There is a lot of controversy on the “optimal” time for cardio. Depending on goal to: improve V02max, cardiovascular health, fat loss or weight maintenance; one can reason with many different protocols. I will focus on the details/extremes I take to ensure maximal results in my contest preparations. Each prep may change based on how my body responds and I can almost guarantee no prep will ever be exactly the same. The first item I will share is the optimal/best time for me to perform cardio. By “best time” I take into consideration that I will be training later that day and that I have to keep constant motivation for my cardio. I choose to split my cardio up from my weight training and do fasting cardio whenever possible. The most productive time for me during the day or night where I am the most focused, motivated and get the best results in prep is the early hours of the night. In the last 2 years that timing have been between 12:30am and 3am in the morning. For whatever reason I wake up from my sleep with the determination to hit the step mill with vengeance in sight of pealed glutes and that memorable conditioning! Another factor that is very often overlooked is all of the details that go into the allotted cardio time. Like training in the gym, I feel there is a great importance in pre cardio, during cardio and post cardio protocols. Everything adds up! If we are as serious about getting in the best shape of shreddedness then we should consider what we do before, during and after cardio. I feel it is very obvious to see those individuals who approach cardio in this way when you see them onstage. I don’t just say “ok I’ll get my 40min out of the way on this step mill,” and go through the motions of simply staring off into space, thinking about everything I have to do in the day, play on Instagram on my phone, reading a magazine, or listening to a book on tape while I do cardio. I am not saying you are not doing some cardiovascular fitness still. I am saying your cardio will not be nearly as effective as it could be though! In fact! I would bet that the people who are focused on pre, during and post cardio do not have to do as much cardio. They also get faster and better results than those who simply go through the motions. I have gotten many posts and questions on my conditioning for recent shows which I am grateful for. I have had past shows where I admittedly looked like shit! My body looked off or underdeveloped. What I have been doing most recently in off and in season years has made a great impact on my success as I apply this thinking to many other aspects of my bodybuilding. Preparing for my cardio I utilize specific creams that help my skin for fat loss. I wear compression shorts and a neoprene waist trimmer. Depending on the temp in the cardio room I determine the clothes I wear or lack thereof. The goal for me is not to hate cardio like I am in the dessert or a sauna. I like to sweat but not make the cardio more difficult than it needs to be while getting the same positive results. I rather not gasp for air and overheat!; What’s the point in that? If I feel that I am close to a show and want to increase my ability to burn fat I will add in an over the counter fat accelerating product taken about 20min pre cardio also. During cardio I have heard many theories on powdered aminos and artificial sweetened drinks or water flavoring powders. My experience has always been to sip BCAA during cardio not so much for the saving muscle attempts, but the taste and refreshingness that makes cardio so much easier. The most recent prep I refrained from caffeine all day except during cardio and training times where I add a scoop of my own creation energy powder into my BCAA powder to sip on. Now, during cardio is where the amount of calories burned and the amount of activation on specific muscle groups can be “HIT OR MISS”. The type of cardio machine has an effect on target areas. There is a reason why coach’s recommend using the step mill and incline treadmill over the seated bike or flat walking. I prefer the infamous step mill and do not count any other cardio in my day that is not taking place on a step mill machine. I do not count walking my huskies, running errands, or shopping! When I do the step mill I am completely focused on what I am doing and what I want to get out of it. In my mind I hold a picture of the physique I will create. I visualize the glutes I will have with each step I take, emphasizing to flex and contract. In fact, I can attribute my ham glute quad tie-ins more to my cardio than my training! The mind muscle focus and control of each contraction over those 30min to however many more min add up over time and make a huge difference! The range of motion of each step can activate different muscle fibers and parts of the glute you want to impact. While I am stepping I have not listened to music in the past so I can focus on my breathing and get more focused into my cardio. However, the last few preps I have stumbled upon technology and started to utilize my iphone. I cannot stand doing cardio or training when a song comes on that zaps my energy because I am not feeling that specific song. That is my reasoning for not using music in the past too. Finding “Pandora radio” has got me back on the technology wagon! I can set the music to the type I am in the mood for. I cannot listen to music that gets my adrenalin up too much as it manages to keep my heart rate elevated too high. LOL You get into it and before you know it your heart is beating way faster than normal and you could be going slow at the time. The stations I have created and found that work best for me on Pandora are: Lincoln park radio,Incubus radio,Nickleback radio,Instrumental hip hop, Paul Oakenfold radio and Coldplay radio. My ritual after cardio is based on show prep mode or off season mode. During times I am prepping for a show I will make a fresh glass of lemon water after I have cleaned up from cardio with about 15-20grams of free-form aminos. While in off season I am not as regimented with the fresh lemon water and find myself making coconut re-hydrating extract in water and stevia drink, then digging into my meal about 30-35min after cardio had completed.