Does Hiking Make You Lose Muscle? (Truth Revealed)

Does Hiking Make You Lose Muscle

The world we live in today stresses a lot the need to engage in the form of exercise or the other.

Additionally, some experts go further than telling you to exercise; they tell you the best exercises to do.

While cardio exercises, like hiking, rank high among the most important exercises, some people notice that they lose muscle mass after a hiking trip.

Typically, hiking does not make you lose muscles. Instead, it helps to build muscles – if you do it right. One of the common reasons why people lose muscle mass after hiking is because they do not eat properly. You must know that great muscle-building maintenance requires good exercise and a healthy diet.

This article will address the relationship between hiking and muscle mass loss; and how you can prevent losing muscles on your next hiking trip.

Can Hiking Make Me Lose Muscle?

Does Hiking Make You Lose Muscle

Yes, hiking can make you lose muscle if you do not follow the correct practices.

Unlike fat burning, which happens during exercise, most muscle building or burning occurs after exercise.

And hiking does not target all your muscles, especially your upper body muscles. During hiking, the muscles that receive the most strain are your leg muscles.

That is your quadriceps and hamstrings in your thighs, soleus and gastrocnemius in your calves, and glutes.

How you build or burn these muscles depends on several factors, which include:

#1. Body Type

If you are new to exercising, hiking is going to have effects on your muscles. This means your muscles are more likely to rip as you hike, creating a basis for muscle building and toning.

However, if you already engage in different exercises like weightlifting, you may not notice any difference in your muscle mass.

In truth, like other cardio exercises, hiking does more to burn calories, build your stamina, and tone your muscles.

#2. Hiking Intensity and Frequency

The more intense and frequent your hiking routine is, the more muscles you are likely to affect. This principle works across all other exercises.

It would be best to focus on hiking trails with steeper elevations to work more muscles. 

These elevations make you ascend in a lunge-like position, bringing your body closer to the ground and intensifying the drill.

Additionally, if you go on muscle-tasking hikes several times a week without the right post-hiking practices, you will most likely burn your muscles rather than build them.

#3. Post-Hiking Practices

Post-hiking practice is the most significant factor in muscle development or loss. Now, hiking causes you to expend the energy stored in your muscles, ripping them in the process.

After hiking, your muscles are supposed to relax and repair themselves. These repairs make your muscles grow bigger – if they have suitable materials to work with.

Muscles do not require any secret or unique materials to work with other than adequate rest and a proper diet.

Research shows that our bodies undergo most repairs when we are asleep.

Therefore, getting at least eight hours of sleep ensures your muscles have enough time to complete all necessary repairs.

Now, it is not enough to give your body time to repair if you do not provide the fuel for these repairs. What this means is you need a healthy diet.

Muscle building relies a lot on protein. Therefore, your diet should include excellent protein sources like fish, meat, milk, eggs, and poultry.

Also, you should include carbs and fats but in lesser proportions. If you need help with how to plan your meals, you can check out online body-building meal planners.

Good rest and a balanced diet work hand-in-hand with hiking to build, repair, and tone muscles that tear up during the exercise.

How Much Muscle Will I Lose on a One-Week Hiking Trip?

How many muscles or, better put, the weight you lose (or gain, if you hike right) depends on several factors, which include:

#1. Body Weight

Studies show that the heavier you are, the more calories you will burn per hour of hiking.

If you go hiking with a friend about 20 kg heavier, their muscles will suffer more strain than you.

The table below shows the average amount of calories one can burn in an hour with an average speed of three miles per hour.

Weight (in Pounds)Mild Hiking Trails Medium or Steep Hiking Trails
180 435656

#2. Hiking Trails

Hiking trails vary in the degree of steepness. And these trials are classified into percentage grades. 

Grades that fall within 1 to 5 percent are mild trails, while those between 6 to 15 percent are medium-grade trails.

The higher grades with values of more than 15 up to 35 percent are steep trails.

From the table above, we can see that steeper trails cause you to use more muscles and lose more weight.

#3. Athletic Nature

If you already exercise regularly, you will lose less weight than someone who does not. 

Hiking will only serve as muscle toner for you, while it will exert maximum strain on the other person’s muscles.

#4. Weight of Backpack

What you carry on your hiking expedition plays a role in determining how hard you work your muscles, therefore affecting how much weight you lose.

If you pack a heavier bag and have to climb a steep trail, you will lose more weight than the person who packs a lighter bag.

#5. Temperature

The environmental temperature, weather, or season also affects how much weight you lose. 

For example, hiking in the summer or hotter regions will help you burn more calories than hiking in the winter or colder regions.

#6. Daily Hike Duration

Like every other exercise, consistency is the best and safest way to get desired results. 

For example, if you have a weight goal when you begin your hike, consistently following through will help you achieve that goal better.

If you go 20 miles on the first day, then five miles the next, you will lose less weight than someone who hikes 15 miles daily throughout your one-week hiking trip.

You should know that getting enough rest and food is best after each hike.

How to Prevent Muscle Loss When Hiking?

You can prevent muscle loss when hiking by keeping to the following practices:

  • Knowing your limits would help you not push yourself to the extreme. 
  • It is best to start small and increase your mileage gradually.
  • Get enough rest after each hike to allow your sore muscles to repair themselves. You should know that the best form of rest is good ole sleep.
  • Eating a balanced diet with a lot of protein will help prevent muscle loss.
  • Other exercises in your routine, like squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, and lunges, are good ways to build muscles.


#1. Does Hiking Build Abs?

You cannot get abs from hiking alone. It would help if you combined hiking with more targeted exercises like crunches and planks.

#2. Does Hiking Burn Fat?

Yes, hiking will help you burn down fat in your body, including belly fat.

#3. Is Hiking a Good Way to Lose Weight?

Like every other form of exercise, hiking is an excellent way to lose weight.

However, you must follow a consistent exercise routine with adequate rest and a balanced nutrition plan.


Now, hiking will not give you muscles like a ripped weight lifter. However, eating a balanced diet and getting enough rest after a hike will help tone those muscles nicely.

To build more muscles, you should consider more targeted exercises.

Always remember that different factors can affect how well your body will respond to the exercise.

Josh Matthews

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