The topic of fasted cardio is long debated and has many pros and cons going for it depending on the angle you look at it. In this article I will break down all the pros and cons for you and explain who is most likely to benefit from performing a cardio in a fasted state. Please read this article until the end to fully understand fasted cardio, the approaches one should take if fasted cardio is to be undertaken. Find out what to highly consider to make fasted cardio utmost effective and why for many fasted cardio is not the way to go. If you are reading this and contemplating on adding fasted cardio to you regimen, I am assuming that your diet is dialed in and you already have a set eating plan to go along with your exercises.
What is a fasted state?
Fasted state is referred to a metabolic state resulted after complete digestion and absorption of a meal a person ingested last. This process is complete within 6 to 8 hours, which means no other food should enter the system to interrupt the digestion process in order to qualify for a fasted state. Best time to be in a fasted state is overnight when a person is fast asleep. This is also the best time for your body to heal from your daily activities, recharge, and is a best state for muscle recovery. Consequently Fasted Cardio is an exercise routine which you would perform on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, before putting any meal into your body.
There is a lot of scientific research supporting this approach and there is also a lot of research which states that doing cardio on a fasted state is very counter productive, let alone beneficial. I say there are certain things a person should understand and learn about his/her body, know their goals and understand all the facts behind fasted cardio before engaging in it. There are ways to make it work and there are ways to flunk it completely.
Who Will Benefit The Most?
1. As simple as it may sound, those who do not like working out with something in their stomach will like working out on a fasted state, given that these people fuel their bodies right after the exercise session with proper nutrition.
2. Fasted cardio is very helpful for those who are well into their fitness journey of losing weight and are at the last stage of their desired results. Namely, they have only a few more fat pounds to shed and in dire need for breaking their fitness plateau. It seems that people in this category benefit from the fasted cardio the most, considering the fasted state pushes the body to attack the stored fat cells and use them as an energy.
While you are in a fasted state blood flow dramatically increases in the areas where the stubborn fat lingers, which means more fat cells will be engaged as energy and fuel in that part of the body where you have the most accumulation of hard-to-reach fat concentration. These parts of the body are usually very hard to reach when you are in a “fed” state.
3. Fasted cardio is also great for athletes who are getting ready for a fitness competition. These athletes already have chiseled bodies but need to lean out even more right before competition. However these athletes need to be especially cautious and perform their fasted cardio under the supervision of either a sports nutritionist or a certified fitness coach. Fasted cardio done wrong may very well diminish the accumulated muscle mass in their bodies and make the body use lean muscle mass for energy to fuel itself during the exercise instead of using the fat cells. I will refer to this again during the course of this article. People in this group may have to supplement with anabolic aid before their fasted cardio in order to preserve their lean muscle mass.
Who will NOT benefit from fasted Cardio?
1. Beginners in their fitness journey, who have much fat to lose should not consider doing fasted cardio right from the start. The biggest reason behind this statement lays in the fact that the body is not used to utilizing fat cells as an energy source and it will first “eat-up” whatever is readily available, which is lean muscle. As you start a fitness journey I would rather recommend you to clean up your diet, steadily start working on your endurance, watch how your body responds to new changes. Slowly build up your strength and introduce new methods once at a time. Adding resistance training to your routine will also help you build on some lean muscle to accelerate your metabolism.
2. Exercising on a fasted state is not suitable for those who wish to build only lean muscle, namely body builders. I am all for doing cardio on an empty stomach, but lifting weights without fueling your body with necessary carbohydrates you cannot obtain good results. If done correctly, exercising during a fasted state is done to jump-start your body with a great jolt of energy to carry you along the entire day and making sure your appetite is sufficiently suppressed (because of the normalized ghrelin levels – hunger hormone), you have plenty of energy and sleep much better at night. Lifting weights on an empty stomach and trying to build muscle will force your body to use your existing muscles as an energy source and will keep on requiring more fuel throughout your day, leaving you hungry, sluggish, tired and sleepy. Recovery from such sessions can be very painful and long, subjecting you in a state of Delayed Onset Muscle Sorness (DOMS). So, the main idea behind the fasted cardio is leaning out and not building more muscle.
The best approach to weight lifting is to replenish your body with a whey protein enriched with amino acids half an hour before lifting and follow the protocols on building lean muscle mass. If you wish to lean out in the between these sessions, you can pick up fasted cardio on the days you are not lifting, making it 2-3 times a week, where you feed your body with necessary nutrients right after the fasted cardio session and/or protect your muscles with necessary amino acids before starting the fasted cardio.
How Many Times a Week Should You Consider Doing Fasted Cardio?
I recommend doing fasted cardio NO MORE than 3-4 times a week. Performing fasted cardio more than 4 times a week is not proven to be more effective. Your body needs time to heal in between sessions. Fast and super-fast fibers need 2 days of recovery time to be able to fully take on the next challenge coming their way. I recommend doing something else on the days you are not doing fasted cardio. For example, you can add resistance training or lifting to your regimen every other day.
What Kind of Cardio To Perform In a Fasted State?
The type of cardio to perform on a fasted state has also been highly debated and it seems there is no one solid answer. From my personal experience I would recommend choosing a workout which best suits your energy level on that particular day. There might be days when you feel particularly tired because you’ve had a rough night. Instead of skipping a workout, chose a relatively moderate 30 minute cardio session. If you feel strong enough, do not hesitate to take on solid 20 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Anything more than that is too much stress on your system. I can’t emphasize enough on the fact that you shouldn’t spend more than 20 min on HIIT during a fasted state.
People who oppose HIIT training during a fasted state are not considering the fact that with each and every time of HIIT workouts two things happen:
1)The number of growth hormones start increasing dramatically in order to help you to recover faster and faster.
2) Muscles adapt to using less and less glycogen during HIIT sessions and muscle cells also get better and better at oxidizing fat. With time, as you continue with fasted HIIT, your body will be able to metabolize fatty acids more readily during your workouts.
Combined with the benefits of the fasted state mentioned above, HIIT workouts can help you effectively obliterate stubborn visceral fat, which from a hearth health perspective is another huge bonus.
What about the Diet?
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, engaging in fasted cardio along with HIIT workouts require a very careful consideration of your daily diet. I recommend to eat 3-4oz of lean protein (5 egg whites or 1 scoop of whey protein) before going to bed the night before of your fasted cardio days.
Remember that kitchen is where you unfold 80% of your results and only 20% of your success comes from your physical training. First and foremost strive to eliminate all processed food from your diet altogether. After you are done with your HIIT on a fasted state, give your body the utmost needed nutrition in the proper proportion of protein, carbohydrates and fat. You may also consider making yourself fast absorbing protein shake to help your body and give muscles a great chance to recover faster. If you are so close to your goals and haven’t gotten rid of refined carbohydrates from your pantry, know that however much you attempt on doing HIIT or a fasted cardio, you cannot out-train a bad diet. Let your hard efforts come to fruition and work towards getting those last results in.