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Is CrossFit/Conditioning Bad
for Muscle Gain?

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The short answer is NO. 

The long answer involves more questions. 

1. Are you in a calorie deficit?
If so, then you technically won’t be able to gain muscle. If yes, then aerobic-based drills/training may still have some benefit to muscle growth if there is a stimulus which signals the M-tor and protein synthesis pathways.

2. Are you eating enough protein and carbs?

3. What type of conditioning are you doing?
Is it monostructural (cardio) or is it more like a CF workout? There are two sides to the equation. 

  1. The stimulus 
  2. The fuel 

In order to grow muscle, you need to create a stimulus that warrants muscle growth based on the breakdown and micro-tears of muscle fibres. And then you need to fuel that stimulus with the fuel (protein and carbohydrates) to grow and repair the tissue. 

In order for this to be anabolic (building phase), you need to be in a calorie surplus (or maintenance calorie level as a minimum). If you’re in a deficit, either through not eating enough food or expending too much through training, then you’re going to be in a catabolic state, meaning you’ll be breaking down muscle for energy. 

The myth stems from the illusion that most skinny people do cardio and therefore cardio makes you skinny. 

But this is more of an association as opposed to causation. 

Skinny people are probably better at monostructural/ aerobic based workouts than strength-based workouts, so they’ll congregate together and do what they’re good at. And Vice versa. 

The thing is if you want to grow/maintain muscle but also want to do conditioning as well, you just need to make sure that your extra conditioning doesn’t put you into a calorie deficit. I.e. eat more food so that you don’t go into the negatives. 

**Another key point to note is that a short conditioning workout (under 30-60 mins) generally doesn’t burn huge amounts of calories as most people tend to believe. (300-600 calories at best). 

Which is why most people who train every day still don’t have ideal body composition. 

Which means, that your daily WOD probably won’t put you over the edge and have a negative impact on your muscle growth goals as much as your chronic undereating will. More often than not, by completing a crossFit styled workout will help you build muscle (pending you eat enough food) because of the stimulus and extra volume you’ll receive from the workouts.

Most CrossFit styled workouts fall slap bang in the moderate to high load, volume and intensity category, making them a breeding ground for M-tor and protein synthesis pathways and therefore anabolic muscle growth. 

FINAL NOTE: If you’re a hard gainer, eat more food and do strength + conditioning for more volume.

Interested in Crossfit, HIIT, Bodybuilding, Oly or Powerlifting: Which style of training is best for you?

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