While it's true that many people seek cardio in order to lose weight, truth is it can actually help you build muscle too! The science and practice behind this is all about how you put your body to work in order to get the results you want.
No matter how much muscle you seek to gain, a little cardio will not slow down your process, but can certainly help you gain that muscle. Aerobic exercise, if done properly, can lead to as much muscle growth as you’d expect with resistance exercise. The goal for cardio exercise for an increase in muscle is all about intensity rather than duration. This means that you should work up to 80 percent of your max heart rate. The perfect cardio for that is sprints or fast bursts on a bike, not long distance running (have you seen how skinny those marathon runners are?)
There are three main reasons why cardio can help you gain muscle and retain muscle. So, let's cover them:
Cardio Improves Muscle Recovery
You've been working hard at the gym, upping reps and adding more weight, and the result of that is sore muscles. Cardio can help repair those torn fibers and muscles that are sore quicker because of the increase in blood flow. It'll help your body build up your muscle quicker and give you a much shorter recovery time.
Quick Tip: Throw in a bit of cardio on leg day to reduce soreness for the days following.
Cardio Improves Your Body's Metabolic Responses to Food
Diet is always an important part of your physical fitness and when it comes to eating, you're probably thinking of what will help you gain muscle. Cardio will help your body store the right nutrients that help you gain muscle leaving less for fat storage.
Cardio Keeps Up Your Conditioning
Muscle gain isn't always just about bulk. When it comes to getting "cut" you'll want to look to cardio. After training non-stop to bulk up, getting "cut" can be extremely hard if you've been avoiding cardio at all costs. By keeping up some cardio during your "bulking" phase, you can maintain your metabolic conditioning and prevent that shock from happening that many people experience when transitioning to the "getting cut" phase.