Choosing The Best Time To Do Cardio Training

By:    Published: December 6, 2011

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If you are thinking about how to maximize your workouts, one thing to consider is the timing of your cardio training. Many people structure their day around getting in a good workout, but are you getting the most out of your cardio by doing it in the morning or in the evening? If you’ve ever wondered about when is the best time to work out, this article has all the information you need to get the most out of your cardio.

What Qualifies As Cardio?

Not all exercise is considered to be cardio exercise. Cardio is short for cardiovascular, which means that these are the types of exercises that get your heart beating faster. As a result, you’ll also breathe harder, which is why cardio is also referred to as aerobic exercise. These are activities that are done at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Some of the most popular cardio exercises include:

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Swimming laps
  • Water aerobics
  • Cycling
  • Sports like tennis, basketball, etc.

Options For Timing Your Cardio

There are a lot of options when it comes to timing your exercise. Think about all the possibilities: if you exercise in the morning, should you do it before or after you eat? Does it make a difference if you exercise right after work as opposed to right before going to bed? We’ve rounded up some of the best tips for timing your cardio workouts in order to get the most health benefits from your exercise routine:

1. Morning Exercise

Many studies have found that the best time to do cardio training is in the morning. This time of the day seems to produce the most health benefits when it comes to cardio activity. That’s because your metabolism actually is slightly raised right after working out, so by doing this activity in the morning you reap the benefits of a higher metabolism throughout the day. In addition, your metabolism naturally drops in the evening, so you don’t get as much of the benefits of a higher metabolism when you work out that late in the day. Cardio also helps to wake you up, so it’s a great way to kick off your day. Avoid doing cardio activity later in the evening since it might make it more difficult for you to fall asleep, says MayoClinic.com.

2. Eating Before Workouts

When you wake up in the morning, most of the energy from your dinner the night before has already been used up. That’s why it’s a good idea to eat your breakfast soon after you get out of bed. This gives you energy for the day (and a good morning workout) while still allowing your body enough time to digest the food. According to MayoClinic.com, the best timing is eating about one to two hours before you workout. Make sure it’s a healthy meal, too; a few healthy breakfast options include whole-grain cereals or toast, bananas, low-fat milk and juice. Even coffee is okay if that’s part of your normal routine – just limit your intake to a cup or two and be sure to drink some water as well.

A common mistake is the idea that you need to eat a snack right before working out. In fact, eating this close to a workout doesn’t really give you extra energy because your body won’t have time to digest it. However, you can eat a very light, healthy snack (yogurt, granola bars and fresh fruit are a few good options) in order to prevent feeling hungry during a workout and to keep your blood sugar levels up.

3. Eating After Workouts

Many people don’t realize that, in addition to eating a healthy meal an hour or two before your cardio workout, you should also eat something after you exercise. You’ll need that food to help your muscles recover and to replenish the glycogen you lost during your workout. You don’t need to eat right after you’re done working out – within two hours is the ideal time for your next meal or snack. So if you are able to do a morning workout, be sure to have some healthy food on hand to eat in an hour or so. Yogurt, fruit, string cheese and nuts are all good snack options. For a meal, try a peanut butter or meat sandwich or a salad with protein. Drink some water or a sports drink as well to keep from dehydrating.

4. Weightlifting Before Cardio

If you are also doing weight training as exercise (which is recommended by the CDC), you may want to save your cardio exercise for after you’re done weightlifting. Weightlifting depletes the glycogen stores in your muscles, so you might be too tired afterwards to get some good cardio in. However, you can use some light cardio as a warm-up for weightlifting, so one option might be a light jog or swim before you lift weights then do a more intense exercise after that.

Remember that even if you can’t change your exercise schedule to conform to all of the tips listed above, it is still important to get regular cardio exercise. When possible, try to change your routine so that it fits the above tips, but for the rest of the time just fit in your exercise whenever works best for you. Cardio exercise still offers a wealth of important health benefits so it’s important to do this type of activity regularly, even if you can’t fit it into the ideal schedule.

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