Will Running Lose Muscle Mass

Running is a popular form of exercise that many people turn to for various reasons – to improve cardiovascular health, lose weight, or simply enjoy the feeling of freedom that comes with pounding the pavement. However, there is a common concern among those who are passionate about strength training: will running cause me to lose muscle mass? As a fitness enthusiast and avid runner, I can empathize with this concern and understand the importance of maintaining muscle while engaging in endurance activities.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that running, like any form of exercise, can have different effects on individuals depending on various factors such as genetics, training history, and nutrition. That being said, if you approach running with a well-rounded approach, you can minimize the risk of losing muscle mass.

The Role of Nutrition

One crucial aspect to consider when it comes to maintaining muscle while running is nutrition. Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle growth and repair. As a runner, it’s important to ensure you are consuming enough protein to support muscle maintenance. Aim for approximately 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, spread throughout the day, to optimize muscle protein synthesis.

Additionally, consuming carbohydrates before and after your runs can provide the necessary fuel to sustain your training sessions while preserving muscle mass. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy during exercise, and by ensuring you have enough glycogen stores, you can prevent muscle breakdown.

Variety in Training

A common mistake among runners is solely focusing on long-distance, steady-state running. While this type of training is beneficial for cardiovascular health, it may not be the most effective for maintaining muscle mass. Incorporating strength training exercises into your routine can help counterbalance the muscle-sapping effects of running.

Exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and push-ups can target the major muscle groups in your body and promote muscle growth. Aim to include two to three strength training sessions per week, focusing on compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Listen to Your Body

Understanding your body’s signals is key to maintaining muscle mass while running. Overtraining can lead to muscle breakdown, so it’s important to give yourself enough rest and recovery between training sessions. Pay attention to any signs of fatigue, muscle soreness, or decreased performance, and adjust your training accordingly.

Additionally, incorporating adequate rest days into your training schedule can give your muscles time to repair and grow. Remember, muscle growth occurs during rest, so don’t underestimate the importance of recovery.


While it is possible to lose muscle mass while running, it can be mitigated by adopting a comprehensive approach that includes proper nutrition, incorporating strength training exercises, and listening to your body. By fueling your body with the right nutrients, providing variety in your training routine, and prioritizing rest and recovery, you can maintain and even build muscle while enjoying the many benefits of running. Remember, every individual is unique, so it’s essential to find what works best for you and consult with a healthcare professional or a certified trainer if needed.