So you’ve decided that you need to work out. You’ve heard of the multitude of benefits that working out leads to, including weight loss, happiness, and longevity. You’ve followed many fitness gurus on Instagram that are lifting weights or just doing some cardio. But you don’t exactly know where you need to start. You ask yourself, “should I do cardio or weight training?” The short answer and the long answer vary quite a bit.
Long answer: It depends on your goals.
Do you want to increase your endurance and stamina? Do you want to run longer than 5 minutes without throwing in the towel? Do you want to be able to catch up with your spirited grandkids when you’re older? Well then, you need to be looking into cardio.
Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise, meaning it’s a workout that works out the most important muscles in your body: the heart! Cardio is an aerobic exercise, meaning you need lots of air so that your heart pumps out healthy oxygenated blood fast enough. One of the main reasons people hop on the treadmill and the elliptical at the gym is to maintain their weight or lose their weight.
Although, let it be known that exercise in general doesn’t really do that much for weight loss than dieting does.
Why Weight Train?
So maybe you’re not into the whole idea of losing weight. Let’s say you want more mass—muscle, that is. You want to rev up your metabolism, build muscle, and increase your strength. Weight training is definitely for you then.
Weight training as we’ve learned is not just for men, and it should especially be considered for everyone over 20. To gain muscle and reap the benefits of weight training, it’s imperative for you to eat—a lot, as explained in this rather challenging article by the Journal of Nutrition. A general rule is to multiply your current weight with 20, and that’s how much of a calorie surplus you have to put yourself in. Of course, this isn’t the most accurate way. You can use calculators online like the one offered by Bodybuilding.com. Muscle doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Keeping your macronutrients (with a huge emphasis on protein and carbs) in check is important for muscle builders.
By the benefits of both cardio and weight training, you’ve probably have come to the conclusion that also parallels to the short answer.
Short answer: Both.
Yes, you need to do both in order to live a healthy, physically fit life. Exercise is an umbrella term for both of these methods. But which one should you do first?
Some (like the oh-so-popular Bodybuilding.com) suggest you do weight lifting first. They say this because they’re paying attention to glycogen stores. We talked about how important macros are in weight training, but carbohydrates are especially important. Carbs you eat transform into glycogen (which helps store energy) and are stored in your muscles. So if you do weightlifting, you can tap into these stores first, and then when it depletes, you’ll start using your fat reservoirs for energy.
However, this study by Ace Fitness points out that doing cardio before strength training is more beneficial.
At the end of the day, it depends on what you want to do. Stick to one sequence if you like consistency, but switch up the order if you start getting bored. Your body, your workout. Choose the sequence that makes you feel like you accomplished something wonderful.