The Best Time For Cardio


Is it before or after your workout? On an empty stomach or after a meal? Using a treadmill or a bike? We've got the answers. Your friend told you to do cardio on an empty stomach, but your trainer said you should never work out unless you eat. You thought that maybe you would take a short jog before your workout, but you just read in some muscle magazine that cardio before weights is a no-no. What should you do?


cardio time


Is there a time of day that is better for doing cardio?


Absolutely there is a best time of day for you to do cardio. The catch here is that the only person who knows the best time for you, is you. There have been studies that have tried to show that cardio done at one time of day is more beneficial than at other times, but none have resulted in conclusive evidence.


Here's what we know for sure:


In order for a cardio program to be successful, you must be consistent and stick to it. The benefits from cardio will not be realized if you simply go for a walk once a month and then sit on the couch for the rest of the time.


The benefits will come from this will only happen if you can find a time that is convenient and fits into your life. Each of us has an "internal prime time," the time that we are at our best. Your prime time is when you feel most energetic, creative and outgoing.


If you're up at the crack of dawn and ready to go, or at your desk every day before others in your office have arrived, then you are likely a morning person. Take advantage of this energy and try to schedule your cardio for these times. You will find that you will be able to push yourself that little extra to get the results you desire.


If a morning person waits until evening to work out, he/she tends to get poor results because both the necessary energy and focus are lacking. Look at the patterns in your day and in your energy levels, and then try to schedule your workout for when you have the most energy.


After a vigorous cardio workout, your body will have higher than normal levels of active endorphins. Endorphins are a powerful hormone that, when present at a high level in your body, give you energy and a state of euphoria. They're responsible for the infamous runners high. Endorphins are a good thing unless you are trying to sleep.


If you work out just before bed, you are unlikely to have a fitful sleep. This is a problem because you need sleep in order for your body to recover from the workout.


Should I do cardio before or after my resistance training?


If you're trying to get your weights and cardio done in one session, the research shows that doing a cardio warm-up prior to weights is essential in order to maximize the effectiveness of your workout. This warm-up should be about 10 minutes in length and be careful not to work too hard as the quality of your lifting will suffer. Your energy sources necessary to power anaerobic exertion will be used up. Since you reap the most benefit from the last two or three reps, it is essential that you have the necessary energy to achieve those reps. That fuel simply won't be there if you do a hard cardio workout prior to your training.


cardio time

Should I do cardio on an empty stomach?


It is never a good idea to exert yourself on an empty stomach. You need food's energy to drive you through the workout, so a small amount of food in your stomach is best. A lot of people believe that more fat will be burned if they work out on an empty stomach. This simply isn't true. The majority of fat that is burned occurs in the two hours after your workout as your core body temperature returns to normal. So after a workout, while you're on the couch watching TV you're still burning fat. Plain and simple - never exercise on an empty stomach. Eat a light snack about 30 minutes prior to your cardio.


What is the best cardio equipment: treadmill, recumbent bike or elliptical jogger?


The best cardio equipment, without a doubt, is the one you like to use. All cardio equipment is equal in effectiveness when not in use. It doesn't matter whether you love jogging in the mountains, or taking a Spinning class, just do it. Anything that gets you moving is good. If you like (or hate) all apparatus equally, here is a good rule of thumb: the more muscle groups recruited for a movement, the higher that exercise will escalate your metabolism (presuming your intensity is equal). This means that a recumbent bike, which isolates movement to your legs only, is less effective than an elliptical trainer on which you use both arms and legs, as well as your erector and stabilising muscles.


About the Author: Blair Henry is the president of Motivational Coach Seminars, and a founding partner of The Fitness Management Group. He's been a national level competitor in the fitness field, and is currently on the faculty of The College of Exercise Science.

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