I often get the question, “When should I do cardio?” Honestly, it’s a great question and there are multiple factors that play into effect when deciding the best time to do cardio. Many of these factors depend on personal circumstances and should be decided on individually. In this article, I will outline each factor to help you make an informed decision about when the best time to do cardio is for you.
When to Perform Cardio in Regards to Lifting Weights
There are two options when it comes to lifting around workouts: before lifting and after lifting. When doing cardio before a workout, you are using up energy before you even get to lifting. Lifting is the main part of the workout that is going to produce huge results. When lifting weights it is important to be at a high energy level to allow you to push yourself to new limits. Using a heavier weight or going for more reps is the key to improving your overall health, wellness, and body. Cardio, on the other hand, is simply a means to lose weight by burning extra calories. These calories will burn whether your energy levels are high or low. Focus, concentration, energy, and keeping good form are all essential to lifting; however, cardio will be essentially the same. You will not lose less body fat simply because you are tired. For this reason, it is most beneficial to do cardio after a workout. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing some light cardio as a warm-up, but anything exhaustive should be reserved for after resistance training (such as lifting weights).
What Time of the Day is the Best Time to Perform Cardio?
Truthfully, this is entirely up to the individual. Some people perform best in the morning, while energy levels are highest. Others simply take an hour or so to wake up. Many people struggle to find motivation in the morning to go workout and perform best at night. I believe that the best way to determine when you should perform cardio is to try each option. Give yourself about a week of each and see how you feel. Record a few notes from each workout about how you felt, and proceed to make an informed decision about when the best time is for you, personally, to do cardio.
In Relation to Meals
Fasted cardio is an often discussed and debated form of cardio. Fasted cardio is simply the act of performing cardio while in a fasted state (without eating). Many believe that this allows you to lose more body fat by targeting the body’s fat stores instead of simply burning off the food that you just ingested. A major limiting factor of this technique is time. For example if you work out late in the day your fast will almost surely slow your metabolism, as your body begins to conserve any and all nutrients it has. Your body will enter this “conservation mode” in order to compensate for the loss of incoming food. This slowed metabolism will actually cause your body to burn calories less effectively, actually increasing levels of body fat. For this reason, fasted cardio works best for those who prefer to work out in the morning. While fasted cardio has worked wonders for some people, others simply feel sluggish throughout their workout and are unable to make any real progress.
The lack of nutrients causes them to do less cardio, and also deeply affects their weight training. One strategy that allows you to take advantages of both fasted cardio fat loss and fed energy for resistance training is to perform fasted cardio in the morning followed by a resistance workout later in the day. This may sound like a significant amount of time, but you’re spending the same total amount of time working out. Many people actually find it easier to find two smaller portions of time rather than a single large portion. The above strategy works for many people, however fasted cardio does not work at all for some. If you find yourself unable to make progress while fasted, than a light pre-workout meal may be in order. If your goal is to gain muscle, fasted cardio may actually reduce lean muscle mass. As such, it should surely be used only as a fat loss strategy, and should be avoided when trying to add size.
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