Morning Glory: When’s the Best Time for Cardio?

Everyone has their own opinions on wellness, but where do these points of view originate? Fitness expert Akshay Chopra recalls, ‘I recently posted a question on Facebook asking folks what they thought was the best time to do cardio. From the various responses I received, I concluded that everyone has their own perception of how and when to do cardio exercises but most of them are not even sure of the logic behind their perceptions. Remember, your reason for doing cardiovascular exercises should be to burn fat, while preserving muscle. Burning up of the muscle for energy is a common ill-effect of long distance cardio—frequently seen in marathon runners. Just notice the build of competitive runners, and you will see that they are usually extremely thin and skinny, with hardly any muscle.’ So what is the best way to go about your cardio workout?

1. When’s the Best Time for Cardio?
‘There are several theories floating on the web about the best time for cardio,’ notes Chopra. ‘I have been doing research on this topic for a long time now and below I share my conclusions with valid reasoning. Cardio should be done on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. This is the most common view around the world and I agree with it too. But understand one thing: carbohydrate in the body fuels high-intensity exercises like weight training and sprinting. Fat on the other hand is the primary fuel for low intensity cardio. When we wake up in the morning, our body is depleted of carbohydrates as it has not had any fuel for the last seven to eight hours, while we were asleep. This is the ideal time to target fat with the help of cardio exercises. If you consume any form of carbs in the morning before doing cardio, [a common practice is to eat a fruit] then the energy for the cardio session is going to come from the carbs you ate and not from the fat you’re trying to burn. Here comes the twist… the problem occurs when the intensity of your cardio increases and the body needs carbs for fuel, which it does not have when you’re on an empty stomach.’

2. How Do You Stop Your Body Utilising Muscle for Energy?
According to Chopra, ‘The best way to prevent the muscle from going into catabolism is to consume a branched chain amino acid [BCAA] drink before your morning cardio session. BCAA supplements can be brought over the counter. These drinks will prevent the muscle from breaking down. Not only are your carbs and protein stores low in the morning but your cortisol [stress hormone] levels are high too. This is another factor responsible for muscle breakdown. To counter these problems, add two more things to your drink: Glutamine and vitamin C tablet [it will quickly dissolve in water]. Want a further increase in fat burning and antioxidants? Add black coffee to it. This combo of BCAAs, glutamine, vitamin C and coffee will skyrocket your fat burning and at the same time prevent muscle breakdown.’

3. What If You Do Cardio at Other Times in the Day?
Chopra details, ‘Another response I got on Facebook to my question was that cardio can be done at any time during the day. Of course you can—and it will burn calories too. But as I explained, you should be aware of whether the source of those calories is fat or muscle protein. If you are really pressed for time and want to do your cardio in the evening, make sure there is a gap of at least three hours after your last meal. And don’t forget to take the drink mix I recommended above.’

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