Love it or hate it, cardio is necessary. Even if weight loss is not your goal, cardio is necessary for good health and longevity. Low intensity, high intensity, steady state, or interval training, cardio comes in many different forms that serve you differently.
My favorite benefits are:
1. sweating which relieves you of water weight and toxins
2. positive effects on mental health (endorphins are released)
But let's talk about timing. I don't think people discuss this enough because most of the time the concern is just DOING the damn cardio.
In regards to aesthetics and weight loss, there are two key parts to cardio. The first part is choosing what kind of cardio you are going to do and the second part is WHEN.
Choosing what kind of cardio you're doing
First you have low intensity steady state cardio such as going for a long walk or a slow elliptical session. Maybe you are choosing this because you're getting back into the swing of working out or maybe you are really sore and it's your "off" day. This kind of cardio is still good for the heart but you aren't going to burn as many calories as high intensity.
The second kind of cardio is high intensity interval training. You will find this kind of training in a group fitness class that involves intervals of running, lifting, jumps, twists, anything with quick feet. Your heart rate is up and constantly fluctuating, forcing your body to burn more calories.
You can mix and match these two. One of my favorite forms of cardio is doing the stairmaster for 45 minutes at about level 7 or 8. This is steady state cardio but my heart rate is elevated, and I sweat a lot.
Now, all of these things are great, and I recommend a little bit of everything, but let's talk about WHEN to do them.
What time of the day to do cardio
Plain and simple, I cannot do any form of cardio that will elevate my heart rate really early in the morning. If I do, I will overeat later in the day.
The only form of cardio I will do in the morning is a low intensity steady state such as a fasted incline walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes. Even this can be hard for me to combat. Let me explain.
The interesting part about steady state cardio is that say you burn 450 calories, that is all you will burn from that workout. Whereas when you weight train, your body burns less calories during the actual workout, but continues to burn calories for the rest of the day.
So, when you burn calories during cardio, the goal is to be at a caloric deficit because of it. But what happens if you are starving after your session because you just fired up your metabolism and are now low in electrolytes? The issue is when you go for that extra meal because you are so hungry. Your body most likely wants hydration, but way too often we mistake it for hunger.
This is very detailed and doesn't happen to everyone. It depends on your metabolism and how much you can rehydrate, but for those getting up early to put that work in and aren't seeing results, this might be why.
Remember- I am strictly talking about cardio. Not group fitness classes that involves weights or any form of weight training. I am referring to running, stairmaster, quick bodyweight movements etc.
I personally have to do almost any form of plain cardio before dinnertime. Unless its fasted cardio, meaning the incline walk I mentioned above, my metabolism skyrockets. I like to get in a stairmaster session or long run right before dinner. That way, my metabolism has already been going all day, and I get to eat right after regardless. After dinner, I sometimes end up still being hungry, but I drink my aminos and rehydrate myself until it's time for bed.
This blog post touches on a topic many don't think about. But I have a lot of clients who have reached their goals and are now focused on the details. Timing is an important factor that can make or break maintaining your physique and also controlling your hangry-ness!