Does Long Distance Running Build Muscle? (Yes, Here’s how!)

Running is no doubt one of the best workouts around the world. Running is effective for weight loss and helps reduce stress and tension. Walking and running have become more like a therapy for people to appreciate nature and their bodies.

Many professional sprinters include muscle building into their routines for improved running economy, faster trial, and maximal sprint speed, reported a study issued in the British Sports Journal. But, does long distance running build muscle?

Running helps build muscles. It targets more of the leg muscles increasing your strength and endurance. Runners have a different kind of energy and they do not get fatigued early. You generally need to be in good shape to do longer distances, the leaner, muscular the better.

Even though running is known to be an excellent form of cardio and a great way to burn fat and lose weight, its muscle-building effects are less known and debatable. Read on to find out more.

See also: 15 Advantages and Disadvantages Of Running Cross Country

Does Long Distance Running Build Muscle (Yes, Here’s how!)
Does Long Distance Running Build Muscle (Yes, Here’s how!) –

Table of Contents

Does Long Distance Running Build Muscles?

Generally, running helps build lower body muscles, but it mostly depends on the duration and intensity of your runs. High intensity, short duration running, including sprinting, helps build leg muscles.

In contrast, long-distance running causes considerable muscle damage, which inhibits muscle growth, revealed in a study issued in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.

In addition, you will develop an increase in your leg muscle size and tone if you run long distances compared to someone who does nothing but sits on the couch. However, the muscle development will not appear as significant to the naked eye as if you were lifting weights or sprinting.

Typically, long-distance runners have muscular legs, but they don’t have massive legs like a bodybuilder or sprinter.

What Prevent Long Distance Runners From Building Muscles?

Generally, three things prevent long-distance runners from building muscles: 

  1. Running long distances puts stress on your body, which temporarily increases stress hormones. The presence of stress hormones may make it harder to produce muscle mass.
  2. Training for long-distance runs requires a lot of effort and time, making it challenging for long-distance runners to cross-train. 
  3. Body mass negatively impacts long-distance running. The more muscle you have, especially upper body muscle, the harder you will run long distances, making it harder for long-distance runners to build muscles because they want to run as fast as possible. It is not necessarily that they cannot build muscles; their goals differ from regular gym-goers. 

As long as you incorporate strength training and eat enough, long-distance running can help you strengthen and build your muscles. You activate your core muscles, leg muscles, and shoulder muscles when you run. In addition, long-distance running can improve endurance and overall body strength. 

How Does Running Help To Build Your Muscles?

Running is a popular sport for building muscles but it also depends on the intensity of your runs and how much you run every day. Running long distances intensely and frequently can lead to losing muscle mass.

But the good news is that you can build muscles with a proper diet and strength training regimen with long distance running.

Moreover, running is an aerobic exercise that is scientifically popular for its strong role in muscle development. Long distance running, cross-training, and a clean and healthy diet will help you build muscles.

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Combining high intensity and short duration running workouts can help you build lower body muscle, especially in your hamstrings and quadriceps. After ten weeks of regular training at high-intensity Interval Training, people increase the muscle fiber in their quadriceps muscles by 10.6%, found a study.
  • Incorporate strength training into your training regimen. If you’re only running and not performing strength work, then you may be going to lose some muscle mass. The idea is to mix up your training schedule to run on some days and do strength training on other days, ensuring that you strengthen and build your muscles when you don’t do your straight cardio.
  • Clean your diet: Make sure you are consuming adequate calories. While creating a slight calorie deficit can help you lose weight (if your goal is to lose weight), starving yourself can lead to muscle loss. 
  • Ensure that you eat enough protein, which repairs and builds muscle to prevent them from getting wasted. You must also consume healthy amounts of good fats to keep you full and provide you with a longer-lasting form of energy than carbs. Good nutrition is just as crucial for building muscle as running itself. Without sufficient nutrients, particularly protein, your body can’t support the muscle-building process.
    • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming about 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight to gain muscle. If you are a 150-pound (68 kg) person, it means you need 75 to 120 grams of protein per day.
  • Include carbs and fats: Carbs are your body’s favored energy source, particularly for anaerobic workouts like sprinting.
    • Healthy sources of carbs include:
      • Fruit
      • Starchy vegetables
      • Dairy products
      • Whole grains
      • Beans
    • Good fat sources include:
      • Fatty fish
      • Nuts
      • Extra virgin olive oil
      • Seeds
      • Whole eggs
      • Avocado
      • Nut butter.
  • Sleep and recovery are also essential to building muscles with running. When you rest, you give your muscles sufficient time to rebuild and become stronger. Without adequate rest, you will feel sore and might not perform well on your runs. Recovery can also mean rest or doing low-impact workouts, including yoga, walking, or swimming.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water or other beverages including healthy green smoothies can help regulate your body temperature. People who drank water daily consumed fewer total calories, drank fewer sweetened beverages, and took in less total fat, sugar, saturated fat, salt, and cholesterol, found studies.

Can a Distance Runner Gain Muscle?

Running is a great workout and it will help you to lose extra weight and build proper muscles. Generally, our body uses different muscles more depending on incline and speed.

For example, jogging pace targets our quads and calves, while regular runs work our glutes and hamstrings.

However, long-distance running can damage muscle growth. The longer the distance of your runs, the more significant muscle damage you sustain, which inhibits your body’s ability to grow muscle, found a study.

Since running long distances requires a lot of energy, there will be a chance of damaging muscle growth. You can prevent muscle loss during long runs by consuming a good amount of protein and adequate calories.

Can Long Distance Running Affect Your Muscles?

Running can build up your muscles but overdoing it can even hurt or damage your muscles. Generally, when we run, we use repetitive weight-bearing movements to work different muscles in your lower body, including your hamstrings, glutes, and quads, found a study issued in the Journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.

The researchers concluded that the best way to boost muscle growth with cardio is to train for about 30 to 40 minutes four to five days a week with an intensity of about 70-80% heart rate reserve.

Does Long Distance Run Build Muscles In The Legs?

You will mostly hit the leg muscles during running. With gradual running, you will start building muscles, especially in the legs. However, here the type of running matters a lot.

The more you run and build up endurance and start a protein diet, the greater muscle increase you will see. In addition, the flexibility and stability of your body will increase with daily running.

Does Spot Jogging Reduce Belly Fat?

Exercises like running help to burn belly fat easily and help you to reach the goals of your weight loss. But, long-distance running alone will not be enough to build muscle.

According to the International Journal of Exercise Science, sprint and muscle training, such as HIIT, can help you gain muscle mass if your goal is to increase muscle mass.

Besides your training, getting adequate rest, consuming a healthy and balanced diet, and listening to your body will also help you reach your muscle-building goals.

How Your Body Builds Muscle?

Our body builds muscle when there is an excess of muscle protein synthesis. Moreover, the body can reduce or increase the muscles based on the diet and workout you are doing.

Whether you are on a diet or not, there should be enough protein in your food.

See also: Is Running Too Slow Really Bad For You? (Find out now!)

Wrapping Up

Another important factor to keep in mind is to make sure you drink enough water. When you run, you will lose body water through sweating. A dehydrated body cannot work the same way as a healthy body. 

Sleeping and resting your body will help in fast muscle building. You cannot get the same results if you are not giving your body a break. As for results, it takes some time so be patient and try to run every day.

To get the best results with running long distances, ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet, cross-train and challenge yourself and don’t forget to rest and recover.


Hello friends, I am Altiné I am SO excited you are here! I believe in YOUR POWER to transform the world through a healthy lifestyle and diet, and that physical activity and diet are EVERYTHING when it comes to your health and well-being. My goal is to offer you a simple and science-based approach to building muscle, losing fat, getting happy and healthy, and living a meaningful and impactful life for you and your loved ones. So YOU can look better, feel better, live better, and go make more impact. Let’s do it.

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