When Should I Do My Cardio During My Workout? By Nick Nilsson
When it comes to fat loss, one of THE most frequently-asked questions I get is "to maximize fat loss, should I do my cardio before or after my weight training?"
I know there are times when I like to be kept in suspense…
But I'm not going to do that to you here…
Physiologically speaking, if maximum fat loss is your goal and you want to incorporate cardio into your training schedule, you're better off doing your cardio training immediately AFTER your weight training.
1. When you do weight training first, you have more energy and strength for that weight training. I know cardio junkies won't want to hear this, but intense, QUALITY weight training is actually MORE effective for fat loss than cardio training. Why the emphasis on quality? Well, if you go to the gym and just flail around with light weights for 30 minutes, it's not really going to be very effective for fat loss.
However, if you really put some effort into it and train hard, the metabolic boost you get from weight training (in terms of not only calories burned while doing it but the increase in metabolism after AND the increase in muscle mass you get from weight training) is greater than the boost you get from cardio training. And, when compared to slow, long-duration cardio training, that boost is MUCH greater.
So by performing your weight training FIRST, while you're fresh, you're going to have more energy to put into it and you're going to be stronger. This will increase metabolic and muscle mass stimulation and therefore overall fat loss. It's a win-win situation!
That's not to say you can't do a couple of minutes of cardio as a general warm-up before starting into the weights...just don't do an entire cardio session before weight training. Always keep in mind that the weight training is the REAL engine behind your fat loss efforts.
And if THAT isn't enough to convince you to do cardio after weights, I've got another reason for you…
2. Performing weight training first decreases available blood sugar and puts the body in "fat burning" mode.
When you train with weights, you're performing short, intense muscle contractions. Glucose (blood sugar) is the preferred fuel for driving these intense contractions. As you go through your workout, your body gradually uses up its readily-available supply of sugars and starts mobilizing fat for energy.
Here's the key…mobilizing bodyfat for energy is a process that takes time. If you do your cardio first, your body will be initially working on that blood sugar before getting started on the bodyfat. By the time you're done with cardio and move to weights, THAT is when you're in the optimal fat-burning mode.
But the problem is, fat is NOT an efficient fuel for weight training. By doing cardio first, you use up all the "good" stuff for weight training and force your body to make do with a less powerful fuel source. Your weight training workouts will decrease in quality and your cardio efforts won't be as effective for achieving fat-burning, which is your primary goal!
So basically, you're shooting yourself in the foot TWICE!
Think of your body as a hybrid gas-electric car. This car uses gas to provide more power for acceleration and electricity to provide long-term power for maintaining speed.
Now think of blood sugar as gas and weight training as powerful acceleration. When you press the pedal (performing weight training), you're going to get much better acceleration when you're using the proper fuel (i.e. gas).
If you try and power the acceleration with electricity, you'll go forward but not nearly as quickly as if you were using gas.
The bottom line is this…perform your weight training first so you use up the "fast" energy first. Then, by the time you hit the cardio, you're ALREADY in fat-burning mode and every single second you're doing that cardio is going to be burning more fat than if you did it first.
These two reasons apply no matter if you're doing slower, long-duration cardio or high-intensity interval training (which I recommend). The key thing to keep in mind is that WEIGHT TRAINING is what's going to help you change your body FAST…cardio is a useful tool for improving your results but it's NOT what drives your fat-loss results.
And that being said, if you absolutely feel you MUST do your cardio first, I'm NOT going to tell you it's the worst thing in the world…the fact that you're doing SOMETHING trumps doing nothing ANY day of the week!
But if you're looking for maximum impact for the time and effort you're putting your training, DEFINITELY hit the weights first and cardio after.