One of the most common fitness questions I get asked from a new gym-goer is if you should do cardio or weights first at the start of your workout. Some say it doesn’t matter, but the fact of the matter is, it actually does.
Weights Will Increase Your Basal Metabolic Rate
Your body has specific energy requirements and uses different energy sources, for different types of workouts, namely anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise requires the body to put physical demands on the body, such as resistance training. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body is naturally burning calories. So naturally, if your goal is body optimization and losing weight, then performing strength training before your cardio is going to help the calorie-burning process.
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You’ll Perform Better Lifts
By lifting before your cardio you’ll also perform better lifts, with better form. Anaerobic metabolism recruits more fast-twitch muscle fibers when you have the energy to expend. Therefore, you’ll have more strength and power to maximize your lifting effort and hopefully land more PRs. Resistance training requires more quick bursts of energy, than steady-state cardio such as running on the treadmill and cycling. In one study, published in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning, study participants who ran or cycled before lifting weights, performed nearly 20% fewer reps at significantly reduced weight [R]. The key is to utilize these quick bursts of energy, more efficiently. The only way to do that is by lifting before your cardio. Supplements such as Kre-Alkalyn, a pH corrected form of creatine, helps with quick short bouts of power and strength, and can definitely help you maximize your lifting efforts.
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You’ll Be In Your Fat Burning Zone
Your first source of energy and fuel to power your workouts, is glycogen, a type of sugar that is sourced from carbohydrates. By lifting weights first, you’ll naturally deplete your glycogen stores, and utilize your next source of energy, body fat, when you start your cardio. By the time you head to the treadmill, your heart rate will already be elevated, and you’ll naturally be in your fat burning zone.
Weights First Will Burn More Calories Through EPOC
After strength training, your metabolism stays elevated through a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC also know as the afterburn effect, refers to the oxygen and energy (in calories) it takes for your body to repair your muscle tissue during recovery. EPOC can be a major contributor to your total daily caloric expenditure by increasing your body’s thermic effect [R]. Prolonged workouts with more intense resistance training at heavier weights have been associated with a more substantial EPOC [R].
Is It Better To Start With Cardio Or Weights? Takeaway
There are many great reasons, why you should lift before performing cardio. But, the fact of the matter is, it depends on what matters to you most. If you’re looking to get into better general shape, lose weight, get stronger and overall be a fit human, then resistance training before cardio. On the flip side, if you’re training for a marathon or triathlon, and building lean muscle mass and losing body fat isn’t your top priority, then you should probably focus on running or cycling. Whichever training modality you perform first, just known you’re going to expend more energy doing it. But, in your case, stick with lifting weights, then hitting the hamster wheel.
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Laforgia J, Withers RT, Gore CJ. Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Sci. 2006;24(12):1247-64.
Børsheim E, Bahr R. Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Med. 2003;33(14):1037-60
Ratamess NA, Kang J, Porfido TM, et al. Acute Resistance Exercise Performance Is Negatively Impacted by Prior Aerobic Endurance Exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(10):2667-2681.