Is it better to do cardio before or after strength training to lose fat and build muscle?

Samantha Lee / Business Insider
Strength training is important in rebuilding your body, so it may be better to do it before cardio. Getty / Inti St Clair
A moderate calorie deficit is key to sustainable weight loss.
To maintain or build muscle at the same time, strength training is important.
To make sure you have energy to complete your strength training, personal trainers say cardio is best after strength training.
Read more elaborating here.
Dear Rachel,
I try to lose weight without losing muscle (or even gaining weight when I can) so I exercise four times a week and try to eat with a calorie deficit. I do both cardio and weight training, but my question is, does it matter what order I do them in? Is it better to do cardio first and then weights, or vice versa? Thanks for your help!
- Renew
Dear Recomping,
Congratulations on a healthy lifestyle and sensible approach to getting in shape.
Both strength training and cardio are important to our health, but the trainers told me that prioritizing resistance training when it comes to getting in shape - whether you start or stop cardio depends on your personal preference .
Strength training is important for body recomposition
To lose fat and maintain (or gain) muscle, weight training is essential.
"You will definitely want to focus more on maximizing your strength training efforts than on cardio, in order to not only maintain but also stimulate muscle growth," said personal trainer and transformation coach Corey Calliet.
Since weightlifting is a priority, Calliet says it makes sense to do it first, followed by 25-30 minutes of cardio if you have the time.
He recommends choosing cardio exercise that fires your muscles, such as incline walking, the stair belt, or the elliptical with a challenging resistance level.
Personal Trainer Luke Goulden agrees that prioritizing strength over cardio will help you regain your body.
"Being strong and feeling strong will only have positive effects on you," he said. "In this way you reduce the risk of getting fatigued during strength training and give you every opportunity to optimize the development or maintenance of muscle mass."
If I do both cardio and weights in a workout (which is rare), I will always do my strength training first because it matters most to me. When I have the time, I hop on the treadmill for a walk, but I see it as a bonus.
In addition to strength training, sticking to a calorie deficit is key to losing weight, Goulden said.
Instead of cutting your calories to very low levels, which is unsustainable for most people, Calliet suggests getting about 500 below your daily needs. This number is often suggested by health coaches to shed a pound a week, but it doesn't apply to everyone, Insider's Gabby Landsverk reported.
Personal preferences are important
Goulden suggests trying both options to structure your workout to see which one you prefer.
"Find what works for you, there are no hard and fast rules," he said. "Some days you might feel cardio, some days you might just feel weights."
A recent small study by the Swedish School of Sports and Health Sciences of eight men found that 20 minutes of vigorous cycling before an upper body strength training session resulted in greater muscle gains.
Previous studies, like this little one from Bond University, suggest the opposite.
There is no definitive answer to your question and the science is ambiguous. So why not do what you enjoy most? This is the most likely way to stick to your fitness regimen.
I wish you a speedy recovery
As a senior health reporter at Insider and a self-proclaimed fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition-certified nutrition course with her, Rachel Hosie delves into the wellness scene and is here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you're struggling to find the motivation to run, unsure about light or heavy weights, or worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the factual answers and Advice you need with no diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of fitness, nutrition and wellness experiences and has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She speaks regularly to some of the most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, nutritionists, and coaches in the world to ensure she is always up to date with the latest scientific facts you need for your happiest, healthiest life.
Have a question? Ask Rachel at or fill out this anonymous form. All questions are published anonymously.
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