Cardio is essential to anyone trying to get or stay in shape. Without cardio, even lifting becomes difficult because you will not have the necessary endurance to lift long enough to get quality gains. Cardio is a little more simple than lifting because it does not require as much precision in form. There are also a wide array of different way to get cardio, whether it’s from running outside or using a cardio machine such as an elliptical, treadmill, exercise bike or stepper. Everyone knows cardio is important, but when you do it is essential in determining how much benefit you will reap from it. This issue has been widely debate and there are thousands of pages written on it, but we’ll try to give you the quick rundown.
Do not do cardio on an empty stomach
Before we can determine the optimal time to do cardio, we have to understand the optimal situation. One of the most common mistakes that people make is that they start their day off with cardio, before eating anything. Cardio on an empty stomach is not only ineffective, it is even harmful to the body. Without any carbohydrates or anything else to fuel the workout, your body will start looking at your muscles to gain some energy. Also the fact of the matter is that you won’t have the energy to perform anything substantial. This is not to say that you cannot do cardio in the morning, but make sure to eat a balanced breakfast at least 45 minutes to an hour before.
Do not do cardio before lifting
This is also not only not helpful, but harmful to your body. Intense cardio will drain you body of energy which makes your weightlifting session shorter and ineffective. Weightlifting properly is dependent on form, which tends to break down with fatigue. Lifting with incorrect form will not benefit you and can also damage your muscles. Your body benefits most from pushing through your last grueling reps, which you will be unable to do if you’re exhausted from cardio.
You can do cardio after lifting, but it may not be as effective
Lifting does not drain your energy nearly enough as cardio, so you most likely have some energy left to perform some cardio after your weightlifting session. For maximum benefit though, wait a couple of hours after to restore your energy.
Best time for cardio is separate from your weightlifting program
Before we elaborate more on the optimal time for cardio, we must first establish that it is perfectly fine to do cardio everyday. Try to separate the two sessions though if you plan to do both cardio and lifting in the same day. This may be difficult, but can be simplified if you have a home gym so you don’t have to drive to the gym twice. Keeping your cardio and weight lifting separate will allow you to exert maximum effort.
In conclusion, do cardio when you have the most energy
If you’re a morning person, do some cardio in the morning, after you eat of course. If you’re more of a night owl, get some cardio in later in the day, but not too close to bedtime. The best time for cardio is when you can exert full effort without having to worry about saving energy. Also, schedule cardio far away from leg day as possible.