Although it is the most popular form of workout, people tend to have several doubts about cardio exercises. In this article we will answer the five most commonly asked questions around cardio. Let’s begin by briefly understanding what cardio means.
What is Meant by Cardio?
Cardiovascular exercises — more commonly known as simply “cardio” — are physical activities that increase your heart rate and make you breathe faster and deeper. Cardio workouts improve the function of your heart and lungs, increase your stamina, and burn calories to help you lose weight. Running, cycling, swimming, and brisk walking are the most common forms of cardiovascular workout. Jumping jacks, kickboxing, aerobic dancing, and skipping rope, etc. are also forms of cardio.
Doing cardio exercises regularly is a great way to maintain your health and fitness levels. They also help in reducing your risk of lifestyle conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, while improving your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Common Cardio Questions and Their Answers
1. What is the best time to do cardio?
One of the great things about cardiovascular exercises is that it can be done at any time of the day. There’s cardio for each part of the day depending on its intensity. I’d usually suggest doing it whenever you think you feel energetic enough. Mornings are ideal for intense cardio such as running and sprinting. Even cardio done on machines are best done in the morning.
Mornings are great for cardio; evenings are great for walks
Mornings are great in terms of convenience but that doesn’t mean one cannot do cardio exercises later in the day if time permits. Our metabolism tends to peak around the afternoon. So fasting till noon and doing some cardio on an empty stomach is a potent way to go after that stubborn fat. For the evenings, a simple walk should be the best. Walking helps the body relax while you still burn calories. This makes walking unique as all other exercises create a stress response in the body. Try to avoid any kind of stress during the evenings as it could make it harder for you to fall asleep.
2. Should I do cardio before or after weights?
This is one of the most commonly asked cardio question. And the clear answer: cardio should always be done after weights. This is because weight training won’t hinder your cardio workout but a cardio session before weight training can reduce your performance in the gym.
Do cardio and weights on separate days
If you are worried about maintaining a certain level of performance even during your cardio sessions, it’s best to do weights and cardio on separate days. If you do decide to do them together, make sure there’s at least a 4-hour gap between sessions. Light cardio can be done immediately post workout. In fact, light cardio post workout enhances recovery. A short pre-workout cardio session can be used as a warm-up but it cannot be considered a workout in itself.
3. When is cardio most effective — morning or evening?
As mentioned in the first point, cardio is most effective on an empty stomach — it not only helps performance but also improves the body’s ability to use fat for fuel. Plus, it’s easier to do fasted cardio in the morning. If you can continue fasting till noon, do a 30-minute session before breaking the fast. This will dramatically help you achieve fat adaptation as the body will be in a deeper fasted state in the afternoon. Doing some physical activity in this condition forces the body to use fat, something it gets better at doing until one day it runs on fat effortlessly.
Sprinting is best done in the evenings — but avoid anything too close to bedtime
Let me repeat: cardio is effective regardless of when its done even though there are times in the day when you get more benefits from it. Performance-based cardio like sprints are best done in the evening as body temperature naturally rises in the evening. Strength and speed tend to peak in the evening hours. Even though these differences exist, cardio can be done at anytime. The important part is to get it done. Also, evening workouts should be avoided in general if maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm is a priority.
4. Should I eat before starting cardio or do it in a fasted state?
Fasted cardio — having an empty stomach during cardio — is ideal if you are aiming for weight loss. If fasted cardio is something you’re not comfortable with, then a light meal consisting of a fruit should suffice. Have some coconut water, a few berries or an apple about 30 minutes before starting your cardio workout. These can be also had immediately after the workout. The advantage of fruits is that they’re easy to digest.
Digestion and workout performance
Avoid foods that take time to digest like eggs, meat, etc. You can have these a short while after your cardio workout. If you must have them before your workout, then make sure you maintain a gap of at least 2-4 hours between your meal and the workout as digestion can hinder workout performance and vice versa — working out can hinder the digestive process.
5. Is cardio the same as HIIT? Which is better?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. All HIIT is cardio but all cardio is not HIIT. HIIT requires you to perform a high intensity exercise for a short duration of time (10-60 secs) followed by an interval of rest. After the rest interval the intense activity is repeated. A perfect example would be 100 meter sprints, 6-10 times. Each sprints would last around 12-14 seconds.
Both HIIT and low intensity cardio have pros and cons
HIIT improves cardiovascular health and also improves fat loss in the long run. It also gives a boost in energy levels due to its effect on adrenaline. However, HIIT is not the best way to improve endurance. Regular cardio (called LISS — Low Intensity Steady State cardio) allows you to work at a lower intensity for a longer duration of time. Someone who is aiming to improve their ability to carry out an activity for longer will benefit more from LISS. A drawback of LISS is that because it is low intensity, it doesn’t lead to the same hormonal boost as HIIT. On the other hand, the disadvantage of HIIT is that it’s taxing to recover from, since it involves maximal or close to maximal effort. Either way, both benefit your overall wellbeing.
We have addressed some of the most commonly asked questions about cardio exercises above. Our aim is to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their exercise routines. If you have further questions about cardio exercises, feel free to leave a comment, and our experts will be happy to answer. Or you may want to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert to tailor cardio workouts based on your individual needs and goals.
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