Does Running Make You Lose Muscle? – What You Need to Know (2021)

When you are trying to gain muscle mass, you will become more conscious about the type of exercises you perform, as well as your dietary choices.

One common question that beginners ask is whether running exercises negatively impact muscle mass.

In this article, we will cover the effects of running on your lean muscle mass, as well as how you can use running exercises to build your muscles.

The effects of running on your lean muscle mass

The impact of running exercises on your lean muscle mass depends on their frequency and intensity. 

Contrary to popular belief, running could build your lower body muscles. In one study, researchers recruited 12 college students to complete 4 sets of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which consisted of running at maximum capacity for 4 minutes.

Analyzing the results after 10 weeks of this routine showed that the athletes who performed running exercises experienced 11% muscle growth of their quadriceps. The results were absent in the control group.

Therefore, and unlike common connotations, running and sprinting could increase your muscle mass.

When scientists inspected the molecular mechanisms that triggered this phenomenon, they found that running inhibits the enzymes responsible for proteolysis (i.e., protein degradation) while boosting the action of the molecules that promote muscle growth.

Conversely, researchers noted that running for long distances could actually hinder muscle growth. One study had 30 male amateurs run for 10, 21, or 42 km (6.2, 13, or 26.1 miles). Taking blood samples from these runners showed significantly higher levels of muscle breakdown markers.

The degree of this elevation correlated linearly with the duration of running.

In summary, running for short durations could lead to impressive muscle growth. On the other hand, long-distance running inhibits muscle hypertrophy.

Running exercises that build muscles

Since we established that high-intensity exercises for short periods of time build muscle mass, you can implement this information to promote muscle growth of your lower body.

This is especially beneficial for individuals who focus solely on upper body strength training exercises.

Here are some routine HIIT running exercises to build lower body muscles:

  • 6 sets of 15-second sprints at maximum intensity separated by 2 minutes of light jogging
  • 5 sets of 25-second sprints at maximum intensity separated by 4 minutes of light jogging
  • 4 sets of 45-second sprints at moderate intensity separated by 5 minutes of light jogging
  • 4 sets of 30-second hill sprints, then walk back down the hill and do it again.

Optimally, you would perform these exercises 3–4 times a week.

Takeaway message

Depending on the intensity and duration of running, you could either experience impressive muscle growth or significant amyotrophy. Equipped with this information, do not fear to program a few running sessions per week.

We hope that this article managed to clear out some of the confusion that surrounds this topic. If you found anything vague, feel free to drop your questions in the comment section below.