Should I Lose Weight or Start Working Out First?

If you're looking to shed those extra layers of fat, it's best to start with weightlifting. Your body's glycogen stores will be depleted faster when you begin a weightlifting routine. It all depends on your body fat percentage, which most trainers will measure for free. If you're living with obesity (more than 25% body fat for men and more than 32% body fat for women), it's best to lose weight first.

The higher your body fat percentage, the more difficult it will be to build muscle and reduce fat gain. If you have a lower body fat percentage and don't need to lose as much fat, your body is better equipped to build muscle first. A study divided participants into three groups: one was told to start eating better first (and try to exercise more later), while the second group was told to change their exercise habits first (and eventually try to eat better). Or if you prefer weights over running, start with a shorter run and then reward yourself with weights, according to Millington.

Whether you choose to lose fat or gain muscle first depends on your personal health profile and fitness goals. When it comes to losing weight, it doesn't really matter if you do cardio or weights first, but strength training is more important overall, according to Strenlicht. Before making any changes to your diet, sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new exercise routine, always consult your doctor. When you lose weight and reduce fat (especially around your abdomen), you speed up your metabolism and have the energy to perform harder workouts and build muscle.

Science is inconclusive as to which one is better at doing it first; it all depends on whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve overall health. If you focus on lifting a certain amount of weight or mastering a new kettlebell exercise, go to the weight room first and supplement with some steady-state cardio on the treadmill, paddle, or bike. Most people will focus on doing more cardio when they're trying to lose weight because it burns more calories, but it's much better to do strength training two or three days a week, according to Strenlicht. If you want to lose weight, it's also important to increase non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), that is, any movement or physical activity you do outside of the gym, says Sternlicht.

When deciding whether to do cardio or weight training first during your workouts, consider your goals. Research indicates that using exercise alone as a method of weight loss can lead to weight gain. However, researchers found significant improvements in performance, strength, and lean body mass regardless of the order of exercise (that is, regardless of whether you do cardio or weights first).

Scotty Lancour
Scotty Lancour

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