Read This To Decide If You Should Run While Building Muscle

August 9th 2019

Trying to find the right balance between running and weight lifting can be difficult when determining your goals. You may notice avid gym-goers switch it up between a “bulking season” to a “cutting season” depending on the time of year. So, let’s say we are getting into a bulking season, or maybe you’re just trying to gain a bit more muscle in general. There are different strategies to put in place for this specific type of result. The strategy may also differentiate between you and somebody else depending on your body type and daily activities. 

Should I Run if I’m Trying to Build Muscle?

The most important thing you need to figure out is to clearly and specifically define what your goals are - are you trying to build more muscle for strength or are you building more muscle to improve your physique? But regardless of your goal, it is vital to maintain a proper diet filled with enough proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Figure Out Your Specific Goals


Before taking any action at the gym, the first thing you need to do figure out the goal you would like for your specific body type. Depending on where you are and what you’re looking for, there is a difference between slimming for a more toned physique and building muscle to get stronger. Both can attribute to more visible muscles. With these in mind, see if you are one or the other or maybe even a little bit of both. 

For instance, are you training for a powerlifting competition? If so, running may help you work on your conditioning. At the same time, too much running may not be a great idea. Whereas, if you are doing a bodybuilding show, doing tons of cardio may be an option for you to cut down fat. So, from just two small examples, you can clearly see that there are already multiple routes and theories that you can implement in order to still achieve the same results. So, do not be afraid of pigeon-holing yourself into a certain route. It may be what is necessary in order to hit your goal.

Figure Out If Building Muscle is Your True Purpose

If you have determined your body type and prioritized your overall goal of building muscle and strength, here are some tips. Overall, doing a lot of running or high-intensity cardio is not best paired with this specific type of goal. Not to say that running should be completely cut out of your workout, but science shows that running long amounts can actually shrink muscle mass over time. 

Taking a look at a study done by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, after a long race, muscle mass had significantly decreased. You can still build muscle while having running in your routine, but the muscle isn’t being built on your runs. Finding that happy medium in between if you’re a true runner is where you’ll want to be. Another alternative to running is sprinting at short distances or doing some HIIT training as well. Those types of cardio have shown progress in muscle building so you can still work your cardiovascular system without risking muscle mass you have been building. 

If a Toned Physique is Your Goal

Straight science, if you are looking for a more toned physique, running would be a great exercise to add into your routines on TOP of a weight lifting program. Doing a few miles every few days matched with weight lifting will give you great results for a toned physique. Note that running alone will not build muscle, but if you are working at the gym to lower your body fat percentage, pairing your cardio with your strength training will give you great results over time. While you are strength training, your muscles are getting stronger and helping to burn that body fat while resting. Find what is comfortable and always know you can build up your cardio endurance the more you work with it. 

Diet is KEY

You’ve seen it, you’ve heard it, you’ve taught it, you’ve read it. Diet and nutrition are approximately 80% of all health and fitness goals. If you are looking into running and weight lifting at the same time, one or the other, it is very important to look at your calorie and nutrient intake on a daily basis. It is tried and true that ultimately you are what you eat. Not only the calories that you feed your body with, but the quality of the calories you are providing your muscles and organs. Making sure you are getting the right amount of protein, fats, and carbs for your body type and goals can make a world of a difference when switching up routines. You may even want to consider working with a nutritionist or health coach that can help you determine your dietary needs for this next move. 

  • Energy Balance! The more you run and the more you strength train, the more nutrients you will need to fuel your body and have the energy to continue to execute successful workouts. 

How Much Running is too Much for Muscle Building?

If you make sure you are eating enough proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, it really depends on how difficult your running sessions are. If you are doing intense running sessions, do no more than twice a week. If you are doing light running sessions, do no more than four times a week.

You want to have the lean and toned physique, but you don’t want to lose any muscle. There is not an exact answer to this question, however, if you are not a long-distance runner, you would need to listen to your body. If you insist on using a specific amount of time to run, then try to do 20-30 minutes at first and work your way up or down. Everybody trains different and will respond to a training stimulus in a different way. 

And again, making sure you are eating the correct amounts of proteins, fats, and calories to support your workouts and your goals. Without these nutrients, you can guarantee a slower build and lack of results with your training.

Can you Run and Build Muscle at the Same Time?

YES! Even the best marathon runners in the world strength train! But as mentioned earlier, the muscle mass is not being built during your runs. Think of this combination as two sports you are trying to perfect. Know that as you strength train, it may affect your results on the track. However, after a few leg days a week, those hills and tough terrain runs will result in powerful strides. When combining these two sports together for a larger muscle mass, timing your workout can be important. 

According to Running Brina, getting your run in in the morning will allow the body to be ready for an intense strength training session in the evening. This will require a lot of time and focus on your goals to hit up the gym or a workout twice in one day. Doing one or the other in a close time frame can definitely affect the other workout’s performance. Running Brina states, “At the end of the day, running will only reduce your muscle size if you stop going to the gym completely and start running significant mileage.”

I Know My Goals!

So, you’ve determined your overall body type and goals. Now you can take the steps in deciding your dietary needs and the workout prescription you need to reach those goals. Knowing that running overall will not help you build muscle if exceeding approximately 60 minutes but will keep you in great shape. Take into consideration meeting with a nutritionist even once. They will easily be able to determine your body type and give you an overall guide to your next grocery list. Remember it is all about your specific needs as an athlete!

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