically do 4-5 hours of cardio a week.

Thanks!

21 Replies (last)

I don't that cardio should have any limitation. 

The only bad point in doing a lot of cardio is that you also lose your lean muscle along with the fat. You would need to do additional weight training in order to minimize the muscle loss. 

 

Original Post by snowglobe32:

Hello,

I am new to this forum but not new to exercising. I have been browsing the threads and see a common suggestion to keep cardio around 1 1/2 hours to no more than 3 hours a week. Can anyone give me some background on this? I just don't understand why one would suggest only 90 minutes of cardio per week.

Apparently that's the minimum amount suggested for health. Different goals, different people.

 

If you are training for an endurance event or you really like doing cardio, you can do as much as you feel capable of doing.

However, as it has already been said, it mainly has to do with retaining muscle. A lot of people weight train and don't want to lose the muscle they build. Doing excess cardio leads to muscle loss. The general rule of thumb to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system is 90 minutes a week. So by doing 90-120 minutes a week, you are doing enough to keep your heart strong (which should be the main goal of doing cardio) and you aren't overdoing it at the point of losing muscle.

More often than not, you will find that the people who do hours and hours of cardio a week, are doing it not because they enjoy it, but because they feel they have to, to lose body-fat. You can actually get better body fat loss results by eating clean, lifting weights, and working in HIIT for cardio as opposed to spending hours and hours every week doing cardio. Like I said though, if you are training for an endurance related event, or really enjoy doing cardio, have at it.

You're not going to lose muscle doing cardio if you are eating enough and have fat to lose first.  If you have a goal of weight loss keep your deficit at or below 1000 calories a day, do resistance training at least 90 minutes a week, and do as much cardio as you want to do to create your deficit.  This way you will maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.

I don't understand these comments about losing muscle mass while doing lots of cardio...  So I'm asking this, as a serious question.

I do about 10 hours of running per week (90 km).  My weight stays the same; I've been 160 to 165 pounds since September 2009.  So if I'm losing muscle mass, what's it being replaced with?

I can accept that some of my muscle mass may have shifted, as in, I might be losing some from my upper body while gaining in my lower body.  My legs aren't appreciably bigger, however.  Haven't measured them lately, but my pants don't fit any different that I've noticed.

Your input is appreciated, and I apologize to the OP for interrupting their thread. :)


Clint

Why do people take a fact, then take it to the extreme?  The main reason why people lose muscle is either because their not consuming enough calories, inadequate protein and/or not including weight training. In that scenario we would lose more muscle if we did no exercise at all, so we could say cardio is muscle protective when taken to that extreme. We lose muscle at night when we sleep through the natural process of protein turnover that takes place from being in a catabolic state.......does that mean we should stop sleeping? We could easily do 1 hour of cardio a day if these other factors are taken into consideration. imo

My own personal hypothesis on the muscle loss with cardio is this: only people who have more than their natural* muscle will likely experience muscle loss when over doing the cardio. But, not the average person who is just trying to lose weight doesn't really have a lot of muscle anyway.

Myself being an example. Before I lifted I was 155lbs. I started lifting regularly and eating more and went up to 165lbs over a year or so. Then I stopped lifting for a year(after basic training till now) and mainly did cardio and calisthenics. I haven't lifted on set a schedule for almost a year now and I'm back down to 155lbs. Yep, I've been lazy and injured a lot. Probably from not lifting. :/

*By natural muscle, I meant the amount of lean mass one just happens to have. Some people are more muscular than others even w/o training for it.

To be clear, this is my own personal assumption. Absolutely no data to back this up with.

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

If you are running like a Kenyan wanting to get picked up as an Olympian by an oil rich emirate, then your body is probably going to ditch some muscle as its inefficient carrying the massive biceps and quads of your average Kenyan.

Chubby blokes trying to knock off the keg of beer they've been building for the last decade, probably not such a problem.

Cool

Original Post by bmx419:

My own personal hypothesis on the muscle loss with cardio is this: only people who have more than their natural* muscle will likely experience muscle loss when over doing the cardio. But, not the average person who is just trying to lose weight doesn't really have a lot of muscle anyway.

Myself being an example. Before I lifted I was 155lbs. I started lifting regularly and eating more and went up to 165lbs over a year or so. Then I stopped lifting for a year(after basic training till now) and mainly did cardio and calisthenics. I haven't lifted on set a schedule for almost a year now and I'm back down to 155lbs. Yep, I've been lazy and injured a lot. Probably from not lifting. :/

*By natural muscle, I meant the amount of lean mass one just happens to have. Some people are more muscular than others even w/o training for it.

To be clear, this is my own personal assumption. Absolutely no data to back this up with.

 So my question would be:

Fine, you lost 10 pounds.  But you would have lost 10 pounds regardless of the cardio, if you don't eat enough to sustain your weight.  So why do you say that cardio made you lose lean muscle mass, any more than any other kind of calorie deficit?  Like sitting on the couch eating celery?

Logically, to me anyway, it makes sense that if you're losing weight aggresively, you may lose a higher percentage of your lean muscle mass if you don't do weight training.  I.e. let your body know that it needs that muscle.  But it also makes sense (to me, again), that your body will use fat reserves primarily, since that's what the fat is for.  But is there a cut-off is for aggressive weight loss where your body tries to protect fat reserves?

The phord BMR calculator mentions a "safety deficit" of 1% of your body mass per week, or a "maximum fat calorie expenditure" of 31 calories per pound of body fat.  That would imply that they believe that as long as you don't have an excessive deficit (which can be calculated), you may be ok doing cardio till your cajones fall off.

I'd be curious to see an actual scientific study that answers the question about cardio having an impact on your lean muscle mass if you maintain a safe (or no) deficit.

Clint

Original Post by pbear999:

Original Post by bmx419:

My own personal hypothesis on the muscle loss with cardio is this: only people who have more than their natural* muscle will likely experience muscle loss when over doing the cardio. But, not the average person who is just trying to lose weight doesn't really have a lot of muscle anyway.

Myself being an example. Before I lifted I was 155lbs. I started lifting regularly and eating more and went up to 165lbs over a year or so. Then I stopped lifting for a year(after basic training till now) and mainly did cardio and calisthenics. I haven't lifted on set a schedule for almost a year now and I'm back down to 155lbs. Yep, I've been lazy and injured a lot. Probably from not lifting. :/

*By natural muscle, I meant the amount of lean mass one just happens to have. Some people are more muscular than others even w/o training for it.

To be clear, this is my own personal assumption. Absolutely no data to back this up with.

I'd be curious to see an actual scientific study that answers the question about cardio having an impact on your lean muscle mass if you maintain a safe (or no) deficit.

Clint

I'm sure you won't find one.  I'll give you a real life example, Lance Armstrong.  Lance was a competitive swimmer turned triathlete.  He then became a professional cyclist.  At 5'10 175lbs he earned the nick name "Big Tex" because his swimming had left him with much larger shoulders and chest than the typical pro cyclist.  He had some success early in his career in the one day races where his power was an advantage but he struggled in the mountainous stage races because his weight was a disadvantage.  In spite of the fact that he spent 4 to 6 hours a day on his bicycle for 8 years he never lost the muscular upper body that keep him from being a good climber.  Then cancer struck.  After a serious round of chemo and a year of treatment he came back to the sport 15 to 20 pounds lighter, his muscular shoulders were gone from the chemo.  Without the weight penalty of the upper body he became a super star.  If cardio is so bad for your muscles why didn't he lose any from 4 to 6 hours a week he was riding?

(From his book, It's Not About the Bike.)

Original Post by michaelduff:

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

If you are running like a Kenyan wanting to get picked up as an Olympian by an oil rich emirate, then your body is probably going to ditch some muscle as its inefficient carrying the massive biceps and quads of your average Kenyan.

Chubby blokes trying to knock off the keg of beer they've been building for the last decade, probably not such a problem.

Cool

I think you're on to something here. Wink

I don't buy the 'cardio makes you lose muscle mass' claim, not one little bit. If it were true I'd be a waif.

Original Post by pbear999:

Original Post by bmx419:

My own personal hypothesis on the muscle loss with cardio is this: only people who have more than their natural* muscle will likely experience muscle loss when over doing the cardio. But, not the average person who is just trying to lose weight doesn't really have a lot of muscle anyway.

Myself being an example. Before I lifted I was 155lbs. I started lifting regularly and eating more and went up to 165lbs over a year or so. Then I stopped lifting for a year(after basic training till now) and mainly did cardio and calisthenics. I haven't lifted on set a schedule for almost a year now and I'm back down to 155lbs. Yep, I've been lazy and injured a lot. Probably from not lifting. :/

*By natural muscle, I meant the amount of lean mass one just happens to have. Some people are more muscular than others even w/o training for it.

To be clear, this is my own personal assumption. Absolutely no data to back this up with.

 So my question would be:

Fine, you lost 10 pounds.  But you would have lost 10 pounds regardless of the cardio, if you don't eat enough to sustain your weight.  So why do you say that cardio made you lose lean muscle mass, any more than any other kind of calorie deficit?  Like sitting on the couch eating celery?

Clint

 Good point. *I* think muscle loss probably does happen faster being completely sedentary. Since you brought that point up, that is another thing. Before I came to my current base(where I lost 10lbs), I was a lot more active throughout the day. But now I have a job where for the most part I sit behind a desk all day. So, who knows?? I'll just blame the chAir Force. :)

Its hard work to make muscle and the body would prefer to make fat so unless you are giving it the stimulation required to continue to sustain muscle it won't.

 

Original Post by pbear999:

I don't understand these comments about losing muscle mass while doing lots of cardio...  So I'm asking this, as a serious question.

I do about 10 hours of running per week (90 km).  My weight stays the same; I've been 160 to 165 pounds since September 2009.  So if I'm losing muscle mass, what's it being replaced with?

I can accept that some of my muscle mass may have shifted, as in, I might be losing some from my upper body while gaining in my lower body.  My legs aren't appreciably bigger, however.  Haven't measured them lately, but my pants don't fit any different that I've noticed.

Your input is appreciated, and I apologize to the OP for interrupting their thread. :)


Clint

All too many exercise "rules" are just cliches that keep being repeated over and over. They are often derived by taking an isolated fact or snippet of research and overgeneralizing it to fit a predetermined narrative. People who have an inherent dislike of cardio are always looking for any excuse to denigrate it. 

Here is my .02 on it.

1) Calorie burn. Doing a ton of cardio per week causes a lot of calorie burn. This can have an effect on muscle. If you are burning too many calories, this will put your body at a deficit which makes muscle gain near impossible. Also, if the deficit is too big for the week, you will have a hard time retaining the muscle you already have even though you are lifting.

2) Doing steady state cardio for an extended period of time (more than 30 minutes) can put the body into a catabolic state when the body adapts to what you are doing. When the body goes into a catabolic state, it turns to muscle for energy. This results in muscle loss.

If someone's goals have nothing to do with muscle, or they are training for an endurance event, then do as much cardio as you want. A lot of people don't do just cardio though. They lift weights as well and do this to either add muscle or retain the muscle they have. So why do too much cardio to negate the effects of lifting when you can still keep your heart healthy by doing less?

At least this is the way that I see it. Then again, maybe all of us "weight lifters" have been reading the same BS in regards to cardio over the years and we could be doing more. I guess we'll never know..LOL

Original Post by ambereva:

Original Post by michaelduff:

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

If you are running like a Kenyan wanting to get picked up as an Olympian by an oil rich emirate, then your body is probably going to ditch some muscle as its inefficient carrying the massive biceps and quads of your average Kenyan.

Chubby blokes trying to knock off the keg of beer they've been building for the last decade, probably not such a problem.

Cool

I think you're on to something here. Wink

I don't buy the 'cardio makes you lose muscle mass' claim, not one little bit. If it were true I'd be a waif.

If you aren't eating enough, you would be. Ask your local exercise bulimic/anorexic

Since we're all throwing in our own personal study of one, when I run and don't do weights my legs become little sticks.

Original Post by spirochete:

Original Post by ambereva:

Original Post by michaelduff:

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

If you are running like a Kenyan wanting to get picked up as an Olympian by an oil rich emirate, then your body is probably going to ditch some muscle as its inefficient carrying the massive biceps and quads of your average Kenyan.

Chubby blokes trying to knock off the keg of beer they've been building for the last decade, probably not such a problem.

Cool

I think you're on to something here. Wink

I don't buy the 'cardio makes you lose muscle mass' claim, not one little bit. If it were true I'd be a waif.

If you aren't eating enough, you would be. Ask your local exercise bulimic/anorexic

Since we're all throwing in our own personal study of one, when I run and don't do weights my legs become little sticks.

Yeah, and if I do even one squat my thighs get freakin' huge and bulky!

Original Post by michaelduff:

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

'nothing is chasing me' is all the excuse you need.

Original Post by spirochete:

Original Post by ambereva:

Original Post by michaelduff:

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

If you are running like a Kenyan wanting to get picked up as an Olympian by an oil rich emirate, then your body is probably going to ditch some muscle as its inefficient carrying the massive biceps and quads of your average Kenyan.

Chubby blokes trying to knock off the keg of beer they've been building for the last decade, probably not such a problem.

Cool

I think you're on to something here. Wink

I don't buy the 'cardio makes you lose muscle mass' claim, not one little bit. If it were true I'd be a waif.

If you aren't eating enough, you would be. Ask your local exercise bulimic/anorexic

Since we're all throwing in our own personal study of one, when I run and don't do weights my legs become little sticks.

But then the muscle loss would be a result of a calorie deficit, not cardio.

 

Original Post by floggingsully:

Original Post by michaelduff:

The whole 'lose muscle through cardio' thing is a ploy by weight-lifters to excuse them from running - lazy inglorious bearstards all (insert tongue in cheek).

'nothing is chasing me' is all the excuse you need.

Well, there is heart disease. And cancer. And diabetes...

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