Versus Series Pt 2: Cardio Pre V Post Workout
Some of the most common and debatable fitness topics I come across are cardio related.
How many days a week?
How long should each session be?
What type is recommended?
The question I'm going to try and bring some clarity to is cardio: Pre V Post workout. The answer is fairly simple as long as you're applying this to your OWN needs. If you're looking for an answer that will be general and applies to all, you probably wont find one. Everyone is different, programming has to be different. Where cardio works for you, it might not be the appropriate time for someone else, IT DEPENDS.
Now that we know the basic answer to this is that 'it depends' I'm going to give you a list for each option, pre and post, and how you can benefit from both. On a basic level, trying to gain muscle, strength, size post workout cardio is your answer. Trying to burn fat and simply work on your endurance, cardio pre workout is most likely what you'll lean towards.
Lets take look at how you can benefit from each. Here are your lists!
Benefits to Cardio Pre Workout:
1. Muscle tissue is warmed up: Doing cardio first will allow your muscles to warm up by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to the muscles. This will increase the pliability of your muscles; allowing them to work more efficiently and decrease chances of injury.
**Note: Warm ups should be done regardless before training. If you don't do cardio, that doesn't mean you shouldn't warm up in another way. Cardio or some dynamic movements are both great ways to get your body going.
2. Afterburn is increased: Afterburn is scientifically known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). What this means is that as your cardio/workouts get more intense and you gasp for air you'll take in extra oxygen to recover- that extra oxygen will help the metabolism rise. This is the effect post activity while your body works to regulate back to a normal metabolic rate. Due to burning stored carbs during the cardio your body will turn to burning fat.
3. Calories burned can be maximized: As stated previously, cardio boosts the metabolic rate for a few hours after the activity is over. Cardio pre workout will help you burn a greater number of calories as you go into your training. If you're goal is total calorie burn, do the cardio pre and use the increased burn as you go into some training. Cardio post workout the metabolic rate obviously isn't as high during the training.
Benefits to Cardio Post Workout
1. Minimize any reduction in strength: Doing cardio pre training, you'll obviously use up some energy and lower your strength output. During exercise, glycogen is used. If those levels are low it tends to affect energy levels. Similar to a low card diet- during your workouts you may have that sluggish feeling and be low on energy. Cardio before training will use up that preferred energy source. If you're going to be lifting heavy or working for volume you'll be lacking in energy. Resulting in a potentially less efficient workout, compromising muscle building, strength development.
2. Better muscle growth: Post workout cardio activates hormonal and PH changes that can provide better muscle growth. Pathways called mTOR pathways get inhibited post cardio and will affect the growth and size you can make. Inhibiting the mTOR's by doing cardio pre workout will just make it more difficult to grow and develop than it already is. Trying to grow? Save the cardio for after!
3. Lower injury risk: This seems basic and simple but very important to remember. Once fatigue sets in- combination of mental and physical- your risk of injury increases. When lifting weights is a primary concern don't over exhaust yourself before you even get to the weights and potentially get hurt. Injury inherently just sets you back from whatever you goals are. Don't go into a training session already worn down!
Jonathan Ross, a health and fitness expert/author for ACE, wrote, "Simple is better, but we sometimes cannot reduce a question to a simple answer for everyone. Sometimes, the simple answer is “it’s complicated,” which then becomes simple again when filtered through the needs of the individual." Remember, figure out what you're goals are and do what's going to work best for you. There's no right or wrong way to approach this as long as you're looking at it for yourself as an individual.