The Chicken or the Egg

Health & Wellness

Tips for Living Healthy in South Arkansas

Jason Rogers
Manager, JRMC Wellness Centers

Something must come first, right? Well, this week we’re going to talk about which should come first in your workout, cardio or strength training. Humans need both, and it’s only through the combination of these (along with sound nutrition and adequate sleep) that we can ever hope to achieve our best health. In the health and fitness world it’s a clich√© that “runners don’t lift and lifters don’t run”. Don’t be like this.

But, back to the question: which should come first? Well, as with many other things in life … it depends. For quite some time, in order to maximize body fat loss, the recommendation was to do cardio after your longest “fast” in a 24-hour period – like just after waking in the morning. The thought was: our bodies prefer to burn carbohydrates (that we store in our muscles and liver) as fuel. You haven’t eaten since the night before, so during sleep the body is fasting. During that fast the body has burned through the majority of its stored carbs. When the carb stores are depleted, it was assumed that the body would turn to breaking down fat stores for fuel.

Studies now confirm, however, that the assumption above is incorrect. Ultimately, fat loss is dependant on the human body being in a negative caloric balance – when we eat fewer calories than we burn through metabolism and activity.

Additionally, strength training and cardiovascular exercise are different. Strength training exercises typically require more skill to perform and occur over a very short period of time when compared to cardiovascular exercise, which is often more repetitive in nature and takes place over a longer duration. The skill level required of some strength training exercises would suggest they be performed first, while energy levels are highest and focus is sharp.

The length time involved in performing the two different types of activities means that a different energy system in the body is required for each. Broadly described, strength training utilizes energy that is already stored in the body, while cardiovascular exercise requires the body to manufacture the energy to be used while the event is taking place. Cardio, therefore, causes greater physiological change to the muscles and requires more time to recover from. This means that lifting after cardio will be less effective.

So, if you are new to exercise, you exercise for overall health, or if your short-term fitness goal does NOT include some type of cardiovascular event (10K, marathon, long charity bike ride, etc.), then the general recommendation would be to strength train first. Doing this has the potential to lessen the risk of injury and will allow you to recover enough to still follow it up with some good cardio.

The JRMC Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. For more information call the Pine Bluff (541-7890) or White Hall (850-8000) facility.


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