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.