Best Time To Do Cardio?

There is a lot of confusion about when to do cardio, I get asked this question all the time! As many of you have heard, doing cardio before you eat in the morning burns off more calories so is that the best time? Lots believe that the right time to do cardio is before a weight workout to provide a warmup but just as many believe that the right time is afterward. Who is right? None of them! All of them!

The right time to do cardio is when you are most likely to do it! Cardio is very important and its 100x more important that you actually DO your cardio than when to do it! Lets look at some of the pros and cons of doing cardio at various times.

Doing Cardio And Weight Workouts Separately

Its optimal to do your cardio and weight workouts completely separately, that is, with four or more hours of rest between them. This way, neither workout interfereres with the other and you can give each 110% effort. For those of us who workout at home, this is easy to do. For those who go to gyms, its not as easy if you depend on the stationary equipment for your cardio because then you need to make a second trip to the gym. Now lets look at the non-optimal compromises.

Doing Cardio Before Breakfast

Yes, studies have shown that you burn off more calories if you do cardio before breakfast, but its a lousy time to do cardio in my opinion because you wont do your cardio for nearly as long. Who can focus on cardio when your stomach is growling and you feel faint from lack of food? Not me! Besides, doing cardio before breakfast isnt the most convenient time for most folks.

Doing Cardio Before A Weight Workout

The fans of doing cardio before a weight workout point to its ability to help warm up your muscles to prevent injury, true it does this. For those who significantly overweight or are fitness beginners, walking or light jogging is the recommended cardio. For these people doing their walking or light jogging before their weight workout is perfect, it warms them up and doesnt interfere with their weight workout. On the other hand, intermediate to advanced athletes need to push themselves much harder in their cardio workouts – they get their heartrate higher and keep it elevated for longer. Cardio workouts of this intensity will exhaust the body to the point where the weight workout will be lackluster at best reducing potential strength and mass gains. If you are an intermediate or advanced athlete whose time is at a premium and dont feel its important to add more muscle mass then doing cardio before the weight workout is ok, otherwise find a better time to do cardio.

Doing Cardio After A Weight Workout

Doing cardio after a weight workout is my personal favorite, its not optimal but its a very good use of time if you are doing your cardio at a gym because it eliminates the need for a second trip to the gym. I always find that even after an intense weight workout, I still can give cardio the intensity it needs. One thing I always do though is make sure to eat a small meal after lifting weights before starting the cardio. Meal timing is important and its important to get a meal right after weight lifting and waiting till after you do 45min of cardio, shower, and get home is too much of a delay. If you do your cardio after your weight workout, you need to find some alternative way to warmup your muscles before the weight workout, not a big deal.

16 thoughts on “Best Time To Do Cardio?”

  1. Hi Scooby, thanks for all your awesome posts. The current buzz word is HIIT. How do you compare HIIT against regular Cardio. Could you do a post on HIIT? Thanks again.

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  3. My two cents – I only have time to go to the Gym once a day because of my job. I like to do a 15 minute warm-up (walk 5mins, run 10). The weights and at the end 25-40 minutes depending on how I feel/how much time I have. I find this is the best of both worlds. Garth

  4. @Stu

    Thank you for your reply. However, it would be interesting to know what exactly the difference is for the body between eating let's say 3 hours after the workout and immediately after.

    Are the positiv effects that significant or can they be neglected.

    What kind of nutrition would be necessary, proteins, carbs?

    I'd rather not bring my own food to the gym but if the effects are essential I will do so.

    Thank you again for your kind support.

  5. i do my cardio before i eat breakfast… usually interval training of some sort. get it over it with so i can enjoy the day and feel like i've earned my calories :D

  6. Jaime,eat after weight lifting as you have just been tearing ur muscles apart, they need food, preferably a fast digesting protein to repair and grow bk bigger, stronger….

  7. Oh yes, could you be so kind and explain why it is so important to eat directly after weight lifting.

    That is a good question I also have.

    Thank you.

  8. Why is it so important to eat right after the lifting workout?

    Do muscles not grow when you eat lets say 2 hours after lifting?

  9. I don´t really do cardio. Well, at least not in my free time. I do take allot of sprints (and I mean serious sprints) in combination with jumps, some climbing and then sprinting again etc. (parkour). Though, I only can hold this strenuous pace for about 15 minutes at the moment. So it's not cardio, but it still elevates heart rate and uses allot of energy (relative to the amount of time put in anyway).

    I do it this way because I don't like cardio and like you said: the most important thing is to do it. I can never keep doing boring cardio workouts. It's too boring. So I do short, intense parkour running instead. It works very well for me and I can do this easily in the morning before breakfast.

    That said though, I definitely do not have to lose weight at all. So this works well for me. It increases my speed (which is one of my goals) and it increases the amount of time I can keep extremely focussed while running (which is also one of my goals) and it also increases my endurance (which is the other goal).

    So yeah, I like my way. But everyone has their own way of course.

  10. Hey scooby you mention target HR here. I am a pretty big guy (fat). I am 6'3" and weight 290 right now. when I go to the gym I can't help my self but to push hard doing cardio. I do the elliptical machine for about 45 minutes and I just go as fast as I want to. I don't struggle to go fast but I do go fast.

    The entire time I am there the machine is tell me to slow down.

    I calculated and when I am doing the cardio my HR is more at the max the entire time than the Target.

    Should I slow down, even though at the slower "Target HR" level I don't feel like I am being pushed?

  11. I did this video before I left for Germany, I was hoping upload it from there while I was biking but internet access was really expensive there.

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