Articles » Exercise » Cardio Training » Will I Lose Muscle If I Do A Lot of Running?

Will I Lose Muscle If I Do A Lot of Running?

By Amanda Reck / April 10, 2018

Have you hit a strength plateau? If you have, you may need to change your workout program. Heard about alkaline diets? Find out whether eating alkaline is something you should consider. And if you’ve experienced a herniation or other injury and are wondering what to do about your workouts and nutrition, read on.

  1. Will I lose muscle if I do a lot of running?
  2. I have a disc herniation – Can I still workout and stay in shape?
  3. Marc – What is your height, weight, and bf%?
  4. Should I eat an alkaline diet?
  5. How can I break a strength plateau?

Question #1 | Will I lose muscle if I do a lot of running?

Question: If I’m running for Cardio and lifting a circuit to maintain muscle… Is the running going to make me lose muscle or fat? I run about 15-21 miles a week. I just don’t want to lose muscle from to much cardio… I just want your opinion. I also lift 5-6 days a week. I mix legs in each workout – Marty
Answer: Hi Marty,

If you are eating sufficient calories and protein, and lifting as you say, the running should allow you to lose fat since fat is a key energy sourced utilized during long runs. If you started running significant distances without ample calorie intake, muscle loss can definitely happen. Interestingly, 1 pound of muscle contains around 600 calories and fat 3500, so losing muscle can happen pretty easily. If you were not doing any resistance training at all, then “Yes,” you could certainly lose muscle. I recommend tracking your results with weigh-ins, possibly body fat percentage measurements, and making sure your strength levels don’t decrease. This way you can ensure you don’t lose muscle, or at least don’t lose a meaningful amount over time.

Kwesi (Kwesi Peters, CPT, Community Manager)

Question #2 | I have a disc herniation – Can I still workout and stay in shape?

Question: After a year and a half of a regular workouts, building lean muscles, and getting in good shape, I feel younger and healthier than ever (I am 41 years old).
Unfortunately, I’m facing a discal (spine) hernia. Do you think a good diet could be sufficient to maintain my shape? I have a recovery period for 2 months at least, I need to rest seriously. Maybe I can do pull up bar? Please if you have any recommendation I’ll be glade to hear it.
Thank you – Rabih
Answer: Hi Rabih,

Eating clean and maintaining proper nutrition will help you maintain a lower body weight, but unless you include resistance training 2-3x per week you will slowly lose your muscle mass (a process known as sarcopenia) and strength at a rate of about 0.5% every year after age 25, and by as much as 1% after age 60. I would recommend that you speak with a physical therapist who can help you develop an exercise program that won’t aggravate the herniation or cause further injury. You want a program that strengthens your core stabilizers and addresses your muscular imbalances. You should also focus on low-impact exercises such as walking, biking, and swimming, rather than high-impact exercises like jogging, sprinting, or jumping. Because there are so many exercises that compromise the spine and would do more harm than good, you should absolutely get checked out by a physical therapist before recommencing any workout program.

Both good nutrition and proper exercise are important for long-term health and wellness. Working with a certified professional will actually help you strengthen you weaknesses and build a more solid foundation so you can continue to feel young, strong, and healthy for the long-term.

Hope that answers your question. Good luck!

– Kristin (Kristin, CPT, CHC)

Question #3 | Marc – What is your height, weight, and bf%?

Question: Hey Marc, you’re inspirational! All the way from Canada showing respect. Question, we have a similar build, and my goal is to look like you…what is your height, weight, and body fat? Just curious? Thanks man!!! Keep up the good work and please post more YouTube videos!! They help a lot! Also, HUGE fan of the website, check it almost everyday.

Thanks again – Jon

Answer: Hey Jon,

I’m 5’11” and about 170lb with around 7% body fat. My weight doesn’t fluctuate much, at most a few pounds either way. I stay consistent with exercise a few times per week and generally don’t eat much more than my body can burn off.

Thanks for the congratulations regarding the website and videos. Very happy you find them inspirational!


Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

Question #4 | Should I eat an alkaline diet?

Question: Hi! I’ve been reading a lot recently about alkaline diets. What’s your opinion? I eat a fair amount of protein and also lift weights, which I’ve read is acidifying and is therefore bad for you. I do eat vegetables, and I tend to put some lemon concentrate in my water, but I dont know how careful I have to be about including alkaline foods in my diet. The online world has some who seem to think we shouldn’t eat any acid forming food. I’d appreciate your view on this issue.



Answer: The online world has a lot of people who have done any and every extreme form of eating. With that said, I do agree that in general being more alkaline is a good thing and most vegetables and some fruits are alkaline (kale and broccoli are big in this regard).

So overall, there are two ways to look at it: 1 – What are your goals? Not being acid-forming is nearly impossible and without it, everyone would be a vegetarian, no one would do any sort of high-intensity exercise (because that is extremely acid-forming) and there would be basically no sports played throughout the world.

2 – The Gerson Method is probably the biggest proponent of not eating any food that is acid-forming and seems to have helped some people battle cancer. The method is based on a number of things, with mainly high amounts of juicing (up to 13 per day) of alkanizing foods from organic sources, along with coffee enemas. These things tend to be extreme in terms of everyday survival and not necessary for the average person.

If your goal is to improve aesthetically, I would lean towards eating a variety of foods from different sources and you should be fine, especially if you include more vegetables into your repertoire. You might want to consider juicing if you’re truly concerned about it.

John ( John Leyva, CSCS, CPT)

Question #5 | How can I break a strength plateau?

Question: Hi BuiltLean Team. I know this question is asked a lot. I’m doing great losing weight, but I’ve recently hit a strength plateau. My body is shaping up but when it comes to getting stronger, I seem to be stuck. How can I get past this? For example with curls, I haven’t been able to lift more than 16kg for about 3 weeks or more weeks now. I do a split routine and only lift each muscle group once per week. Mondays – Shoulders and chest. Wednesdays – Biceps, Triceps and back. Fridays – Abs and legs. My reps are 12, 10, 8, 6 with weight going up as reps go down. I do HIIT everyday except for Thursday and weekends.
Answer: The strength plateau could be brought upon from a few factors. How many times a day do you lift weights? It could be that you may be overworking yourself to the point where you body is unable to adapt properly. Also, during each set how hard are the last few repetitions? Intensity could be a factor as well.
Johan the dilemma could be that you are giving yourself too much time in between muscle groups in order for your body to create the proper adaptation strength wise. For example, you are working your chest and shoulders on Monday, and then you are not lifting again for another seven days. Normally, athletes that exercise during their competitive season workout once a week to maintain the strength they already have, which is why it makes sense that you are experiencing a strength plateau. Rest is an important factor when it comes to building muscle, but consistency is just as important. I would recommend adding another day for each muscle group, or combine more muscle groups into the days you already go to the gym. A couple more items to mention – you can manipulate your rep ranges so you can shoot for 8 reps instead of 12 to start, which will force you to use heavier weight that may help you break the plateau. And second, if you are doing HIIT before a strength workout, that will definitely affect strength levels.

Kwesi Peters (Kwesi Peters, CPT, Community Manager)


  • Dirk says:

    Hopefully I get there soon. My goal is to get my fat% down to 8-12. I have been following the guidance on here for about 3 months, and have dropped my weight from 215 to 178 (I am 6’ tall). Currently at the point of making sure the rest I lose is only fat percentage, and minimal muscle loss. I just changed up my routine again to HIT lift on Mon-Wed-Fri and HIIT run on Tue-Thu. My daily meals are almost the same and very regulated. As soon as I wake up I eat a small protein bar, since I will not have my real breakfast for an hour and a half and to get my metabolism going. Breakfast consists of a single grilled chicken breast, salad, fruit, and bread. Lunch usually is a wheat wrap with turkey or tuna, various fresh fruit, and small salad. I go to the gym after work and before dinner. Dinner consists of two full hard boiled eggs, one egg white, and a banana. I work nights btw, which is why my food may seem a little backwards to some. I just wanted people to know with a little self control and some good motivation, this program works. Also, if there is any advice to what I can adjust to help me get to my goal, I am all ears!

  • Don "Sven" T. says:

    Hi Marc.

    I have a question, When I do cardio such as (soccer team) training, running, sprints, pushups, situps, laps, and such after all of that I feel like my muscles shrink around my abdomen area and I feel like I got fatter. I also lift in between days and I feel better after lifting but when I do cardio again the after results are the same, is that a natural thing? and do you have any advice for me? I am 16 , 5'1 tall and , I weigh 116lbs.

    Your guide is very helpful but I have a lot of things I am still trying to understand. If you can give me any tips that would be great Thank You.