Can You Build Muscle Without Sacrificing Your Endurance Performance?

As a coach, a question I sometimes get from endurance athletes is, “Can you build muscle without sacrificing your endurance performance?” The answer to this question is YES!

There are multiple reasons why an endurance athlete would want to gain a bit more muscle mass. Some of the most common reasons are to improve power and speed, injury prevention, enhance metabolic efficiency, improve muscular endurance, greater resilience and recovery, performance in varied terrain, and mental and physical confidence.

Gaining muscle without sacrificing endurance requires a strategic approach to both strength training and nutrition. Here’s a comprehensive plan to help you achieve your goal:

Strength Training Plan

  1. Integrate Strength Training into Your Schedule:
    • Frequency: Aim for 3-4 strength training sessions per week.
    • Timing: Schedule these sessions on days when your endurance training is less intense to avoid excessive fatigue.
  2. Focus on Compound Movements:
    • Incorporate exercises that work multiple muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows.
    • These movements help stimulate muscle growth more effectively than isolation exercises.
  3. Progressive Overload:
    • Gradually increase the weights you lift over time to continually challenge your muscles and promote growth.
  4. Rep and Set Range:
    • Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps for each exercise. This range is optimal for hypertrophy (muscle growth).
  5. Include Periodization:
    • Cycle through different phases (e.g., hypertrophy, strength, power) every few weeks to prevent plateaus and keep your muscles adapting.

Nutrition Plan

  1. Caloric Surplus:
    • Consume more calories than you burn to support muscle growth. Aim for a surplus of 250-500 calories per day.
    • Monitor your weight and adjust your intake as needed to ensure you are gaining weight at a steady pace.
  2. Macronutrient Ratios:
    • Protein: Aim for 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth.
    • Carbohydrates: Ensure you have enough carbs to fuel your endurance training and recovery. Aim for 3-6 grams per kilogram of body weight.
    • Fats: Include healthy fats in your diet, aiming for about 20-30% of your total calorie intake.
  3. Nutrient Timing:
    • Pre-Workout: Consume a balanced meal with carbohydrates and protein about 2-3 hours before your workout.
    • Post-Workout: Have a protein-rich snack or meal within 30-60 minutes after training to optimize recovery. This can include a protein shake with carbs or a balanced meal.
  4. Hydration:
    • Stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Dehydration can impair both performance and recovery.

Sample Weekly Plan


  • Morning: Endurance training (moderate intensity)
  • Evening: Strength training (upper body focus)


  • Endurance training (high intensity, interval training)


  • Rest or light activity (yoga, stretching)


  • Morning: Endurance training (long, steady-state)
  • Evening: Strength training (lower body focus)


  • Strength training (full body, lighter weights, higher reps)


  • Endurance training (moderate intensity)


  • Rest or active recovery (light cycling, swimming)

Additional Tips

  1. Consistency: Stick to your plan consistently to see results. Muscle gain is a gradual process and requires persistent effort.
  2. Recovery: Ensure you are getting enough sleep and rest days. Muscles grow during recovery periods, not just during workouts.
  3. Monitor Progress: Keep track of your workouts, nutrition, and progress. Adjust your plan based on what works best for your body.

By integrating these strategies into your training and nutrition regimen, you can effectively gain muscle mass without sacrificing your endurance performance.