I've searched for questions about cholesterol before, and haven't found a satisfactory answer; most seemed to be all speculation and little fact. I was wondering whether the generally accepted strict limits on dietary cholesterol should always apply to everyone, or whether people on intensive exercise regimes could safely consider a different amount of dietary cholesterol to be safe. The basic distinction which occurs to me is:

  • Cardio athletes, such as runners, cyclists, swimmers and so on;
  • Hypertrophy athletes, such as bodybuilders and powerlifters

Do either of these exercise regimes either consume extra cholesterol, perhaps specifically in the recovery stage, destroy it such that it is no longer a problem, or emit some sort of enzymes or hormones that render it irrelevant?

As a layman I would expect hypertrophic exercises to consume extra cholesterol, since they promote the creation of extra tissue, of which cholesterol is an essential component. However, I realise that dietary cholesterol and cellular cholesterol are quite different, and consumption of one does not necessarily correlate with the presence of the other.

Is there any quality scientific literature on this topic, or does anybody have an educated view on the matter?


1 Answer 1


HIIT has a positive impact on cholesterol, the full text is at NIH.gov study. The abstract, with some sections highlighted is below:

This study examined the impact of an 8-week program of high-intensity interval training on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol (TC), and the atherogenic index (TC/HDL-C) in 36 untrained men ages 21-36 years. Participants were randomly assigned to an interval training group (n = 20) or a control group (n = 16). Participants in the experimental group performed 3.2 km of interval running (1:1 work:rest ratio) 3 times a week for 8 weeks at an intensity of 90% of maximal heart rate ( approximately 423 kcal per session). Results indicated significant pre- to posttraining changes in HDL-C (1.1 vs. 1.3 mmolxL, p < 0.0001) and TC/HDL-C (3.8 vs. 3.1, p < 0.0001) but no significant changes in TC (3.9 vs. 3.8 mmolxL, p > 0.05) with interval training. It was concluded that an 8-week program of high-intensity interval training is effective in eliciting favorable changes in HDL-C and TC/HDL-C but not TC in young adult men with normal TC levels. Our findings support the recommendations of high-intensity interval training as an alternative mode of exercise to improve blood lipid profiles for individuals with acceptable physical fitness levels.

  • This is an interesting study, and does confirm the beneficial effect of exercise on cholesterol levels, but it does not answer the OP's question. The question is whether or not exercise changes the recommendations for daily consumption, not whether or not exercise lowers cholesterol (Which has been proven many times over).
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 15:57

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