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The Running Debate

So the question has often been posed, and lately I’ve had clients, fellow trainers, and friends who are nutritional experts engaging me on this debate more and more often:

Which is better to do first... cardio or lifting?

That assumes that you are doing both not only in the same day, but within the same workout/session at the gym.

A friend of mine argues for cardio last always with the following argument:

“What does your body burn first before anything else?

ATP right?

What does it burn second? Carbs.

If you workout and burn through all your fuel and go into cardio your body’s empty and ready to burn your last fuel source which is fat.

Flip that around, and you burn through all your carbs and some ATP during cardio... you’re not burning fat you’re burning those.

Then go into anaerobic workouts your body’s empty and needs a fuel source it will start pooling lactic acid (that’s never fun) then you can start breaking down muscle for fuel and cortisol goes through the roof wrecking your metabolism.”

All of that holds true.

Another perspective is that by getting the body into a proper fat burning heart rate zone during cardio, you not only burn calories most efficiently during cardio and even 5-10 minutes after, your heart rate also wastes no time when transitioning to weight training, and with the fat burning post exercise oxygen consumption window, you’ve maximized the amount of time your body is burning calories.

So on that note, it comes down to:

—Burn more overall calories for a longer amount of time?

—Or burn efficiently and get to the point that you’re specifically burning fat?

Furthermore, it depends on your goals.


—Cardio first: less emphasis on resistance training, more emphasis on cardio performance

—Cardio last: more emphasis on resistance training, less emphasis on cardio performance

Burning so much energy by doing cardio first make it hard to have enough ATP to properly building strength and muscle, but inversely doing resistance training first can burn enough energy to make it mentally and physically harder to perform cardio later.

To sum it up best, straight from the first article:

And again, all of this assumes this is done within the same workout and not spread out between two workouts each day or alternated every other day.

Since I missed a day this week, and because multiple sources are better, here are two articles to detail what I’ve said better: SOURCE 1




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