When Should You Do Your Cardio?

Many people wonder when they should do their cardio.  Do it before or after they lift weights?  The answer is different for every individual, but no matter what your fitness goals are, cardiovascular training is an incredibly important part of your routine.  Here are some tips for making sure you get the most out of your cardio training time.

We get most of our workout energy from a compound in our bodies called glycogen.  Glycogen is long term energy storage produced and stored in muscles and fat cells.  We get the glycogen we need from the food we eat, so the most important thing to know about any workout is that doing it on an empty stomach is a bad idea.  If you haven’t eaten before your session, your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to perform at an optimal level.  This means you won’t see the results you want or expect because your body will start to feed on valuable muscle cells, rather than food stores to power the workout.

If your goal is to lose weight, you want your workout to have the largest afterburn effect possible.  The afterburn effect is best for weight loss because calories burn for up to 48 hours after your session, not just during it.  Heavy resistance training workouts have been shown to induce big afterburn effects, increasing cardiovascular health and strength, though scientific evidence is ultimately inconclusive.  Another excellent reason to save your cardio for second is safety.  Doing cardio before lifting uses up the glycogen stored in muscles, which means you don’t have it to help you pick those weights up.  By lifting first, you have the help you need to perform weight lifting exercises safely and correctly.  Not only does doing cardio second keep you safe, by the time you get to the cardio portion of your session, the lower glycogen stores in your muscles will lead your body to start using energy stores from fat cells.

If you have time in your day, you want to separate your lifting and cardio sessions into two separate times of day with two or more hours in between.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have that much time to exercise and are doing weights and cardio back to back, find what works best for you.  Try doing an intense run before you lift, try switching them and comparing how you felt after each one.  There is also the option to mix them together, doing a round of weightlifting followed by a sprint in a high intensity interval.  Since fat burn doesn’t actually occur while we work out, but one to 48 hours later, the determining factor is how much energy you expend overall.

The best answer is to do what works best for you.  Try each style of workout, writing down how you felt before, during and after each one then deciding which one you like best.  You also don’t have to stick with one style, you can always, and should regularly, change your workout so your muscles keep responding.

Questions?  Need or want help developing a plan to reach your goals?  Email us!  Info@FitNicePT.com

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