Radhika Meganathan demystifies the relationship between running and muscle building
Runners are often associated with trim, wiry frames. Well, all that running stimulates your body to burn through your diet and the reserve fat in your body, so no wonder a typical runner burns way more calories. Most body builders, though, avoid running like the plague, accusing running to be a muscle destroyer. This claim is not entirely untrue, because running does have a huge impact on your muscles. But what if you want to build muscle yet still run?
What happens to muscles during running? During an intense cardio activity like running, the body constantly burns calories, even after you have stopped running. It not only burns the calories from your regular diet, it also burns through your reserve fat in the body. But when you run too hard or too long, your muscle will become the food if your body does not have many calorie stores of food and fat left.
Thus, if you want to build muscle mass while continuing with your running routine, you have to concentrate on two things: your calorie burning metabolism, and your running distance.
Adjust your diet
You now know why runners are advised to eat hearty! If you do not adapt your diet to your distances, it may lead to constant calorie deficit and your body will not be able to grow muscles from the limited nutrients from your diet. It’s like a vehicle trying to run on an empty tank! That’s why you must closely monitor your diet if you want to run and retain your muscles.
If your goal is to grow muscles, do not run or weight train on an empty stomach. Be especially wary of long training run, since they can deplete your energy reserves and reduce your muscle mass. After a long run, plan for additional carbs and protein. Make sure you eat a regular, balanced diet, one that has equal portions of protein (lean meat, seafood, eggs), complex carbohydrates (brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes) and vegetables.
Adjust the distances you run
In addition to nutrition, you should pay attention to the amount of distance you cover each week. The right distance is different for everyone, but you definitely should keep in mind that longer distances (also, a more intense running schedule) will burn more calories and will ultimately start utilizing calories from muscle. But what if you love running and do not want to sacrifice either?
Do not despair! The solution is simple. In order to save your muscles, follow a training plan that gives equal importance to endurance and strength training, and also gives you adequate time for recovery.
- Talk with an expert trainer/runner and arrive at a schedule with a safe number of training sessions per week.
- Running shorter distances and following a moderate weight-training schedule will help you retain your muscles without sacrificing them to an intense running regime.
- Reduce your weekly runs’ mileage.
- Short runs and sprints are the best way forward if you are looking to build muscles.
With the right training, running can work on developing lean muscle. So get started with the right training and nutrition.