Is Cardio Blocking Your Gains?

The short answer is, yes, maybe..? But the first question you need to ask yourselves is what are your goals? Is your top priority to become as muscular as possible, or do you want to be cardiovascularly fit as well? Once you make the decision, then you can program accordingly.

Some brief physiology for you!

When “we” exercise and apply an appropriate stimulus to our muscles in the form of resistance
training (RE), our bodies will give off signals that are anabolic in nature (constructing small molecules to create larger molecules). The primary signal is the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), this signal is responsible for initiating the anabolic processes where our muscle will begin to grow, aka muscle hypertrophy.

On the flip side when we exercise in the form of long slow duration aerobic exercise or (AE), the primary signal that results is called AMPk. AMPk is not necessarily “bad” and >will actually result in the stimulation and growth of aerobic conducive metabolic
properties, such as increasing the size or density of the mitochondria which is essential for developing a strong backbone for aerobic capacity… But it actually inhibits the signaling of mTOR.

Does that mean you should cut out aerobic exercise totally? Possibly, if that’s your one and only goal, but it depends on a lot of situations, such as how much cardio are you even doing. If you’re doing very minimal amounts of cardio just as a baseline for
maintaining your cardiovascular health, it’s probably not going to make a huge difference.

If you are seeking to continue to do some form of concurrent training, and or doing some AE and RE at the same time and still want to maximize your muscle growth these are a few recommendations.

  1. Try to limit your cardio sessions 1-2 times per week that are on different days as your RE. The research shows that if you allow for proper recovery between sessions there should be a more efficient process in regard to achieving proper signaling.
  2. Reduce the amount of cardio volume (time or distance)
  3. If you do cardio on the same day as RE, try and separate them by at least 4 hours.
  4. Lastly, place cardio and or your form of conditioning last in your session for the day.