Not only will it help you lose fat but it’s also important for overall fitness and health, which means you’ll be able to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Now this begs the question, “when should you do cardio?” and the way I see it you have a few options;
In this article we’ll explore each possible scenario, so you know when the best time to do cardio is for you.
One option is to get up early and get your cardio done first thing in the morning. This way you don’t have to worry about getting busy later in the day and not being able to do it. As an added bonus it also means that the gym will be quieter.
When this is the case it’s advisable to hydrate before you go and possibly have a small coffee if you need an extra little boost before heading out.
Alternatively, you might like to factor in a pre-workout meal which could be anything from a banana to a bowl of porridge depending on your preferences and the time you have available.
If you decide to do your cardio first thing in the morning then you will want to eat something post-workout in order to restock your glycogen stores and give you the energy you need to lift weights later in the day. If you do this, it should have no negative effects on your strength training.
However, it depends what you’re doing, how used to doing it you are and how intense it is. For example, doing an intense HIIT workout or a set of gruelling sprints may have a knock-on effect particularly if you’re planning on training legs later in the day.
Another potential issue with this is assuming that you have the time and energy to train twice a day. Sure, it can work for some people but for others, it is unrealistic for various reasons.
All these things need to be considered when deciding if this is right for you.
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Some people prefer to do their cardio before they lift weights, which allows them to hit the gym and get everything done all in one go and whilst this can be a plus in some people’s books it has a drawback.
Doing any sort of cardio whether it’s steady-state or HIIT will leave you with some fatigue which can cause your weightlifting performance will suffer.
Obviously, this is only a problem if your primary goal is strength-based and it’s worth bearing in mind that if you plan on lifting heavy or wish to make continual progress in the weights room then doing cardio first is not a good idea.
For example, think about anytime you’ve run for 30+ minutes or done a tough HIIT workout and now imagine trying to go straight to doing squats or deadlifts. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not the most effective way of doing things.
However, if your goal is to improve your 10k time and you’re lifting weights as supplementary training or because you enjoy then this type of setup, whilst not ideal, can work.
Just like some people prefer to do cardio first, lots of other people like to switch this around and do their weightlifting first. This also allows you to get everything done in one go but has the added benefit of not interfering with your workout performance.
This means you can hit the weights feeling fresh and ready before moving on to cardio afterwards. However, even doing it this way you need to be aware that your cardio performance may suffer, particularly if you’re trying to do a 5k run after a heavy squat session.
Like with cardio before weightlifting, switching it around to do your weightlifting first is a matter of priority. If you don’t have time to split them up, then you must decide which goal is more important to you.
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Another option is to break up your different training sessions onto different days i.e. weightlifting on some days and cardio on others.
Assuming your priority is building or maintaining your muscle mass then you would schedule your cardio workouts for your rest days. This removes the need to find the time and energy to train twice a day or fit your cardio in with your weightlifting workouts.
This works particularly well if the cardio you’re doing is low impact like walking as it will have no impact on your performance the next day and for most people, this is a solid option.
Like with a lot of things in fitness the answer to this question depends on a few things and whilst there isn’t a right or wrong answer per se, there will be a way that works better or worse for you depending on your goal.
As we’ve discussed in this article if your goal is to build or maintain muscle mass and get stronger in the gym then you’ll want to do your weightlifting when you’re at your freshest.
However, if your goal is to run a marathon or complete another cardio-based goal then you’ll want to put weightlifting on the back burner and prioritise your cardio training.
There are also a few other things besides your goal that you need to consider when making your decision:
Ultimately, different things will work for different people but over the years I’ve found that if you short on time and are most interested in body composition then doing your cardio after you’ve lifted weights or on rest days is ideal.
However, if you have more time available to you then pushing your cardio to either first thing in the morning or the evening and weightlifting in the middle of the day can also work well and helps prevent one workout from influencing the performance of the other.
Cardio is an important part of your effort to change your body composition and important for good overall health and fitness. However, when you do it is important.
If your goal is to get stronger and build or maintain your muscle mass, then you’ll want to avoid doing your cardio before you lift weights as it can decrease performance and increase your risk of injury. Instead, aim to do your cardio after you’ve lifted weights or on your rest days.
However, if your goal is cardio-based like running a 10k then you’ll want to prioritise this over your weightlifting and do your cardio first.
If you have the time then it’s ideal to split your training up so you’re at your freshest for both, but if you can’t then you need to find the setup that works best for your goals and lifestyle.