Understanding and Creating a Nutrient Dense Diet

You may heard the phrase “Nutrient Dense Diet” before. 

It’s tossed around plenty in social media but it’s never explained how to go about creating a nutrient dense diet to fit your needs. 

This article delves into the concept of a nutrient dense diet, a key player in the realm of healthy eating. We’ll also be discussing how to go about incorporating foods into your diet that work specifically for you. 

Let’s dive into it.

What is a Nutrient Dense Diet?

A nutrient dense diet focuses on foods that offer a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients relative to their caloric content.

These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, providing more “bang for your buck” in terms of nutrient value.

The Importance of a Nutrient Dense Diet

Today’s fast-paced lifestyle often leads to a reliance on processed and convenience foods, which are typically low in essential nutrients.

This shift has resulted in deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals, making a nutrient dense diet more crucial than ever.

Nutrient dense foods, packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, counterbalance the trend by providing the body with the essential nutrients it often lacks due to modern dietary habits.


These foods not only fill nutritional gaps but also offer numerous health benefits.

They improve immune function, support healthy aging, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

By focusing on these nutrient powerhouses, we can combat the effects of nutrient poor diets and promote overall health and wellness.

Micronutrients: Food Sources vs Supplements

You may be saying though, that I can just supplement with a multivitamin (or a specific vitamin to fit your needs). Although in some cases that can work, we’re going to discuss why that isn’t always the best thing to do.

While supplements can play a role in filling nutritional gaps, obtaining micronutrients from whole foods is preferable.

Foods offer a complex matrix of nutrients that work synergistically, enhancing absorption and utilization by the body. This holistic approach is something supplements alone cannot replicate.

Plus, getting your nutrients from foods typically have micronutrients that tend to work well together.


For example, let’s take Salmon. 

Salmon is a decent food source with Vitamin D in it. 

When taking Vitamin D, it’s important to take it with a fatty food source. Salmon itself is a fatty food source so that benefits in the absorption of vitamin D. Salmon also has some magnesium in it too. 

You will notice this trend that the foods you eat will usually have an optimal blend of micro nutrients that work together fairly well. It’s not always the case though. 


Now, with supplements, if you take let’s say Vitamin D by itself. You are missing key nutrients in magnesium and Vitamin K2.

What does this mean? You need to now take supplements for magnesium and K2 as well.

There is nothing wrong with this, but it causes you to take more supplements overall which can add up in costs. 

Key Micronutrients for Optimal Health

Let’s go over some micronutrients you should focus on:

  • Vitamin A: Essential for vision, immune function, and skin health. Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens.

  • B Vitamins: A group of vitamins that aid in energy production, brain function, and cell metabolism. Includes B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12. Sources include whole grains, meats, and dark leafy greens.

  • Vitamin C: Important for immune function, skin health, and wound healing. Abundant in citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers.

  • Vitamin D: Crucial for bone health and immune function. Can be synthesized in the skin from sunlight and found in fatty fish and fortified foods.

  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that protects cells from damage. Found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.

  • Vitamin K: Necessary for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Found in green leafy vegetables, fish, meat, and dairy.

  • Zinc: Supports immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Found in meat, shellfish, legumes, and nuts.

  • Magnesium: Involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, including muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

  • Sodium: Essential for fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle function. Found in salt, processed foods, and naturally in some vegetables.

  • Potassium: Crucial for heart function, muscle contractions, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Found in bananas, potatoes, beans, and nuts.

  • Selenium: Plays a key role in metabolism and thyroid function. Found in Brazil nuts, seafood, and meats.

  • Iron: Vital for the formation of red blood cells and transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Found in red meat, beans, and fortified cereals.

  • Calcium: Essential for bone health and plays a role in muscle function and nerve signaling. Found in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and fortified foods.

  • Iodine: Important for thyroid health. Found in iodized salt, seafood, and dairy products.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Essential for heart and brain health. Found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

There is plenty to focus on here.

However, you will be surprised how certain foods have a decent combination of these nutrients.

Foods That Are Nutrient Dense

So we understand the importance of a nutrient dense diet and we have a good understanding of the nutrients too.

Let’s now go over nutrient dense foods. This isn’t a complete list as there are many foods I can probably cover. 

However, I’ll do my best to list the most accessible foods that are nutrient dense that you can incorporate into your diet.

  • Oysters: Rich in zinc, vitamin B12, and selenium. Oysters are excellent for immune support, brain health, and metabolism.

  • Liver (particularly beef liver): Packed with vitamin A, iron, B vitamins, and copper. Liver supports blood health, energy production, and vitamin A metabolism.

  • Salmon: High in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, B vitamins, and potassium. Beneficial for heart health, brain function, and inflammation reduction.

  • Steak: Provides high-quality protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Essential for muscle building, energy production, and immune health.

  • Fruits (such as berries, oranges, and bananas):

    • Berries: Antioxidant-rich, high in vitamin C and fiber. Support heart health and digestion.
    • Oranges: Excellent source of vitamin C and fiber. Promote immune function and skin health.
    • Bananas: High in potassium and vitamin B6. Support heart health and energy levels.
  • Eggs: Contain high-quality protein, B vitamins, and choline. Crucial for brain health, muscle building, and overall nutrient intake.

  • Vegetables (such as spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes):

    • Spinach: Rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Supports bone health and muscle function.
    • Kale: High in vitamins A, C, K, and antioxidants. Promotes heart health and immune function.
    • Sweet Potatoes: Packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and fiber. Beneficial for eye health and blood sugar regulation.
  • Fermented Foods (such as Natto and kimchi):

    • Natto: Rich in probiotics, vitamin K2, and protein. Supports gut health and bone health.
    • Kimchi: Contains probiotics, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants. Promotes digestive health and immune function.
  • Fermented Dairy Products (such as Kefir and Yogurt):
    • Kefir: Rich in probiotics, protein, B vitamins, potassium, and calcium. Supports gut health, bone health, and immune function. Known for its diverse probiotic strains.
    • Yogurt: Contains protein, calcium, B vitamins, and probiotics. Promotes bone health, and digestive health, and can aid in maintaining a healthy weight. Especially beneficial for gut health when it includes live cultures.
  • Nuts and Seeds (like almonds and chia seeds):
    • Almonds: High in vitamin E, magnesium, and healthy fats. Support heart health and brain function.
    • Chia Seeds: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. Beneficial for heart health and digestive health.
  • Whole Grains (such as quinoa and oats):

    • Quinoa: Complete protein source, high in fiber and B vitamins. Supports muscle health and energy production.
    • Oats: Rich in fiber, protein, and magnesium. Promote heart health and blood sugar control.

Incorporating Into Your Diet

Now that we have a nutrient dense list of foods, let’s go over how to incorporate these foods.

  1. Start Slow: Choose one or two nutrient dense foods from the list that appeal to you or fit easily into your current diet. Incorporate these foods into your meals a few times a week. For example, if you’re not used to eating fish, try adding salmon to your menu once or twice a week.

  2. Keep a Food Log: Document what you eat and how you feel in a food diary. This practice is not just about tracking your intake but also about observing how different foods impact your well-being. Note any changes in your energy levels, digestion, mood, and overall health.

  3. Evaluate Your Responses: After consistently consuming the new food for a while, assess how you feel. If you notice positive changes, such as more energy or better digestion, continue including it in your diet. However, if a particular food doesn’t agree with you or causes discomfort, consider eliminating it.

  4. Understanding Subtle Effects: Sometimes, the benefits of nutrient dense foods are not immediately noticeable. A lack of dramatic changes doesn’t mean the food isn’t beneficial. Many nutrients work in the background, supporting long-term health and preventing future issues. If food doesn’t have negative effects, keeping it in your diet can still contribute positively to your overall nutrient intake.

  5. Gradually Diversify: Once you’re comfortable with one new food, try introducing another. Gradually diversifying your diet this way ensures a broad range of nutrients and keeps your meals interesting.

Example of a Nutrient Dense Diet

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Avocado

  • Eggs: Protein and fats, vitamins B2 and B12, choline.
  • Spinach: Iron, magnesium, vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Avocado: Healthy fats, fiber, vitamins E and C.

Mid-Morning Snack: Greek Yogurt with Berries and Chia Seeds

  • Greek Yogurt: Protein, calcium, probiotics.
  • Berries: Antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber.
  • Chia Seeds: Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein.

Lunch: Salmon Salad

  • Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, B vitamins.
  • Mixed Greens: Vitamins A, C, K, iron, fiber.
  • Almonds: Vitamin E, magnesium, protein.

Afternoon Snack: Nuts and Seeds Mix

  • Mixed Nuts (Almonds, Walnuts): Protein, healthy fats, vitamin E.
  • Seeds (Pumpkin, Sunflower): Magnesium, zinc, protein.

Dinner: Grilled Steak with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli

  • Steak: Protein, iron, B vitamins.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, fiber.
  • Broccoli: Vitamins C and K, fiber, folate.

Evening Snack: Kefir with a Banana

  • Kefir: Probiotics, protein, calcium.
  • Banana: Potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C.


A nutrient dense diet can be extremely beneficial for you and can even help you ditch taking vitamins altogether if done correctly.

When incorporating foods, it’s important to log them and note any dietary effects. Some foods may agree with you more than others.

For example, Liver for me gave me massive headaches. So I needed to take it out of my diet. Whereas something like Kefir often makes me feel satiated and has positive effects overall for my health. 

Take note of these things and notice how it plays out for you.

The Essential Trio: Vitamin D3, Magnesium, and Vitamin K2

Vitamin D3, Magnesium, and Vitamin K2 are just some of the supplements that you need in your vitamin stack.

These vitamins and minerals play pivotal roles.

Among them, Vitamin D3, Magnesium, and Vitamin K2 stand out for their unique benefits and interdependent functions. This article delves into the importance of each and why they should be consumed together for optimal health.

I’ll also be going over recommended supplements and my personal dosage pairings of them.

Disclaimer: The following information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for personal health concerns.

What is Vitamin D3?

Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is a fat-soluble vitamin.

Unlike other vitamins, it functions like a hormone in our bodies.

It’s naturally synthesized in the skin upon exposure to sunlight, but can also be obtained through dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified foods.

Importance of Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 is crucial for various bodily functions, notably aiding in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, essential for bone health.

It also supports immune function, brain health and can influence mood.

A majority of people are deficient in Vitamin D3. As a society today, we stay inside more often and tend to not be outside as much causing such issues.

Unfortunately, a deficiency in Vitamin D3 can lead to several health issues.

Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, mood changes, and frequent infections.

Chronic deficiency can lead to more serious conditions like osteoporosis and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin D3 also plays a role in testosterone production.

Studies have shown that adequate levels of Vitamin D3 are linked to higher testosterone levels, which is vital for muscle growth, bone health, and overall energy levels.

If you go to a doctor, you can easily request a Vitamin D3 test to get your levels checked.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a vital mineral found abundantly in the body.

It’s present in various foods, including nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.

Magnesium is involved in many biochemical reactions in the body, making it a cornerstone of good health.

Magnesium used to be more available in the foods and liquids we took but isn’t as much anymore.

There are many factors to the reasoning why:

  • Soil Depletion: Modern agricultural practices have led to soil depletion, reducing the amount of magnesium available to plants.
  • Food Processing: Processing and refining foods often strip away magnesium, particularly in the case of grains where the magnesium-rich outer layers are removed.
  • Dietary Changes: There’s a trend towards consuming more processed foods, which typically contain lower levels of magnesium compared to whole, unprocessed foods.

There are several types of magnesium, each with specific benefits:

  • Magnesium Citrate: Known for its bioavailability and used often for its laxative effect and to treat magnesium deficiency.
  • Magnesium Oxide: Commonly used for relief from indigestion and to alleviate migraines.
  • Magnesium Chloride: Easily absorbed and used for detoxing, metabolism enhancement, and kidney function improvement.
  • Magnesium Lactate: Often used as a food additive and is gentler on the digestive system.
  • Magnesium Sulfate: Also known as Epsom salt, it is frequently used in baths to soothe muscle aches.
  • Magnesium Glycinate: Highly absorbable and recommended for those trying to correct a deficiency, known for its calming effects.
  • Magnesium Malate: Known for its high bioavailability and energy-boosting properties. It’s often recommended for those with fatigue or fibromyalgia.

Why is Magnesium Important

The importance of magnesium spans from supporting muscle and nerve function to aiding in energy production.

It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Some symptoms can present themselves if you’re deficient and/or just not getting enough magnesium throughout the day.

Some of these symptoms include muscle cramps, headaches, mental disorders, and an increased risk of chronic diseases.

What is Vitamin K2?

Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a critical role in blood clotting and bone metabolism.

It’s found in fermented foods, and certain animal products, and produced by gut bacteria.

K2 helps in the regulation of calcium deposition, ensuring it reaches the bones and teeth rather than accumulating in soft tissues.

Vitamin K2, especially in an American diet is often absent due to the lack of fermented foods eaten.

Summary: Vitamin K2, crucial for blood clotting and bone health, is found in fermented foods and some animal products.

Why Vitamin K2 is Important

Vitamin K2 is vital for calcium metabolism.

It not only helps in building strong bones but also prevents calcification of arteries and other soft tissues.

Its role in cardiovascular health is increasingly recognized, making it an essential nutrient for long-term health maintenance.

Caution: While K2 is beneficial for most people, you should consult with your doctor first before taking it due to the potential effects it could have.

Some people who should be considerably cautious include:

  • Individuals on Blood Thinners: People taking anticoagulant medications (like Warfarin) should be cautious, as Vitamin K2 can interfere with the effectiveness of these drugs.
  • Those with Certain Health Conditions: Individuals with conditions like chronic kidney disease or those prone to blood clots should consult their doctor before starting K2 supplements.
  • Pregnant or Nursing Mothers: While K2 is generally safe, it’s always advisable for pregnant or nursing women to consult a healthcare professional before adding any supplement to their regimen.

The Importance of Taking Vitamin D3, Magnesium, and Vitamin K2 Together

These vitamins/minerals all complement each other and are needed together to get the most out of it.

Vitamin D3 aids in the absorption of calcium, which is regulated by K2 to ensure it’s deposited in the right places.

Magnesium is necessary for the activation of Vitamin D; without it, D3 remains inactive and ineffective.

This trio works in harmony to support bone health, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being.


Taking Vitamin D supplements without adequate K2 can pose risks. Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption, but without K2 to direct this calcium to bones and teeth, it can lead to vascular calcification.

This is where calcium deposits in the arteries, potentially leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease. K2’s role in guiding calcium to the correct locations in the body is therefore essential to prevent these adverse effects.

If you are supplementing Vitamin D3, you MUST take it with K2 or at least it with foods high in K2. 

Anecdotal Story

When I started taking Vitamin D3, everything went well for the first couple of weeks.

After 2 weeks, I started to succumb to migraines, headaches, and vertigo. Not knowing the cause, I stopped all the supplements I was on and it went away.

I introduced Vitamin D3 again and immediately those symptoms came back.

I couldn’t find much about it until eventually I learned about the importance of pairing Vitamin D3, magnesium, and K2. 

For me, the pairing of magnesium specifically eliminated the headaches and vertigo.  

Recommended Supplements

Getting the proper supplements is very important. 

I’ll be giving you the specific supplements I take and the dosage. 

Again, please consult your doctor before supplementing.

This is not medical advice.

Vitamin D3 +K2 Supplement

Solaray Vitamin D3 + K2 Review

A fantastic Vitamin D3 supplement with much-needed k2. You can't go wrong with this tiny daily supplement to help bring up your D3 levels in an optimal way.

This is my favorite supplement to take. It has the proper ratio of Vitamin D3 and K2.

I only take 1 serving which is 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 and 50 mcg of K2.

You can take 2 capsules if needed and are severely deficient. 

If you are interested in this product, check out our review.

Source Naturals Magnesium Malate

Source Naturals Magnesium Malate

A magnesium malate supplement without a high dosage for you take easily and more if needed.

I love this supplement because malate is perfect to take in the morning to help with energy levels (I also take vitamin D3 in the morning too)

I take about ~200mg of this. So it might be around 2 pills. Personally, 3 pills always give me gastro issues.

Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate

Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate

A magnesium glycinate supplement without a high dosage to help relax you.

I take magnesium glycinate at night time before I go to bed. This supplement itself helps with my sleep and gives me extremely vivid dreams

I also wrote a review about this product. I can not recommend it enough.

I take about 200mg of this as well.

Overall, I take:

  • Vitamin D3 – 5000 IU – morning
  • Vitamin K2 – 50 mcg – morning
  • Magnesium Malate – ~200mg – morning
  • Magnesium Glycinate – ~200mg – night 

This combination has my vitamin D levels in a great range but I also don’t suffer any of the symptoms I used to.

Final Thoughts

The combination of Vitamin D3, Magnesium, and K2 is more than a sum of its parts.

Understanding their roles and collective impact can greatly enhance our approach to health and wellness.

Incorporating these nutrients into your diet, whether through food or supplements, can lead to significant health benefits.

How Much Protein to Intake After a Workout?

Intaking protein after a workout, especially when it comes to a certain amount is often either misunderstood or neglected.

Some people throw down over 100g of protein and some people don’t have any protein at all due to their schedules or they just forget. 

New research (2023) has changed the stance on how much protein to intake after a workout that we are going to cover.


Protein itself plays a vital role in our diets, especially when focusing on hypertrophy or retaining muscle mass. (Although, it should be an important factor in every diet regardless of goal)

So this article will go into understanding protein, its importance, how much we need daily, how much to take after workouts, and the optimal times to take protein.

What is Protein?

Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids. They’re essential for building and repairing tissues, making enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.

The human body can synthesize some amino acids, but others, known as essential amino acids, must be obtained through diet.

A complete protein source provides all the essential amino acids. Animal-based foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, and a few plant-based sources like quinoa and soy, are complete proteins.

Protein is a crucial building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

The Importance of Protein

Protein is vital for muscle repair, growth, and maintaining a healthy metabolism.

It plays a critical role in building and repairing tissues, especially after exercise.

Adequate protein intake supports immune function, aids in weight management by enhancing satiety, and is essential for overall health and well-being.

What Happens if I Don’t Get Enough Protein

Not consuming enough protein can lead to several health issues like muscle wasting, weakened immune system, increased risk of bone fractures, and more.

Protein is vital for a healthy lifestyle especially when trying to build muscle mass. 

How Much Protein Per Day

Before we get into how much protein to intake after a workout, we need to know how much to intake throughout the day.

The recommended daily intake of protein varies depending on age, sex, physical activity level, and health goals.

Generally, a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

For those engaged in regular exercise, the need increases to around 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram, depending on the intensity of the activity.

If you are curious about how much protein you need to intake per day, check out our macro calculator.

How Much Protein to Intake After a Workout

Post-workout is a crucial time for protein intake.

Considering how crucial it is, how much protein to intake after a workout?

There has always been nuance about how much protein to intake especially since there is an idea that your body only “uses” a certain amount of protein at a time.

This isn’t true, to begin with, but other people suggested that taking over a certain amount of protein doesn’t muscle protein synthesis plateaus after a certain amount of protein (depending on the person) which is more plausible. 

New research has shown that a higher intake of protein even after a workout can still lead to a greater and prolonged anabolic response. 

In the study specifically, this was with ingesting 100g of protein. The original belief was to max out around 40g-60g for a meal.

This study shows that you can intake any high amount of protein and still achieve great and even better results.

I believe getting 100g in one sitting is a bit difficult, but if you can get at least 40-50g after a workout would be ideal. 

However, you DO NOT need to worry about getting too much, which is great to know.

Optimal Times for Protein

So we know that taking protein after a workout doesn’t truly have an upper limit as of yet. We can at least conclude that you can intake more than half your protein intake in one sitting after a workout and it’ll have a benefit.

We also know consuming less than 25g of protein after a workout isn’t truly ideal either.

How about the rest of the day though?

To keep muscle protein synthesis elevated throughout the whole day, ideally, I would suggest consuming around 25-30g of protein per meal at a minimum with most of your protein intake coming in after a workout.

However, if you are someone who does fasting or doesn’t have time to spread out their protein, it’s still ok to get all your protein all at once.

The most important thing is that you get enough protein throughout the day. 

Timing of it (outside of after workout) is a smaller detail and there are ways to optimize it but you don’t miss out on exceptional gains because you missed out on a 2-hour window of intaking protein.

Final Thoughts

The amount of protein to intake after a workout is important.

Intaking over 40-60g of protein after a workout is ideal. Having even more than that shows that it doesn’t hurt you either and can be beneficial.

For the rest of your day, spreading protein is still ideal, but if it’s not, it’s not going to cost you significant gains in the end.

Make sure you are:

  1. Getting enough protein to achieve hypertrophy and/or retain muscle mass.
  2. The amount of protein to intake after a workout should be at or over 40-60g 

If you have those 2 points in order, you will be fine.

Can Cardio Kill Your Gains?

Can cardio kill your gains?

Cardio killing your gains is a tale as old as time.

It’s something talked about in the fitness world since iron was originally pumped!

Okay, maybe not… but it’s been a topic of discussion for a while and it’s something still believed by many. People avoid cardio for this specific reason.

We’re going to go over the origins of this, how cardio can potentially kill your gains, and how to avoid it.

The Origin of the ‘Cardio Kills Gains’ Notion

The belief that cardio might impede muscle growth has its roots in bodybuilding and strength training communities for what feels like forever.

The first reason comes into the bulk/cutting scenario. 

The average gym goer usually favors minimizing cardio to maximize muscle hypertrophy (gaining muscle), especially on a bulk.

Then, they abuse cardio on a cut, leading to potentially losing muscle mass.

The other scenario is even when they are bulking and incorporating cardio, they are either not seeing results or overreaching, minimizing muscle growth and strength.

Overreaching is when a person’s accumulation of training leads to poor performance. 

How Cardio Can Negatively Impact Muscle Gains

So, how can cardio impact you making gains?

Let’s go over it.

No Longer In a Caloric Surplus

If you’re someone on a bulking regimen and you incorporate cardio into your regimen, you’re going to be burning more calories than usual.

If you’re bulking correctly, you’re probably not in a large surplus of calories to minimize gaining fat too fast.

Doing cardio but not increasing your caloric intake to meet your new energy expenditure can result in you now being in maintenance and potentially in a deficit. 

Unless you’re a newbie, you need to have a caloric surplus to gain muscle. It is a very very slow and most times impossible process to gain muscle while at maintenance or a deficit. 

If you are a newbie, you make gains easier than people who are already trained. So newbies may see muscular gains even though they’re at maintenance or deficit. (Although, it would still be recommended if you’re trying to gain muscle to be in a surplus)

Overreaching / Overtraining

The other scenario is that you may be doing too much intense cardio that it is starting to hurt your recovery.

A negative impact on your recovery will start to cause your training to take a nose dive. You will start overreaching.

You will notice you don’t have much energy to work out, your workouts in general are weaker than in previous weeks and you lack motivation for training.

You need to incorporate cardio properly to prevent this from happening to you.

Strategies to Prevent Cardio from Hindering Hypertrophy

Now that we know some common reasons why cardio can kill your gains, let’s look into how we can fix these issues.

Increase Caloric Intake

Increasing your calories to match your new energy expenditure is imperative to continuously make gains. 

Not doing so, as mentioned previously will leave you potentially in a maintenance or a deficit resulting in making it extremely difficult/impossible to make any gains.

I would suggest increasing your calories by an extra 100 for a week. Take your weight every day and average it out by the end of the week.

If you notice on average you haven’t gained any weight, increase by another 100 and do the same process above until you’re averaging the amount of weight you wish to gain week to week.

Decrease Intense Cardio or Deload

Decreasing intense cardio or deloading may be your best bet if you are overreaching / overtraining. 

Decreasing the intense cardio and swapping it out for Zone 2 may be best especially if you still want to incorporate cardio into your regimen.

If you still need to keep the intense cardio, you may just need to deload for a week and see where you are at.

If that doesn’t work either, you may need to reprioritize your goals and see what is most important to you.

Final Thoughts

Cardio itself doesn’t affect your gains. 

Cardio however does increase stress on the body and makes you burn more calories. Both of those can potentially hinder you from making gains either because you’re overreaching/overtraining or because your caloric intake is too low to make any gains.  

Increasing calories to meet your energy expenditure and be in a surplus is a must when incorporating cardio.

If that doesn’t work, either having a deload week or decreasing the amount of intense cardio may be your best options to successfully continue with your training.