People ask this question ALL the time. Finding a solid answer is as elusive as “Which came first…the chicken or the egg?” Well, my friends, I am here to give you the scoop.
The answer: it depends. Now before you run off and say “WTH! Thanks for nothing, Tami!”, hear me out.
It depends on you!
Let me tell you why and how to find the answer… YOUR answer!
Exercise Physiology 101
First, let me give you a quick rundown on your body’s fuel tanks. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose (blood sugar). You get these from consuming complex carbohydrates, like grains and vegetables.
Your body will store approximately 90 grams of these excess carbohydrates and sugars in your liver and approximately 150 grams in your muscles.
You do have the possibility of storing up to FIVE times that amount in your muscles if you “carbo load”. You’ve probably heard of endurance athletes eating pasta a night or two before a big event, right? Well, this is carbo loading and it’s purpose is to store more glycogen in their muscles.
Your body will also store excess fatty acids as fat. Both glycogen and fat can be broken down and converted to immediate energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It’s this energy that keeps you going during a great workout!
Now onto the good stuff…
Cardio After Weights
When you lift weights, the primary source of fuel is glycogen. This is due to the more explosive motion and effort to lift the weight.
While starting out with weights (after a brief cardio warmup, of course!), you’ll have sufficient energy for a strong workout. This is key if your goal is to increase muscular strength or increase muscle mass.
When its time for you to switch over to do cardio, your glycogen levels will be lower and you’ll be more apt to tap into fat stores for fuel during your cardio workout.
More muscle + increase strength + more fat burning = WIN, WIN, WIN!
Cardio Before Weights
If you’re trying to improve your heart health or your respiratory fitness, starting your workout with cardio is the way to go.
When you do cardio, your body will use both glycogen and fat stores. If you’re training for a 5k and want to work on speed, your body will use glycogen for those bursts of energy.
Or if you’re doing longer training runs for a marathon, your body will use glycogen and fat, but when the glycogen tank is empty, you’ll “hit the wall”.
By the time you finish your cardio workout and hit the weight machines, your glycogen levels will be low and you won’t have very good energy for weight lifting. At best, you’ll minimize any muscle loss from your cardio session.
Stronger heart + faster runs + maintain muscle mass = WIN, WIN, WIN!
YOU Have The Answer
So, it really is all up to YOU and what YOU want to accomplish!
Reach out and tell me what you like to do for your workouts and how it helps you reach your goals! Be sure to let me know any more burning questions you may have, too! I am here to help!