Cardio Before or After Weights? The Best Time To Do Cardio Exercises and Weightlifting

Cardio Before or After Weights? The Best Time To Do Cardio Exercises and Weightlifting

Combining Cardio exercises and weightlifting

Cardio exercises are one of the most popular activities today because it does not only enables us to lose weight but it also gives tons of health benefits.

It is a set of exercise that increases the beat of the heart. Most cardio workouts today are categorized into mid intensity which is somewhere between walking and swimming. Some of the cardio exercise people know are skiing, dancing, skating, cycling, hiking, and ball games such as basketball, soccer, and tennis.

Benefits of Cardio Exercises

Cardio exercises help prevent several ailments. As it pumps blood, our muscles and internal organs are supplied with enough oxygen. It increases the density of the bones, improves blood circulation, boosts the energy levels, reduces bad cholesterol, increases good cholesterol, and eliminates anxiety.

In addition, cardio workouts can help you lose weight by burning excess fat that affects the body’s structure. According to a study done by Harvard, half an hour of cardio can burn 144 to 249 calories. Meanwhile, high-intensity cardio can burn twice as low-intensity cardio exercises.

Our bodies are designed to move. Thus if we engage in cardio exercises, our muscles will grow and stay in shape.  For instance, running will build your leg muscles while swimming will develop your upper extremities.

If your goal is to look better and to lose weight, then you need to burn all your muscle’s glycogen to burn fat as fuel. However, if your goal is to build muscles, then you must do weightlifting.


Weightlifting is an activity or sports that use a barbell with heavy plates. The earliest document of weightlifting has been recorded during the time of the Ancient Greeks. Since then, the popularity of weightlifting spread throughout the world and it was even used in the Olympics.

This type of activity uses a barbell, bumper plates, iron plates, and other accessories such as collars and belt. Weight lifting has multiple benefits and men and women loves to do it.

Benefits of Weightlifting

Strength training like weightlifting can help increase metabolism and lose weight. It can also decrease the chances of osteoporosis and reduce the risk of injury. Lifting weights can develop tendons, bones, and ligaments and can prevent injury and pains. It can strengthen your back, shoulders, and core and it can also improve posture which is very helpful especially for the women.

Lastly, weight training can reduce stress, brighten your day, and enhance mood especially after a whole day of work in school or at the office. It can release endorphins which are used to improve the mood and combat depression. It can also improve alertness, stimulate the mind, and boost the energy levels. Some of the weightlifting exercises are deadlift, standing calf raise, bench press, and others.

Cardio Exercises and Weightlifting

For many years, there has been a misconception between these two concepts. People do engage in cardio because they wanted to lose weight. Meanwhile, they lift weights because they want to build their muscles. These two ideas have been popular around the world and it further divides cardio workouts and strength training.

The majority of people who wish to slim down avoid weightlifting because of the notion that it will make them look bulky. On the contrary, muscle growth takes a process and it needs a program consisting of strict diet and exercise that must be followed for years before you become bulky. Proper training will develop the endurance and strength of your muscles, burn calories and fat, and improve cardiovascular efficiency in the process.

Meanwhile, weightlifters who wanted to have a bulk in their body fears of doing cardio because this might burn their muscles.  In extreme cases of overtraining, your body will use your muscle for fuel. However, your body will only go catabolic phase when you exercise beyond 45 minutes every day or an empty stomach.

Thus, cardio exercises can burn muscle only if it has no other choice. You must have a balance in diet and training to prevent muscle loss. A good combination of cardio and strength training will make your body perform better, making the two activities complement rather than compete one another.

When is the best time to do cardio exercises?

Some of gym-goers and athletes would wake up early in the morning and do their cardio. Then they do their weightlifting routines in the middle of the way. For some, they do their cardio before or after workouts while others do it at night to avoid the heat of the sun.

But when shall we exactly perform cardio?

There is no exact time when to do cardio to make the best out of it. It differs for each person. The best time to exercise is when you feel doing it. But there is still more to this, there are still a few guidelines you should follow so that you don’t end up setting yourself back. These will help you understand when to perform your cardio for better results.

Cardio early in the morning on an empty stomach


Doing cardio early in the morning before you start your day will pump you for the big day ahead.


Doing cardio exercises early in the morning on an empty stomach is not good for the body. Many experts and trainers don’t agree with doing cardio without eating any food at all.

Our body’s burning of fat does not happen during cardio exercise itself but after two hours of workout. This will make your body turn and burn your muscles for energy. This is a nightmare for every bodybuilder.

Performing cardio with an empty stomach means that you won’t have enough energy which will yield to decrease performance and results. It is like going into a war without any weapons.

Thus, when you wake up at early in the morning, always make sure that you eat something and wait for 30 minutes before you do your cardio.

Cardio before weightlifting


Performing cardio exercises before lifting weights gives you an opportunity to burn more calories throughout the session. Initially, doing cardio before weightlifting exercises elevates your heart rate, internal temperature, and the metabolic demands. Overall, doing cardio right before lifting the straight bar can increase overall caloric burn for the entire workout.


Doing cardio before lifting weights is a big ‘no’ because you are just wasting your time pumping iron in the gym for you will not gain enough muscles.

On the other hand, women don’t feel gaining mass that’s why they do cardio before lifting weights. But guys wish to have serious mass, that’s why they don’t do cardio right before workouts.

The last few reps where you sweat and struggle is where you stimulate the growth of your muscles. When you have an intense cardio exercise before lifting weights, it will deplete your glycogen in the body. If your muscles don’t have enough glycogen as an energy source and you keep on pushing yourself to the max, it will yield to less effective workout.

In addition, during hard cardio, the synthesis of protein decreases while the breakdown of protein goes up. Meanwhile, during weight lifting, the protein synthesis works the other way around and the protein breakdown goes up.

After your cardio exercises, protein synthesis and the body’s ability to build muscles will drop. When you lift the weights, your body’s ability to build muscles will be affected.

Cardio after weightlifting


Engaging in cardio exercises after weight lifting offers better results than doing it before you lift the bar. Your stored glycogen will not be depleted during weightlifting thus you can have extra energy for the cardio.

Also, make sure to give yourself an ample time to replenish the glycogen stores. You must also have proper nutrition in between to increase muscle synthesis and stop the breakdown of protein before lifting the weights. This will also give you the chance to store glycogen in your muscles.


The downside of doing cardio after weightlifting is that, it is difficult to work hard since you have limited energy. It would be challenging to push yourself more in a cardio session immediately after the workout.

Mixing cardio and weightlifting

Knowing that cardio and strength training must not go against each other is only a part of the battle, and now you have to balance it all together. Mixing cardio exercises and weightlifting requires a special approach which must be based on your chosen sport, body type, and goals.

You should determine if you wanted to lose weight or gain muscles. Doing both together will affect your progress and could cause frustration. This might soon lead to injuries too. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to choose one type of training over the other. But you just need to make both activities work together.

Here are some of the tips on how to mix both cardio and weightlifting:

Establish your goals

The first tip is to determine your goal. If your goal is to gain muscles, then it is recommended that you lift at least three times a week and combine it with moderate cardio workouts which can last up to 20 to 30 minutes each of your off days. Running and lifting on the same day will increase the risk of overworking your muscles and take more time; thus this must be avoided.

It is important to both have a short and long term fitness goals to make you inspired and to keep you on track. You can actually work more than one goal at a time. But if you prioritize one over another, it can help you analyze how to divide and share your workout time.

If you are just starting but want to begin on strength, you can prioritize resistance training for 6 to 8 weeks and go for weights 3 days per week. This is enough time to develop the foundation.

Meanwhile, if you are training for a running marathon, then you should cut your strength training to allow more mileage. You can do this by training 2 days per week. This will help you maintain your strength without having a risk of overtraining.

Write it in your journal

It may be overwhelming to pack all of the workouts in one week only. To make things simple, assign a goal each day for one week. For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are running days, Thursday is yoga, Tuesday and Saturday are for strength training, and Sunday is rest.

Enter your workout plans in your journal, notepad, or calendar and treat it as a very important matter that must not be neglected.

Check your body type

Your body type must also be considered before engaging in any workouts because it has a bearing on your plan. Is it challenging for you to lose weight or is it just easy for you?

For example, people who are endomorph needs to have more cardio days so they can lose weight. However, they can easily gain muscles because of body fuel stored. You can always consult a professional to choose workout plans that will suit your body type.

Determine your sports

Your line of sport must be given consideration. A marathon runner needs a different set of skills compared to a basketball player. Although both of these athletes are leaning on strength or cardio, both of them can still benefit from both modes of training.

The key to mixing cardio and weightlifting is a balance. Although these two exercises are always considered to be incompatible, if it is scheduled properly, they can yield better results on your fitness goals.

Do the yoga

Yoga can maintain and build the body’s flexibility that many athletes lack. As a matter of fact, running can decrease the mobility of the joints.  The repetitive motion of running doesn’t allow the ankles and especially the hips to go through their full ranges of motion.

If you are already on strength training and running and you can’t make it to yoga class, try doing few yoga moves designed for athletes in the morning or evening even at your home. There are lots of basic yoga that you can try and all you need is to check it out.

Take some rest

Every workout must have a day of complete rest which can help you from overdoing everything. Always remember to listen to your body. If you are tired then make sure to take some rest. Always remember, ‘rest if you must, but don’t you quit’.


In sum, both cardio exercises and weight lifting are good for the body. It brings lots of health benefits and both women and men will surely love to do. Cardio and weightlifting are good combinations. We must always remember to have a balance in doing the two so we can never experience over-training, injuries, and problems in the future.

Always listen to your body. You can try doing cardio before a workout but eat at least some food so your body can have energy. Try as well to do cardio two hours before lifting the weights. This will enable reproduction of glycogen in your muscles. It is always best to do cardio after weightlifting, but make sure you do it two hours after. This will also enable your muscles to rest and recharge your cardio.

Remember to determine your goals, plan ahead, check your body type, and consult an expert!