Should I Do Cardio Training Before My Weight Lifting Workout?

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question-icon-newI recently started eating healthier and exercising. The problem is I really don’t want to overtrain. My schedule is as follows: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go to the gym and do 30 minutes of high intensity cardio followed by a 45 minute full body strength training routine. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I go to the gym and do about 1 hour of high intensity cardio. I also jump rope for 5 minutes every morning when I wake up. On Sundays, I rest and do not exercise at all. I would also like to start incorporating sprinting twice a week. Basically, my questions are:

  1. Am I overtraining?
  2. On what days should I incorporate sprinting?
  3. Is this the optimal schedule for burning fat (as my first priority), and building muscle (as my second priority)?
  4. Lately I’ve been getting headaches in the afternoon that don’t go away until the late evening, which I can only attribute to all of my exercise but even when I rest for a couple of days, they’re still there. What should I do?

answer-icon-newIt’s very important to avoid doing that much cardio before your weight lifting workout. You really only want to do 5-10 minutes of light cardio before lifting weights in order to warm up your muscles and break a small sweat. If you do too much cardio before your weight workout, you will deplete your glycogen levels (carbs) even before touching a weight, so your workouts will suffer from the loss of energy which you would have had if you did your weight training first and then waited to do your cardio at the end. Always opt to do your cardio workout after your weight training routine in order to maximize the burning of carbs for energy during your intense lifting period. This way, you will have burned most of the carbs and once you start your cardio workout, you will be able to tap directly into your fat stores and maximize the burning of adipose tissue.

The answers to your other questions are below:

  1. cardio-elliptical-machineThe most important thing is to always listen to your body. If you feel tired, lethargic and have an overall uninterested feeling about training then make sure to cut back a little to avoid overtraining. Another tip is to take your heart rate first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. If your heart rate is fast (5-10% above normal) this is good indication that you might be overtraining and you should either reduce your training or give yourself a few days of rest to fully recover.
  2. Since sprinting is super high intense, I would do your sprinting workout only on non weight training days. You want to avoid mixing two very intense workouts like sprinting and weight workouts since this is just too much activity and could easily lead to overtraining. I recommend only doing sprint workouts twice per week.
  3. The most ideal time to do cardio is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to maximize fat loss. You should have a small protein drink (mixed in water) or a BCAA supplement (branched chain amino acid) pre-workout to make sure you don’t sacrifice any lean muscle tissue. Avoid eating any carbs before your cardio workouts in the morning. On weight training days, make sure to do your cardio only after your weight training workouts and do not do any long cardio before weights.
  4. I recommend seeing a doctor for any ongoing headaches. Recurring migraines or severe headaches could be something serious and it’s better to be safe than sorry so go get a professional to give you a full checkup.

By using the elements I have explained above, you will be well on your way to burning excess body fat and building lean muscle tissue. It looks like you have the desire and energy to really make big changes to your physique. You just need to rearrange a few things and change the timing of certain aspects of your plan to maximize the effects you are looking for.

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