Will Running Make Me Lose Muscle

As someone who is passionate about both running and maintaining muscle mass, I understand the concern that many individuals have about whether running will lead to muscle loss. It’s a question that often arises when discussing the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating running into a fitness routine. In this article, I will delve into this topic and provide you with a detailed analysis of whether running will indeed make you lose muscle.

Understanding Muscle Loss

To address this question, it’s important to have a basic understanding of muscle loss. When we engage in any form of exercise, our body adapts to the stress placed upon it. This adaptation usually leads to positive changes, such as increased muscle strength and endurance. However, certain types of exercise can also result in muscle breakdown, which can ultimately lead to muscle loss.

Muscle loss typically occurs when there is a prolonged imbalance between muscle protein synthesis (the process of building new muscle tissue) and muscle protein breakdown (the process of breaking down existing muscle tissue). Factors such as nutrition, exercise intensity, and recovery play crucial roles in determining this balance.

The Impact of Running on Muscle

When it comes to running, the impact on muscle largely depends on various factors, including training volume, intensity, and diet. Let’s break it down:

1. Running Volume

The volume of running refers to the total distance or time spent running. Higher volumes of running, especially for long-distance runners or marathoners, can lead to increased muscle breakdown. This is primarily because prolonged endurance exercise can deplete glycogen stores and increase cortisol levels, which can ultimately contribute to muscle breakdown.

However, it’s worth noting that this muscle breakdown can be mitigated with proper nutrition, recovery, and resistance training. By ensuring an adequate intake of protein and carbohydrates, getting enough rest, and incorporating strength training exercises, you can minimize the risk of muscle loss while still reaping the benefits of running.

2. Running Intensity

The intensity of running plays a significant role in determining its impact on muscle. Higher-intensity running, such as sprinting or interval training, can actually help preserve muscle mass and even stimulate muscle growth. This is because intense exercise triggers the release of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone, which promote muscle protein synthesis.

On the other hand, long-duration, low-intensity running (such as steady-state cardio) may have a slightly higher risk of muscle loss due to the prolonged nature of the exercise. However, this is again highly dependent on other factors such as nutrition and recovery.

3. Diet and Nutrition

Proper nutrition is paramount in maintaining muscle mass while running. Consuming an adequate amount of protein (around 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight) is crucial for muscle protein synthesis. Additionally, ensuring an adequate intake of carbohydrates provides the necessary fuel for both running performance and muscle recovery.

It’s also essential to pay attention to overall caloric intake. If you are in a caloric deficit (consuming fewer calories than your body needs), this can potentially lead to muscle loss. However, with proper meal planning and sufficient protein intake, you can still maintain and even build muscle while running.


So, will running make you lose muscle? The answer is not a straightforward “yes” or “no.” While running, especially at high volumes or low intensities, can lead to muscle breakdown, this can be mitigated with proper nutrition, recovery, and a balanced exercise routine that includes strength training. By incorporating resistance exercises, consuming enough protein, and paying attention to overall calorie intake, you can maintain and even build muscle while reaping the cardiovascular and mental health benefits of running.

Ultimately, the impact of running on your muscle mass will depend on how you tailor your running program to your individual needs and goals. Remember, it’s crucial to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed to ensure a well-rounded fitness routine that supports both your running aspirations and muscle maintenance.