Does Hiking Burn Muscle? (All You Need To Know)

Does Hiking Burn Muscle

Usually, when people go hiking, it serves as a form of recreation, builds muscle, increases endurance, and develops strong legs.

However, muscle burns from hiking are an unexpected outcome, and I am sure you are wondering if it is even possible and how it happens.

After conducting in-depth research on this matter, I have come to an absolute and appropriate conclusion.

Undoubtedly, hiking plays the overall role of building body mass, but there are also a few limitations. For instance, hiking may burn muscles when you fail by not eating enough food or overworking your muscles. So to avoid muscle burns eat enough food and avoid challenging hikes.

As we continue with the steps of this article, we will see if hiking causes muscle loss.

For example, if it makes you bulky, whether it’s effective for weight loss, cardio or muscle, and how many calories we can burn.

Will Hiking Make You Lose Muscle? 

Does Hiking Burn Muscle

The plain truth remains that hiking has a very low chance of helping you increase your muscle mass. And worse yet, if you overdo it (hike) or eat poorly, you will lose muscle.

You will see little progress in muscle gain in the initial four to eight weeks of a training regiment. After that, each person will have to adjust in their unique way. 

To “improve” your strength, your body and muscles must become more efficient. The signal to contract or relax a muscle goes to and from the brain via nerves in every muscle.

When you exercise your muscle regularly for 4-8 weeks, your body adapts by activating more nerve connections necessary to use the muscle to its fullest potential. 

The process has a name: neuromuscular adaptation. Progress stalls out when you go past the first 4-8 weeks. 

You’ve reached the limit of your nerves’ ability to stimulate growth, and now your body needs to grow even bigger by putting additional effort into constructing and maintaining muscle mass.

The ideal number of “energized/engaged” muscles for the human body is the minimum necessary to perform daily tasks. 

Stopping using a muscle group causes the body to reduce its size and save energy by weakening the neuromuscular connections to the unused muscle group.

Cutting back on your dietary intake can have adverse effects on your heart, brain, and gut, and a recent study published in Scientific Reports shows that it can also cause you to lose muscle mass as you get older.

And this is a significant concern given the average age-related loss of muscle mass.

 Moreover, the loss of mobility and other serious health problems with this process speeding up are hallmarks of sarcopenia.

#1. What You Can Do

If you’re hiking, then hike the right way. What little food you have should be used for fueling your hike and helping your muscles recover from their exertions. 

The food should be for something other than keeping your upper body in shape, which you will use sparingly.

You may be too exhausted or unmotivated to perform further push-ups or pull-ups. Not a problem.

Save your limited food supply on your upper body muscles, which use very little.

Maintaining strength in your upper body and core is essential for hiking and carrying heavy resupply packs. 

Remember that your body will maintain an appropriate amount of muscle mass to deal with the stresses it is under.

Therefore, there is no need to worry about muscle atrophy if you replenish every five days.

Your arms will lose strength quickly, and trekking poles won’t help because they need to put on more mass. 

With trekking poles, you’ll use your triceps and deltoids, but it won’t amount to much in strength training or muscle maintenance.

In addition to improving your health and functionality, keeping your muscle mass up with regular exercise and consuming nutrient-dense diets may increase your lifespan.

Moreover, sarcopenia is not unavoidable and can even be reversed with measures such as regular exercise, refraining from smoking, and consuming nutrient-rich foods. 

The earlier you begin as a young person, the more muscle mass you will keep as you age, so this recommendation is for more than just folks in their middle years and beyond.

Does Hiking Make You Bulky? 

It’s safe to assume that if hiking is your only exercise, you’ll notice a difference in your leg strength. But not much expectation from muscle building.

If you haven’t worked out regularly in months or years, your leg muscles are more prone to hypertrophy since they can easily tear and repair.

Muscle hypertrophy is a word for an increase in muscle size. But remember that even if you hike many times a week, your legs won’t noticeably lengthen.

In this way, the process of gaining muscle mass is more akin to toning your legs than it is to developing two enormous meat slabs.

If you are an athlete or have been lifting weights for at least half a year, you probably won’t notice any muscle changes. 

Your training on the field or in the gym will be far more strenuous than the average walk. 

To put it another way, you won’t suffer the same muscle damage or tears as someone just starting to work out. 

You can destroy your muscular gains if you’ve been weight training for a long time, have driven your body to the point where you’ve gained a lot of muscle, and aren’t cautious.

When hiking, you will burn many calories simply because the muscle fibers and glycogen stored within them will function as an energy source.

You will lose muscle if you push your body too far on a long and arduous hike without supplying it with enough food. You may sound like it’s an exaggeration. 

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on a strenuous walk only to find that I couldn’t lift as much weight in the gym on the days that followed.

The primary target of muscle building from hiking is the leg. But the particular muscles that will become targets depend on the hiking activity. 

It means that the muscles affected will either be from ascending or descending a hill or mountain.

#1. From Ascending

Your hamstrings, glutes, and calves will feel the strain the most as you make your way up the hill or mountain because you’re working all three muscles more than your quads. 

In any case, women don’t go hiking because doing so will significantly increase the size of their buttocks.

Resistance training, or weight lifting, is the only technique to significantly increase the size of your legs and butt.

#2. From Descending

Your quadriceps will get a good workout as you descend the mountain, fighting against the force of gravity. But, of course, you will feel the pain!

Any exercise training uses a large number of muscles all over the body. The same holds for hiking. 

The next day, you can feel sore in your abs, back, or trapezius even if you didn’t utilize those muscles during the previous day’s activity.

Is Hiking Effective for Weight Loss?

The answer is yes; hiking can be a terrific supplement to your weight loss plan. In the same way that running or cycling would, hiking is a cardiovascular exercise that can help you lose weight.

As a bonus, hiking isn’t a chore. On the contrary, it’s exhilarating and fun, and you can do it practically anywhere, at any time of year.

Hiking is easy to get into and participate in because it doesn’t need any specialized gear. However, trekking poles may be helpful for some people.

Hiking is easy on the body and joints because of its mild impact. You can go hiking alone, with a group, or with your loved ones. You decide.

You can have a completely new hiking experience every time you go because trails come in so many varieties, and you can find them in many different places. 

Hiking is a fantastic way to get fresh air, burn calories, and change your training routine without realizing it.

Is Hiking a Cardio or Muscle?

Hiking is an excellent form of exercise that can boost your endurance and cardiovascular health in a manner that lifting weights just can’t. Hence it is both cardio and muscle.

Everyone who has ever felt their heart about to explode immediately before finally reaching the summit of a mountain knows what I’m talking about. 

To some extent, hiking can also be therapeutic. From the beginning of this article, hiking is an excellent way to strengthen and build a little muscle.

Hiking as cardio proves to be more effective in spiking heart rate when you hike on rugged surfaces rather than on asphalt or well-maintained dirt paths.

The reason is that it requires more energy to walk through such challenging paths. And by including hills and mountains elevation changes, you’ll derive cardio benefits.

The table below shows the benefits of hiking as both a cardio and muscle exercise;

Cardio Muscle 
Help in losing weight Increases muscle mass
Increases staminaBuild stronger bones
Builds a stronger immune systemMakes joint flexible
Help in clearing the arteries 
Strengthens the muscle of the heart 

How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn?

How much fat and calories you burn while hiking for weight loss depends on several things. These factors include things like age, gender, and body mass index.

Other factors include the time you’ve been doing the activity, your body composition, and your total daily activity level.

Realizing what works wonders for one to lose weight fast may be different for you.

Including regular physical activity in your life and schedule is the single most significant step you can take toward reaching your weight loss goals.

Once you attain your target weight, you should continue exercising. However, it would be best to consider it a routine aspect of your existence. 

To be physically active and to enjoy the outdoors in one activity, hiking is hard to beat.

The CDC also says that hiking is an activity that burns more calories than any other cardio activity. 

For example, according to CDC, when hiking, a 154-pound person can burn an average of 185 calories every 30 minutes.


Hiking will help you build muscle but at a very poor rate. On the other hand, hiking will burn muscle if you overdo it or end up eating very poorly.

Hiking can never go as far as making you bulky, but it is an activity that supports and builds your cardio and muscle.

Josh Matthews

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