A moderate calorie deficit is key for sustainable weight loss.
To maintain or build muscle at the same time, strength training is important.
To ensure you have energy to complete your weight workout, doing cardio after strength training might be best, according to personal trainers.
Read more Working It Out here.
I’m trying to lose weight without losing muscle (or even gaining if I can) so I’m working out four times a week and trying to eat in a calorie deficit. I’m doing both cardio and strength training, but my question is: does it matter which order I do those in? Is it better to do cardio first and then weights, or the other way round? Thanks for your help!
Congratulations on adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking a sensible approach to getting in shape.
Both strength training and cardio are important for our health, but trainers told me it’s important to prioritize resistance work when it comes to getting in shape — whether you start or finish with cardio depends on your personal preference.
Strength training is important for body recomposition
To lose fat and maintain (or build) muscle, strength training is essential.
“You will definitely want to focus more on maximizing your strength training efforts than cardio to not only maintain but stimulate growth in the muscles,” personal trainer and transformation coach Corey Calliet said.
With lifting as your priority, it makes sense to do it first followed by 25-30 minutes of cardio if you have time, according to Calliet.
He recommends choosing cardio that will fire up your muscles, like incline walking, the stairmill, or the elliptical with a challenging level of resistance.
Personal trainer Luke Goulden agrees that prioritizing strength over cardio will help you achieve body recomposition.
“Being and feeling strong will only have a positive impact on you,” he said. “This way you reduce the risk of being fatigued going into your strength session, and you give yourself every opportunity to optimize building or maintaining muscle mass.”
If I’m doing both cardio and weights in a workout (which is rare ), I will always do my strength training first because it’s most important to me. If I have time, I hop on the treadmill for a walk, but I think of it as a bonus.
On top of strength training, sticking to a calorie deficit is key for weight loss, Goulden said.
Rather than drop your calories super low, which is unsustainable for most people, Calliet suggests aiming for around 500 below your daily maintenance. This figure is often suggested by health coaches as a way to lose a pound a week, but it doesn’t apply to everyone, as Insider’s Gabby Landsverk reported.
Personal preference matters
Goulden suggests trying both ways of structuring your workouts to see which you prefer.
“Find what works for you, there are no hard and fast rules,” he said. “Some days you might be feeling cardio, some days you might just be feeling weights.”
A recent small study on eight men by the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences found that 20 minutes of intense cycling before an upper body strength session led to greater muscle gains.
Previous studies, such as this small one by Bond University, suggest the opposite.
There’s no definitive answer to your question and the science isn’t clear-cut, so why not do whatever you most enjoy? That’s the way you’re most likely to stick to your fitness regime.
Wishing you well,
As a senior health reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition-certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.
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