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Muscle Cross-Sectional Area and Endurance Performance

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  • Muscle Cross-Sectional Area and Endurance Performance

    Hello BBM,

    I'm at a bit of a crossroads with my training requirements and am looking for your advice. I have a large athletic background and have played soccer, baseball, track and field, and rugby as a teenager. From my early 20's to late 20's I focused on strength training and competed in a couple powerlifting meets. At this point I am currently a wildland firefighter and I have a feeling my increased muscle mass has been hurting my performance while hiking. I'm currently 30 years old, 5'9" 185lbs probably around 13% bodyfat (just a guess but based on past measurements). I don't have many issues when on flat ground, but I have a tough time keeping pace on PT hikes whenever we hit any kind of incline. I look at myself vs. everyone else on the crew and I carry more muscle mass than they do by far and I have done just as much if not more endurance training over the season to try and maintain pace. My thoughts are that I should switch my training up, lean out a bit, and that could help me overall with my hiking. I've reached the point where my strength far exceeds the requirements for the job, and the muscle-cross sectional area may be hindering my performance. The more muscle mass one carries the more oxygen demands are present during endurance bouts, hence my desire to lean up. Is this an acute or systemic demand, meaning since I'm hiking with my legs if I lean them up, reduce the oxygen demands, I will see an improvement. OR is it systemic and a whole body reduction of muscle mass would be required to see any significant change?

    Bring on the nuance.

  • #2
    Not a lot of nuance here to be honest, as I don't think that you're muscle mass or body fat levels are negatively influencing your conditioning level right now. Thus, I don't think "leaning out" or reducing muscle CSA will be helpful unless it occurs as an artifact of improving your conditioning via training- though it'd be best to preserve the majority of your muscle mass IMO.

    As you improve conditioning, your energy demands will decrease for any particular task and you'll be better able to support a given pace. Losing muscle mass won't do either on its own and you aren't carrying excess body fat so that is unlikely to work either.
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