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I am a formerly overweight person who has lost weight and is interested in endurance sports such as distance running.

I feel my previous overweight frame has left me with chunky/rounded calf muscles rather than long lean muscles seen on other athletes who have always been lean. I am a naturally thin framed person.

I would like to lose excess muscle weight to improve endurance but can't find much information on how to achieve this.

A famous example would be Sir Bradley Wiggins who reportedly lost around 2 stone to go from an Olympic track cyclist to Tour de France winner.

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Here are your golden rules for losing muscle:

  1. Control your calorie intake. This is the good old general approach for weight loss. Because you want to lose muscle, pay special attention to protein. Having this in mind, reduce meat intake.
  2. Go for long cardio sessions. As you want to do distance running, include many long sessions in your training program (preferably longer than 45'). Use the weekends to do even longer ones (perhaps twice as long). On this stage, mileage is not important, just the number of hours you run a week/month. Intensity should not be higher than moderate (not higher than 75% from your maximum heart rate. Also, get acquainted with training zones if you aren't yet.) By keeping a low intensity you don't burn your legs, that way you avoid triggering muscle growth mechanisms.
  3. Exercise in a fasted state. If you are running up to an hour, try to do it in the morning and before breakfast. This way, your body will start using muscle tissue, instead of whatever you've already eaten, when the energy levels are low. I don't recommend this procedure for longer sessions unless you know yourself very well (meaning, how your body responds to training for very long when your sugar levels start falling).

I am supposing you can keep running for the durations I mentioned. If not, start your session running and switch to walking to recover (do not stop). Get back to running as you have your breathing under control again. Repeat until you finish the session.

Do the sessions at least once in the weekend (longer one) and 2 or 3 times in the week. If you are not comfortable yet with so much running, substitute a session with walking instead, but keep the duration.


The rules are simple and easy to understand. Sticking to the routine might be more difficult. If you are committed to it and definitely want to achieve this goal, give it a try for 1-2 months.

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  • Thanks. That is inline with other information I've been able to gather on some of the professional athletes. I'm a regular runner (around 60-80 miles/month) and a sub 3:30 marathon runner but I'd like to get close to or sub 3:00 next year and really achieve the fastest I can be. – MattP Nov 3 '16 at 19:31
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Just goes to show that there are very different notions of the ideal body...I'd love to have "chunky" calf muscles!

That said, I'm a believer in the adage, "form follows function." In other words, what matters here is how your body performs at the activity of interest, rather than how it looks. Your question is based on a presumption of a cause-and-effect relationship that is reversed.

If your goal is to have a leaner musculature, then this is driven by doing the kind of activities that result in that kind of development. However, if your goal is to perform better at the kind of activities that you enjoy irrespective of what your body looks like, then that is not automatically driven by changing your body to look like those who do well in those activities.

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