Cardio Training: Should You Do It Before or After Weights?

Cardio Training Should You Do It Before or After Weights

This is one of the biggest questions we get asked everyday and one that’s on your mind right now?

Which Should I Do First: Cardio or Strength Training?

Many experts are defiantly split on this subject. 

The majority of fitness experts will advise you to do the cardio after the weight training. Because if you do cardio first, it uses up much of the energy source for your anaerobic work (strength training) and fatigues the muscles before their most strenuous activity.

This same view holds that strength training first will deplete the muscles’ stored carbohydrates (glycogen or sugar). And therefore, will enhance fat burning during the cardio workout due to the lack of available sugar for fuel.

However from my time as a fitness professional,  there is no credible, concrete research that proves this, and what it should really come down to are your fitness goals. 

For instance, if your primary goal is to increase your aerobic endurance or lose body fat, then you should perform cardio first.

If your primary goal is to increase muscular strength, then do strength training first.To get the most out of your workout, perform the exercise that is most important to your goals first, when you are not fatigued.

But is this true?

What is your goal? to lose weight or to increase your fitness levels?

One question is…

Does doing cardio after weights burn more fat?

Little research from the Japanese…. 

Weight training is an anaerobic, high intensity form of exercise that uses more carbs than fat for fuel during the exercise. Low intensity cardio is an aerobic form of exercise that uses more fat for fuel during the exercise.

Therefore, as the theory goes, by depleting glycogen (stored carbs) with weights, then doing low intensity cardio, you burn more fat during the cardio.

There is some research that supports this theory. Kazushige Goto and his team at the University of Tsukuba in Japan found that fat availability during low intensity exercise was enhanced by prior weight training exercise.

Previous research by this group had also found that Growth hormone (which is fat burning in nature) was suppressed by 60 minutes of endurance exercise before weight training.

Here’s what they concluded:

“An exercise program with preceding resistance exercise should be desirable for fat metabolism during endurance exercise.”

The “during” part is where the controversy comes in because what type of fuel is burned during a workout (fat or carbs) is only one part of the picture.

What type of fuel you burn the rest of the day is the other part. And that can only be revealed with studies that extend beyond the workout period itself, to at least 24 hours post-exercise.

If you burn more fat during a workout, then your body tends to burn more carbs later in the day. If you burn more carbs during a workout, then you tend to burn more fat later in the day as the fuel source.

So it seems to even out somewhat over 24 hours.

Low Intensity

Low intensity cardio may burn a higher percentage of calories from fat, but it also burns fewer calories. Here’s an example:

Low intensity exercise — 30 minutes

Fuel mix: 50% fat, 50% carbs
Carbs burned: 110 calories
Fat burned: 110 calories
Total calories burned: 220

High intensity exercise — 30 minutes

Fuel mix: 33% fat, 67% carbs
Carbs burned: 222 calories
Fat burned: 110 calories
Total calories burned: 332

As you can see, a high intensity workout can burn just as much fat for fuel as a low intensity workout, while burning far more total calories.

This suggests that how many total calories your burn during the workout and in total for each day is more important than what percentage of fuel comes from fat during the workout.

But what are the benefits of before and after weight training?

The Possible Benefits of Doing Cardio after Weight Training

There are experts who believe doing cardio after weight training is better than the opposite way around. However, there are more studies that say the reverse is true.

Those who believe this is the right way to do it believe so for a number of reasons. One is that they feel if you do cardio exercise before weight training then you won’t have enough energy to complete your strength training exercises.

However, burning out your muscles before doing cardio will probably deplete your stamina more.

Another reason some people feel this way is better is that they believe if you deplete some carbohydrates during weight training then you will burn greater fat during your cardio routine.

However, this only works dependent on the amount of energy spent, and weight training does not expend enough energy to achieve this.

The Possible Benefits of Doing Cardio before Weight Training

Experts who believe that doing cardio before weight training is the best method may have stronger evidence to support their belief.

By doing cardio before you weight train you will have the necessary stamina to complete this high energy aerobic activity.

It is much more difficult to do this in reverse because of the way energy and muscles are used in the forms of each activity.

One of the benefits of cardio exercise is that it helps the elasticity of your arteries, which is a core element to the cardio workout.

Since cardio exercise increases the elasticity of the arteries. Moving into a weight training session after aerobic exercise can be beneficial.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which method is more successful. Whichever method seems to work for you is best if your only other option is to not do either.

Complete Health

For complete and total health, you need to add both aerobic and anaerobic exercises to your workout routine.

If you can alternate days then you can dedicate more time to each type of exercise and vary your workout plan more often to keep it from getting boring.

For example, on aerobic days you can change out from a cycling class to a stepping class to a high energy dance class.

On strength training days you can work on different muscle groups or focus one day on main muscles and on another day on secondary muscles.

You can also switch the types of exercises you do for the same muscles, using dumbbells one day and a barbell the next.

Variety always helps to keep your routine fresh. It also keeps your muscles from getting overly trained and expectant.

You always want a complete workout, from head to toe, so changing things around can help you accomplish that easily.

Cardio Frequency And Duration

We can define the cardio frequency and duration depending on your body type and your fitness goals. We will provide you two simple types of frequency and duration for you cardio sessions.

However, these are example and should be modified depending on your goals:

  • Get Leaner But Don’t Want To Lose Muscle Mass: You will get benefits while doing 1 to 3 cardio sessions per week with a duration of 30-45 mins at a moderate speed (60% of your max heart rate).
  • Get Fit And Stay Strong: You can reach your goals while running 4-5 times a week for 45-70mins at a moderate/high-speed (60 to 80% of your max heart rate).

But as with each of us working out we will all have different goals like building muscle or getting the fittest we have in years! 


There are many benefits to whether to do cardio before and after but at the end of the day us at wolvesfitness will always do cardio after our weight session not because research might show that its the best way, but because it works for us and it has worked for our clients!