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Fitness & Health

16th Nov 2018

Should you do cardio before or after weights? This is what the science says

Cardio is an integral part of training - and it won't hinder your gains. Should you do yours before or after weights? This is what the research says

Alex Roberts

It’s a question that weighs heavily on the shoulders of all gym goers

When should you do cardio – before or after weights? Or on non-training days?

We all know a gym bro who shies away from doing any aerobic exercise – lest it melt their gains. If you don’t know one, chances are it’s you.

Cardio may not be as fun as hitting the weights room and experiencing that sought-after ‘pump’. But it should still form an integral part of your training plan.

Fear not, for this is what the science says about when you should do cardio.

Firstly, whether you do cardio on training or rest days is just a matter of choice – go with what fits your schedule best.

For those with particularly busy schedules, keeping cardio separate for non-training days is arguably best. The quicker you’re out of the gym, the more time you can devote to work, family or social matters.

In terms of when to include your cardio on training days, make sure you only set foot on the treadmill after your weights session.

Whether your preferred mode of cardio is HIIT or LISS (steady state), both are better left until you’ve finished lifting. You’ll need all the power you can get when you hit the weights room, and even a jog can sap your strength.

The more intense forms of cardio will also deplete your levels of muscle glycogen – the main source of fuel for muscle cells.

Carbs are the main food source of muscle glycogen. When you lift weights without glycogen stores topped up, your body will find it harder to grow.

Make cardio interesting again

Perhaps the biggest reason why so many people skip cardio is its boring nature. It doesn’t really have to be that way, though.

If you like jogging on the treadmill, that’s fine. But many don’t. So here are a list of fun alternatives:

  • Kettlebells
  • Group cycling
  • Swimming
  • Team sports (football or rugby in particular)
  • Hiking / incline walking

The more enjoyable an activity, the more likely you are to get it done and subsequently stick to it.

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