You are here:

Weightlifting & Exercise/HITT Cardio after Weight training


I workout 3 days a week. On workout days, I do 3 sets of an 18-minute interval training involving a 10mph run for 15 seconds with a 30-second rest (2-minute walk of 4mph before and after the run/rests.)  This ends up to be 14 minutes of sprints and 12 minutes of walking.

I do this after 85 minutes of weight training. And total calories burned is close to 1000. I eat on the average 4250 calories a day. I am currently 182 pounds and want to gain muscle to reach 210 pounds. I am about 500 calories per day in excess of my maintenance requirement.

My concern is this.  I understand one drawback to doing cardio after a workout is that cortisol levels may become too high and put you in a catabolic state, which can break down muscle tissue and hinder growth. I can only go to the gym on 3 days so dividing up my cardio from my weight training is not an option. Am I being a worry wart?

Hi Neil,

My you do have quite some energy I must say, and yes I do believe you are being a worry wart, that is not necessarily a bad thing however. We all need to be aware of how different things can effect us and I too do not want any negative occurences affecting my training.In fact I have the folloing information for you I received from my research:

"Because exercise forces the body to deviate temporarily from homeostasis (natural set-point), it is perceived as a stress and causes the release of cortisol. However, regular exercise training will decrease this effect, causing the body to have a better response to stress and require less cortisol release. Now we all know that testosterone helps us to build muscle, well Cortisol does the opposite! It is a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and prevents tissue growth. It is after about 1 hour of lifting when testosterone levels begin to drop and Cortisol levels begin to rise. This of course is a bad combination and is why any good muscle building routine can be completed in under an hour. You should have a good warm up and complete your stretches in your own time but as soon as you hit the weights, that’s it – Stay focused… No chatting… Just lift and get your workout routine done in under an hour to prevent the effects of Cortisol from stopping your gains!

How to Control Your Cortisol Levels

1. Keep Your Weight Training Workouts Less Than 1 Hour
• As stated already, if you workout for longer than 1 hour your testosterone levels will drop and Cortisol levels will rise therefore preventing muscle growth! Keep your workouts short and intense!

2. Limit Your Cardio
• Too much cardio causes more Cortisol to be released by the body so don’t over-do it on the treadmill and remember any cardio should be combined with a good diet.

3. Nutrition
• Try to eat at least 5-6 small meals each day as it has been found that eating more frequently helps to control Cortisol levels keeping them lower than if you were eating larger meals less frequently. The most important meals are breakfast and your Post Workout meal. Make sure you eat in the morning as Cortisol levels are shown to be higher at this time and maintaining a proper diet including protein, carbs and essential fats help to control Cortisol levels.
• A good post workout shake should include around 40-50g of protein (view protein powders) and 50-70g of simple carbs (dextrose) that will provide an insulin spike – this helps to clear Cortisol levels and keep up those muscle gains!

4. Relax
• Well this is a simple one in theory, as I’ve mentioned Cortisol levels are proven to rise dramatically due to the body reacting to stress. Try to chill out and not to let things stress you out!.... take a nice walk… have a bath… read a book, whatever helps you to relax and relieve the stress.

5. Sleep
• 8 Hours sleep is ideal but try to get at least 7! Remember muscle doesn’t grow whilst you’re in the gym – it grows when you’re resting. Cortisol levels are at a low and growth hormones are at a high when sleeping so make sure you’re getting enough of it!

6. Limit Caffeine Intake
• Cortisol levels can be elevated due to the stimulating effect of caffeine and it has been shown that as little as 2-3 cups per day can cause Cortisol levels to rise."

Neil, I think this information is what you are looking for. Remember to eat a lot of protein, especially after your workout when you your muscles are trying to repair themselves. Also, stay hydrated always, it is said that when we notice our mouth is dry that we are already at a 2% H2O loss. So keep an eye on what you are putting into your body as well.
Thanks for writing and keep training hard.


Weightlifting & Exercise

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Greg Hoppe


I can answer questions on proper exercise technique, starting as well as growing in attaining your fitness goals and questions regrading how the human body works from an exercise physiology standpoint. I can assist with any questions regarding anatomy & physiology, stretching and rehabilitation. I am also extremely well versed and experienced in martial arts, self-defense and massage therapy.


I have a B.S in Physical Education and a Black Belt in an eclectic martial art. I am also a certified Fitness Therapist through ISSA and a massage therapist. I can assist with questions regarding hiring a health and wellness professional as well as growing and succeeding in the field for those already working in it.

ISSA, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals

B.S. in Physical education, Black Belt, ISSA certfified Fitness Therapist.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]