Why walking is good for bodybuilders

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Walking doesn’t sound very hardcore, but for bodybuilders who want to lose fat it may be the best form of exercise. Besides strength training, of course. The four most important benefits of walking.


By walking you burn fat, but your glycogen stores are spared. To quote Professor Maria Hopman:

A person runs on carbohydrates, glycogen to be precise. For walking, the body actually uses its fat supply, to save glycogen for when that lion suddenly appears from the bushes. ii ]

Unfortunately, our body is programmed in such a way that it compensates for the use of different energy sources. So if you have walked for two hours and used a relatively large amount of fat, you will use relatively more carbohydrates during the activities afterwards i ] iii ] . That’s why it’s best not to walk too long before your strength training. If you also consume (fast) carbohydrates prior to training, you are assured of optimally filled glycogen stores during training. ‘Optimal’ to the difficult conditions of the cut.


As a bodybuilder, strength training should be your top priority, even during the cut. Doing cardio shouldn’t get in the way of your strength training performance and recovery. To put it with coach, scientist and author Eric Helms:

Remember that you’re a weightlifter first.

Now you can certainly combine strength training with other sports (‘competitive training’), without your gains suffering. See top footballers taking off their shirts after the game. Despite doing many other types of training besides strength training, almost all of them have muscular torsos. Or read the book ‘The Hybrid Athlete’. In it, Alex Viada describes how he was able to simultaneously excel in powerlifting and running.

The fear of the negative effects of competitor training therefore seems somewhat exaggerated, as also shown by a recent meta-study on combining strength training and HIIT iv ] . As long as you keep the amount within limits, HIIT will not come at the expense of your muscle growth or maintenance.

But not everyone lives like a top athlete. Stress, lack of sleep and inadequate nutrition cannot always be avoided in the hectic everyday life. If you also have to live on a significant energy deficit, it is better to keep your total training load limited. Walking is an excellent option, because your body hardly needs to recover from it. In fact, walking increases circulation, which actually aids in recovery from injuries and even training i ] [ v ] [ vi ] .

Finally, walking leaves your stress hormone cortisol alone. While all other forms of exercise raise your cortisol level, walking can actually lower it (see next point). That is also important for muscle maintenance. Endurance training of medium or high intensity (for example, cycling or running) can raise your cortisol level to such an extent that certain proteins in your muscles are broken down. Although it also applies here that you already have to do an excessive amount of endurance training if your body wants to eat your muscle mass.


Another thing that you should avoid as a bodybuilder for optimal muscle recovery, especially during the cut: stress. Walking can also help with that. We already saw that with walking, due to the low training load, there is no increase in cortisol. But walking can actually reduce stress!

A daily walk can give you a huge mental boost. Walking improves your mood vii ] , expands your creative mind viii ] and reduces negative thoughts, especially if you do it in the great outdoors ix ] .


With cardio you correlate calories, which can undeniably contribute to fat loss. But doing cardio also makes you hungry. After a strong endurance effort usually follows a strong pull. If you give in to that, your cardio will be for naught — at least, in terms of fat loss.

Walking, on the other hand, has much less influence on your appetite due to its low impact character. According to a 2010 study:

An acute bout of subjectively paced brisk walking does not elicit compensatory responses in acylated ghrelin, appetite, or energy intake. This finding lends support for a role of brisk walking in weight management. xi ]


Walking also has a disadvantage: it takes a relatively long time. Endurance training and HIIT are undeniably much faster ways to burn fat.

For walking, the rule of thumb is that you burn about 60 kcal per kilometer travelled, based on an average walking pace (about 5 km/h). That equates to about 300 kcal per hour. Others use the rule that you burn your weight in kcal per km, so for example 75 kcal if you weigh 75 kg. Although this seems a bit on the high side at 5 km/h. You can use a walking calculator to get a more accurate estimate of the number of calories you walk away.

With a good HIIT session you will burn those 300 kcal within 20 minutes. HIIT and other forms of intensive cardio are therefore a lot more efficient than walking: you burn less fat directly, but you burn significantly more calories than with walking. This allows you to create a larger calorie deficit and ultimately burn more fat. Walking is therefore not popular with many dropouts. But hopefully in this article we have made it clear to you that fat loss in bodybuilders is a much more complex task, for which walking offers some unique benefits.

Also remember that you can easily integrate walking into your daily life: walking to work or to the store, for example. Or to the gym.


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