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  1. #1
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    Does Cycling Interfere with Building Muscle?

    I'm planning on getting into road biking fairly seriously for the first time this summer. I'd also like to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle through strength training workouts at the gym. Obviously biking could be replaced by any aerobically challenging activity, but I'm posing this question here: can it be done? One thing I've read is that it's best to keep high heart-rate workouts, such as bike rides, to under one hour to prevent your body from reaching into protein mass for energy. One hour rides aren't exactly what I was hoping for. One thing I've thought of is just really eating a ton all summer, though I'd rather not have to be in constant compulsive pig out-mode to achieve my goals.

    What do you think?

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    I think it can be done. You're not going to lose any significant muscle mass because of riding, as long as you don't exercise to the point of exhausting your glycogen stores. One hour isn't going to do it. You might start seeing your body break down the muscle if you go 3+ hours without any on-the-bike sustenance, or if you schedule intensive workouts on consecutive days without taking proper care of your nutrition in between.

    That's as far as upper body muscles are concerned. I believe the jury is still out on whether you can gain lower-body muscle mass or strength while engaging in endurance exercise (working out the same muscles).

    A good way to limit muscle loss is to take protein supplements after each ride. My standard routine is to drink a big glass of juice, mixed with a scoop (30 g) of protein powder, after each workout lasting 1 hour or longer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hamster View Post

    A good way to limit muscle loss is to take protein supplements after each ride. My standard routine is to drink a big glass of juice, mixed with a scoop (30 g) of protein powder, after each workout lasting 1 hour or longer.
    Another good thing to remember is that you'll have to eat more to compensate for the fact that not only are you weight training, which in itself requires you eat a surplus, but also biking constantly for long periods of time.

  4. #4
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    Also cycling is one of the three preferred forms of cardio for crossfitters, running and c2 rowing the other two.

  5. #5
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Ask a Marine, Navy Seal, or Ranger. These guys have bodies of steel and are well known for incredible feats of endurance as well as strength. There is more BS about nutrition in bodybuilding/powerlifting than I have seen in any other sport. Just keep a steady and adequate supply of carbs going during your rides and a post-workout meal of clean protein and complex carbs to rebuild and refuel, and you won't have any trouble building both endurance and strength. While cyclists aren't known for massive biceps, take a look at the quads and calves on the pros. Holy muscle mass, Batman.

    Just remember that if you add a mass building routine to your workouts, you will have to make appropriate adjustments to your recovery and nutrition to support the combined program.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

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    Thanks guys. What about building muscle in the lower body though? I was hoping to do a 3x weekly routine, unfortunately I don't really see how. Biking the same days as the workouts is a bad idea. Biking on my off-days is even worse. I tried doing squats the day after a 15 mile ride, and I practically collapsed at a moderate weight. Presumably getting more into both cycling and strength training will help somewhat, but I still don't see how I can make progress on my lower body when I'm cycling as well.

    Essentially, I'm aware of what Myosmith said about Navy Seals and pro cyclists, but I'm wondering how exactly they do both at once.
    Last edited by Albatrosspro; 06-18-12 at 03:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albatrosspro View Post
    Essentially, I'm aware of what Myosmith said about Navy Seals and pro cyclists, but I'm wondering how exactly they do both at once.
    They don't. Why do you want to build muscle mass? If that is your primary goal, why do you care about cycling?

    If your focus is on making your legs bigger then strength training is the way to go. If you don't want to interfere with the strength training but you still want to ride just ride easy.

  8. #8
    Senior Member AchiLLe..s's Avatar
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    Don't listen to some of these replies. I lift 5 days a week and bike about 4 days for 30 miles or so. The key to building muscle if that is what your after is eating a caloric surplus while ingesting 1 gram of protein/ lb of body mass. So if you weigh 170 lbs you need to eat at least 170g of protein/day if you want to gain muscle. The same is true if you just want to lose body fat. By adding cycling into your routine you just need to compensate by eating additional calories that you burned from cycling. This is a fantastic site I use to calculate your macros (fat, carb and protein)

    http://www.1percentedge.com/ifcalc/

    at the end of the day it is all calories in vs. calories out. As long as your above your daily requirement including the calculations for the additional cycling cardio you will gain weight, and as long as your diet is decent and you lift heavy in the gym you will gain lean body mass with minimal to no fat gain.

  9. #9
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    While what Achilles says is true...

    it's also true that a body has limits.

    What's more, I think they're basically instinctive. Gym rats don't like cardio,
    it's a necessary evil

    Cyclist don't like exercises, it's a necessary evil.

    Bounce back and forth.

    You want some sort of periodisation. So in the middle two weeks of a month; let the gym get the most workouts 2nd week and the riding gets the most workouts 3rd week.

    One of the cycles in periodising is monthly. So the 4th week you take you solidify your gains (whatever they were). More reps at whatever weight,
    more of whatever.

    Then on the next week, the first of the month you drop a notch in intensity and add lots of reps or time.
    2nd week you maintain that level, but add a little extra. A few pounds on the bar, longer intervals, base miles...
    Third week you drop the time (or reps) and add more weight (or intensity).

    On second thought, learn how to set up a training schedule, or find someone who can.

    What's the story with the diet? You doing any creatine or anything?
    Last edited by late; 06-23-12 at 02:49 PM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member AchiLLe..s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    While what Achilles says is true...

    it's also true that a body has limits.

    What's more, I think they're basically instinctive. Gym rats don't like cardio,
    it's a necessary evil

    Cyclist don't like exercises, it's a necessary evil.

    Bounce back and forth.

    You want some sort of periodisation. So in the middle two weeks of a month; let the gym get the most workouts 2nd week and the riding gets the most workouts 3rd week.

    One of the cycles in periodising is monthly. So the 4th week you take you solidify your gains (whatever they were). More reps at whatever weight,
    more of whatever.

    Then on the next week, the first of the month you drop a notch in intensity and add lots of reps or time.
    2nd week you maintain that level, but add a little extra. A few pounds on the bar, longer intervals, base miles...
    Third week you drop the time (or reps) and add more weight (or intensity).

    On second thought, learn how to set up a training schedule, or find someone who can.

    What's the story with the diet? You doing any creatine or anything?
    I think your over thinking it. If building muscle is your main priority then the workouts should always be done first when the energy levels are the highest. Cycling the same day will have a negative effect as your energy levels will surely be lowered from your workout. I recommend eating constantly with your diet consisting primarily of protein and quite a bit of carbs like rice, pasta, sweet potatoes or any slow digesting carb to give longer energy levels. With a high activity level of lifting and cycling i'm sure you will need at least an extra 2000 calories per day on top of your daily maintenance which depending upon your weight and leanness will be around 2500 roughly so your looking at consuming at the very least 4000 more likely 5000 to ensure proper muscle repair and building. Trust me on this one guys, I spend 99% of my time on the bodybuilding.com forum and I am lifting and cycling at the same time but for a different reason. I'm just trying to get leaner and maintain my muscle. Different goals but the execution is the same.

  11. #11
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AchiLLe..s View Post

    I think your over thinking it. If building muscle is your main priority then the workouts should always be done first when the energy levels are the highest. Cycling the same day will have a negative effect as your energy levels will surely be lowered from your workout. I recommend eating constantly with your diet consisting primarily of protein and quite a bit of carbs like rice, pasta, sweet potatoes or any slow digesting carb to give longer energy levels. With a high activity level of lifting and cycling i'm sure you will need at least an extra 2000 calories per day on top of your daily maintenance which depending upon your weight and leanness will be around 2500 roughly so your looking at consuming at the very least 4000 more likely 5000 to ensure proper muscle repair and building. Trust me on this one guys, I spend 99% of my time on the bodybuilding.com forum and I am lifting and cycling at the same time but for a different reason. I'm just trying to get leaner and maintain my muscle. Different goals but the execution is the same.

    I agree, you don't want to do a big gym day and a lot of cardio.

    If I feel up to it, I will do an exercise or two after riding on a cardio day.
    Usually stuff I can't work into the schedule.

    I know 6 meals a day is the classic, but I think 4 is gentler on your system.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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    I'm not looking for anything drastic here... maybe I didn't explain my goals that well. Basically, there are two of them. 1) I want to be biking 4-6 days per week, and 2) I want to gain at least 20 lbs of muscle around my body. I'm 5'10 145, in good shape with a decent muscular foundation but obviously rather slim, and would like to reach 165.

    I'm not convinced that simply eating a ton can overcome the training restrictions that I'm going to run into. Like I said above, if I bike 20 miles and then try to do squats or deadlifts the next day, I'm just not going to be able to push to my limit (at least in my experience so far--- I'm still just starting cycling, so maybe that will change). Even eating 5000 calories per day, my muscles get fatigued from activities I do, so I don't see the connection... or are you saying that a super high food intake leads to much faster muscle recovery time? Overall, I'm having trouble envisioning a training routine where I can bike this much and still gain lower body muscle, unless I take breaks from cycling periodically.

    The conclusion I've come to is to go head and do upper body as I'm cycling, whenever I have time/energy for it, hopefully 2-3 times per week. Then, when I'm not cycling as much in Fall, Winter, Spring, I can focus on lifting. If someone has ideas on how I can get started now on the lifting, without waiting, I'd love to hear them. But again, I don't see the connection between carlories in/calories out and the simple problem of muscle fatigue and recovery.

    One last clarification: I get the calories in/calories out as it relates to upper body muscle, but anything that involves muscles I use on the bike (legs, glutes) seems to be a different story. Hopefully someone can address this specifically.

  13. #13
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    A lot of this depends on talent. All Lance had to do was look at a weight stack and he put on protein. That's a big reason he was a great stage racer. OTOH, if I really work at it, I can put on a pound of protein a year. If I eat more, it just goes into fat, no matter what the calories are. So you really have to experiment on yourself and see what works for you. It is good to remember that you only get results while you're resting.

  14. #14
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albatrosspro View Post

    One last clarification: I get the calories in/calories out as it relates to upper body muscle, but anything that involves muscles I use on the bike (legs, glutes) seems to be a different story. Hopefully someone can address this specifically.
    My magic wand is in the shop.

    You want 20 pounds of muscle, you focus on the muscle.
    You do cardio because you have to. Try The New Rules of Lifting.
    I can guarantee you won't do a ton of riding following that schedule.

    This is how people wind up in the doctor's office. You want too much, too soon.

    So do we all.

    We just can't have it.

    Find a balance between the two.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albatrosspro View Post
    I'm planning on getting into road biking fairly seriously for the first time this summer. I'd also like to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle through strength training workouts at the gym. Obviously biking could be replaced by any aerobically challenging activity, but I'm posing this question here: can it be done? One thing I've read is that it's best to keep high heart-rate workouts, such as bike rides, to under one hour to prevent your body from reaching into protein mass for energy. One hour rides aren't exactly what I was hoping for. One thing I've thought of is just really eating a ton all summer, though I'd rather not have to be in constant compulsive pig out-mode to achieve my goals.

    What do you think?
    hate to break the news to you but if by "fairly seriously" you mean training to eventually race then you are not going to want to gain any weight. Upper body muscle just weighs you down, and makes you tired. If anything you might want to try to lose some upderbody muscle and reduce your body mass.

    If you just want to ride for the enjoyment of riding then it would not harm you at all assuming you are getting the proper nutrition. I used to be 240 lbs at 7 percent bf. I was into weightlifting big time. I started to get tired of it and started cycling because i realized it would be healthier for me in the long run and I actually started focusing on trying to lose some muscle because I wanted to race.

    Everyone goals are different and if you are riding just for the aerobic, and cardio to support your main goal of weight lifting then more power to you! I wouldnt ride before or after your leg day 2 days unless it was under 8-10 miles (assuming you are in decent shape), and dont stress them by climbing big hills and sprinting. Just use the bike for mild cardio (similar to intensity of doing a half hour on the elliptical machine) After working those muscles you just want to let them heal all the way up and give them all the nutrition they need. It takes a minimum of 72 hours (3 days) for a muscle to heal from weight lifting, and most weight lifters only lift a muscle 1x per week. You gain size and strength not from the lifting, but from the healing. As I am sure you know, thats how you gain muscle weight, and size.

    In conclusion, the bike can be a great tool to get your cardio in but it is nearly impossible to be "serious" in both weight lifting, and road cycling. One will always limit the other after you reach a certain point.
    Last edited by Homebrewevolver; 07-07-12 at 01:26 PM.

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