You may be familiar with fasted cardio. If you’re not, it’s when you do cardio on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. The belief – and there is a big debate about it in the fitness world – is that you burn more fat versus when you do cardio after you’ve eaten. Through the years, I’ve read the research and monitored how effective it has been in my own training programs. So what’s my take on it? Read on. 👓
PREMISE: After sleeping for several hours with no food, your body is in a fasted state. That means the energy you’ve ingested from all the day’s meals is stored for later use (in the form of glycogen). So when you wake up and hit the treadmill, stairs, etc., before eating any food, your body burns fat as its primary energy source. If however, you were to eat before cardio, then your body would use the new energy it has ingested (glucose), rather than the existing fat stores in your body that you are trying to burn off.
FACT: Several scientific studies show that doing cardio on an empty stomach does burn a greater percentage of fat (15-20 percent) than doing it when you have food in your system.
Another benefit is that problem areas – those spots on your body that seem to be the most stubborn at holding on to fat – get the brunt of the fat burning. I’ve noticed this when I’m deep into my contest prep and working on dialing in key areas of my physique. 👍
REAL WORLD APPLICATION
Now, the science behind this is convincing, but applying lab studies to the real world is another matter. I do fasted cardio, not only because of the aforementioned benefits, but also because I am a morning person. I’m pretty much ready to go the moment my feet hit the floor. I get my cardio done first thing so there’s just one less thing I have to plan/schedule during the day.
But not everybody is a morning person and if you fall into this category I recommend doing your cardio later when you have more energy. Jumping on the treadmill or stairs when you’re low on energy is not ideal, and you will most likely come to dread it. That could lead to negative feelings towards morning cardio sessions, turning it into one of those things you “hate doing.” 😩
THE FINAL WORD
While fasted cardio can help you burn more fat, it is more important to do cardio when you have the most energy. And remember, regardless of when you do cardio, you won’t see the results you’re after if your overall training and nutrition program isn’t on point. As with everything in your health and fitness journey, have a clear goal first, identify the strategies that support that goal, and then do what it takes to get there. 😊
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One of the biggest names in the fitness industry, Nicole Wilkins is a world-record holding four-time Figure Olympia Champion and 2012 IFPA Personal Trainer of the Year. Nicole earned her BA in Wellness, Health Promotion and Injury Prevention at Oakland University. The owner and founder of nPower Nutrition, Nicole has helped thousands of people start living a healthier lifestyle and reach their fitness goals.