Ok, so the other day a friend of mine sent me this article and asked me if I would agree that it is more beneficial to perform your weight-lifting regiment before cardio in order to increase the effectiveness of fat burning throughout your workout. Before jumping to any conclusions regarding the article source or credibility of this hypothesis, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and listen to this choir preach.
My concerns whenever I read claims like this published in lay press are the following:
1.) The concept is completely hypothetical and not supported with any science
2.) They have a basis of science backing the statement but the author often draws false conclusions or relationships without truly analyzing the research
3.) The information is accurate but not designed for the general public
4.) Hello 8th wonder of the world!
In order for me to fully express my professional opinion on this article and my thoughts on the statement “You burn the sugar while doing weights then burn the fat while doing the cardio” (OMG people), I want to provide a real quick lesson on human energy stores.
The human body has a multi-dimensional system in which it provides your muscles and your brain with the necessary energy to function. That system is made up of a series of mini-systems that work in conjunction with each other or alone to provide energy depending on the length of the activity that you are performing. The longer the activity, the more mini-systems you will use in order to successfully complete said activity. The mini-systems described above are as follows:
ATP-PC System (Adenosine Triphosphate and Creatine Phosphate): activities lasting 3-15 seconds.
Anaerobic System(Lactic Acid System): activities lasting no more than 2 minutes
Aerobic System: activities lasting 2 or more minutes in length
Without getting too much into the science of energy use, weight lifting would primarily fall under the ATP-PC or Anaerobic energy system where is cardio primarily utilizes the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. However, when discussing activity, it is not necessarily what system is working, but rather, which one predominates the current activity.
For instance, if you were to do a biceps curl, the actual exercise only lasts a couple of seconds. Therefore the ATP-PC energy system will likely be the only one used in order to perform the required exercise. However, if you are running a mile, your body will use the ATP-PC system, the anaerobic system, and maintain the activity by primarily using the Aerobic system to provide you with an adequate amount of energy throughout the run. The use of lipids (fat) as a form of energy does not actually take place until you enter the aerobic energy system and deplete all of the prior energy stores in order to complete the activity.
So basically the article is stating that by doing weight lifting, you will burn through (or use up) all of your short term energy stores or as the LA Fitness guru contests, “Your sugar source” thus leaving the aerobic energy system to provide you with the power necessary to perform the cardio portion of your workout.
I agree, resistance training prior to doing cardio is a great way to maximize your workout while making it energy efficient and weight loss effective. However, I say this in caution for two reasons. First, you cannot single-handily isolate the use of fat during any point of a workout to be the only form of energy used for an activity/exercise/workout and secondly, this particular order of working out is not designed for everyone. It should not be generalized to the public or should it be viewed as the “silver bullet” to weight loss. To effectively lose weight and keep it off, you need to focus on healthy eating, energy balance, behavior modifications, and keep into consideration the type and intensity of your physical activities.
I would suggest trying resistance training before cardio only if you workout regularly, have hit a plateau with your weight-loss goals, or are focusing on specificity with your exercise routine. By no means should you ever start a workout with resistance training without properly warming up and performing movement prep type exercises (stretching).
Hopefully this helps provide some clarity. Feel free to comment if you need more explanation or disagree with me as I love to hear from everyone : )
P.S. Unless you run on pixie sticks, you’ll never have to worry about burning through your sugar source : )