If I had to give you the BEST recommendation on to when to do cardio, I would say not to do it anywhere within about 4-8 hours of your weight training workout.
Why not? Think about it. If you do cardio right before your weight training, you are going to use up quite a bit of stored glycogen in the process. The effect this would have on your performance would be negative and anything that inhibits overloading our muscles (we know about the importance of overload by now), we will not do. Why isn’t the “typical” cardio directly after a weight training session considered the best? Anyone who has read Part 3 of this series can answer this one.
The time after your workout is the most crucial time in your day to stimulate muscle growth and recovery. Immediately after your workout, you should be feeding yourself and you should be feeding yourself throughout the next three hours (see part 3 for more details). Obviously if you did cardio directly after, you would not be taking advantage of this crucial time period and in addition you would be furthering the fatigue factor, hence impeding on your recovery and growth. For the BEST way to implement cardio, do it on your days off and at least 4-8 hours before or after you plan to train with weights.
**This may mean switching to a three day weightlifting schedule for many of you who do not have the time or enthusiasm to workout twice in your day. Those who want it all (5 days of weight lifting and 5 days of cardio) without the time need to prioritize their training. More muscle? 4 days of weights and 2-3 days of cardio. More fat burning? 3 days of weights and 3-4 days of cardio.
Now I am not saying that you ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT do cardio after your weights. That way is the “Better” way. But if you choose to, realize that you will be burning muscle in the process. If you want to minimize the burning of muscle tissue (and, in turn, your metabolism), then you will want to implement cardio the “Best” way.
And for the record: For those who are wondering what the “Good” way of incorporating cardio would be? Well…just doing it. You see, for the three reasons stated above, some cardio is better than no cardio. So no matter when you do it or how hard, a little cardio is always good.
Why I Don’t Recommend Doing Cardio On An Empty Stomach! To the best of my knowledge, the recommendation of doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach came from a Swedish study done on obese women and weight loss. Since then, Bill Phillips help spread the word among the fitness world. First off, the study did not measure body fat levels – – it measured scale weight. Secondly, the control group was obese women. Not anyone with any muscle tissue to speak of. Not the ones reading these articles who have the interest in preserving/building muscle. Not the ones reading this who want to shed body fat, not just body weight. So, what is wrong with applying this idea to our training? It can be severely, SEVERELY CATABOLIC!!!
Nothing will impede our muscle building process more. Think about this one. When we wake up, we are already in a muscle starving/catabolic state. Say your last meal was at 8pm, you go to bed around 11pm, you wake up to do cardio around 6am, finish cardio around 6:30am, and you wait a half an hour before you feed yourself (because you heard you are still burning fat in that 30 minutes after).
That is 11 hours without food PLUS a workout. How catabolic does that sound? Not only will you be burning calories, you will be breaking down muscle to help you get through that cardio you woke up early to do. What you should be doing is getting out of that catabolic state by waking up and washing down a whey protein isolate shake (preferably with added glutamine) and maybe taking a thermogenic.
Do your cardio. Remember, I am not talking about a stroll through the park. Do it and do it HARD!!! After, you may even want to have the same shake as you did prior to busting your butt on that bike or treadmill (serving size of these shakes can be altered to fit your caloric needs). An hour later, have your normal breakfast and take it from there. Even if you do your cardio later in the day, it is wise to incorporate a post-cardio shake to save that muscle you work so hard for. Follow these guidelines and within no time you will be amazed at how muscular and lean you can be.
Good Cardio: Any time, Any place, Any length, Any intensity
Better Cardio: High or Moderate Intensity done immediately after a weight training workout
Best Cardio: Carefully planned High Intensity Cardio done either on non-weight training days or 4-8 hours before/after a weight training session.
There it is! Everything that will help you incorporate cardio into your total body transofomation routine. Until next time… Train Hard! Train Smart! And Train with Passion!!!