In the fitness world, you will mostly find bodybuilders being at odds with cardio training. Some believe that cardio is only for those who want to lose weight and thus can result in muscle loss, often throwing the phrase “Cardio burns muscle” around. For others, cardio is just a waste of time because it gets hard to perform cardiovascular exercises with a bulky body.
Bodybuilding is more about cosmetic effects than performance and health. From their perspective, bodybuilders tend to eat a hypocaloric diet; foods with fewer calories and more protein, and fear that doing cardio will start ‘taking off’ their muscles because they don’t have enough calories to burn. The lean builds of athletes and sportspersons add to this notion. Thus, anyone solely working out for muscle hypertrophy will not be thrilled about cardio.
Other reasons, quite common yet pretty lame, are because of the general perception around cardio training. Some people don’t find it cool enough though others don’t want to divide their training time; why not spend more time gaining muscle? These arguments arise because aesthetics have become the goal in the fitness world. It is all about looking big and beautiful.
Most of the arguments against cardio are half-truths. When done right, it can benefit builders a lot. Not only does it help you achieve the right physique, but it also maintains your overall health.
Cardio is informal for aerobic exercises or cardiovascular exercises. It is not a single set of training methods that fits all. Cardio training has many types, each intended for different fitness goals. The common goal of all types of cardio is to maintain and improve cardiovascular health, enhancing the performance and well-being of the heart and lungs while boosting blood circulation. It lowers your resting heart rate by increasing the efficiency of your heart, a perfect option for building endurance.
These exercises most commonly involve moderate to high-intensity workouts that raise your heart rate and speed up blood circulation and oxygenation. Due to being more physically engaging, cardio becomes the best method for cutting fat and burning calories. Different types of cardio give different results; it is up to the trainer to choose according to their goals. Running, swimming, cycling, and HIIT are examples of cardio exercises.
Now, with the explanation done, let us enlist the benefits of it that bodybuilders seem to miss out on.
As mentioned before, the main goal of any cardio type is improving cardiovascular health. The heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, if not trained, it will get weaker over time. Moreover, it will become difficult for a weak heart and circulatory system to pump blood to a heavy, hypertrophied muscular body. Your health will deteriorate rapidly in the long run, resulting in fatal diseases like blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. Add steroids to this scenario which already are proven to be the leading cause of death due to cardiac failure in bodybuilders.
A strong cardiovascular system can support a bulky body, improving gains and helping in maintaining it. It can make your bulking workout way more efficient
Cardio immensely improves the functioning of the immune system. As it causes your blood vessels to widen, more blood pumps to each organ and tissue in the body. It increases efficiency as white blood cells and antibodies flow better through the bloodstream. It also improves the production of antibodies for tackling numerous viruses and bacteria.
Cardio is considered one of the best exercises for mental health. Even if done moderately, it helps elevate the mood and reduce stress, lessening the symptoms of depression. Every form of cardio exercise releases endorphins during and after exercise. These are also called “happy hormones” that make your body and mind feel good by lowering anxiety and muscle tension. It is a tried and tested method with thousands of stories about how cardio helps people manage depression and anxiety.
Bodybuilding, though not always, tends to add mental stress. As it is done purely for cosmetic reasons, if the desired physique takes longer to build than peers, it adds to the tension. Thus, with cardio in your arsenal, you can calm your nerves as a builder and focus more on the goal.
Sleep is a key factor for recovery and muscle building. During sleep, growth hormone levels increase in the bloodstream, responsible for repairing the muscles that get micro tears during workouts. Sleep also enhances protein synthesis, thus developing more muscle fibers, growing them bigger and stronger.
Cardio majorly affects the quality of sleep. People believe it aids in reaching REM sleep levels faster, which in turn significantly affects muscle recovery.
When it comes to burning fat, cardio is king. Burning calories is crucial for bodybuilders so that the aesthetic is not compromised. Bodybuilding can make you look big though cardio can make you look ripped. Cardio is the most efficient tool that bodybuilders can use to manage their fat percentage and increase the aesthetic of their build.
As mentioned at the start, bodybuilders fear that cardio can interfere with their recovery and accelerate muscle loss. Technically speaking, this may hold some truth though cardio is not the reason. Instead, it is mismanaging cardio. Builders need to focus on the right cardio type, doing it in moderation with their bulk training.
Plan your cardio and smartly integrate it with your regular training. The goal is to have the benefits of both bulking and aerobic exercises. Improve your overall health while not losing your muscle. Once you find the right combination, you’ll become a muscle monster with a ‘good’ heart.