The answer to this depends on the extent and duration of the cardio. Yes, it does cause you to lose the gains you have acquired, and at a fast rate, mind you. Read on for some more information, as well as a great solution.
Long term cardio
Over the long-term, cardio leads to the loss of lean muscle mass, which reduces the number of calories burned by the body at rest (Westcott, 2009) If one does not reduce calorie intake at the same rate, fat gain occurs.
Over time, the body will adapt and use energy plus oxygen more efficiently during cardio, making it less useful for fat loss. The workouts start to feel a lot easier, and you want to continue experiencing the same benefits. You then increase the intensity, training faster, or increasing the distance.
Here is a scary fact about the caloric expenditure of cardio
Scientists estimate from caloric balance equations, that it would require upwards of 1 hour of moderate-intensity cardio, seven days per week to produce continual fat loss to the tune of 1 pound per week inactive people.
Long duration cardio is pointless.
This is a massive volume of exercise with minimal returns, both long and short term! Muscle mass will be wasted, and the repetitive stress could lead to altered hormonal balances, not to mention injury. Calorie balances are not sufficient when it comes to the daily grind of individuals.
The cortisol muscle muncher
Long duration cardio can also induce cortisol. This leads to more muscle used as a means of energy for the stressed body. As a result, this makes stressed individuals crave high fat, processed sugar-filled foods to try and replace serotonin levels. Serotonin is depleted when the body is under chronic stress. Not only will cortisol cause you to lose your muscle mass, but it will also make you put on body fat, elevate your hunger levels and become insulin resistant.
Scientists believe that aerobic type cardio actually “turns off” muscle building pathways and promotes catabolism, diminishing your potential to gain muscle mass. It’s also possible that the high volume of exercise required from both cardio lifting workouts, lead to elevated cortisol, making it even worse!
There is a cardio light at the end of the catabolic tunnel.
Yes, you can partake in cardio, the form that helps you lose body fat and preserve your muscle mass (perhaps even enhancing your muscle growth). The key is with HIIT. High-intensity training such as sprints, or circuit sessions, burn more calories in less time. Just 25–30 minutes is all that is required to burn double the amount of steady-state cardio calories.
Another beautiful fact is that you experience the after-burn effect with this. The window of calorie burn is 24 hours post-workout. It takes your body a lot more time to restore metabolic balance and remove waste products from the result of the training.
Genes that allow you to experience a better hormonal environment post-workout are activated via HIIT. This allows interval training to sustain lean muscle mass and may build muscle for a better metabolic rate. I experience this in my legs from my HIIT sprints on the treadmill. It’s a great way to tone and shape the legs, as well as eliminate cellulite
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