Fasted cardio is slowly transitioning from a strict bodybuilding training technique to something everyday gym goers are using.
But is it really that good or effective?
Does fasted cardio burn fat faster than other training types? Is it sustainable? Are there any negative side effects? Is it going to diminish your muscle gains?
These are some of the questions clients ask us regularly at Hustler Fitness. While some of our clients will benefit from fasted cardio, there are some cases where they will not.
In this article, I'm going to talk about the pros and cons of fasted cardio, how it works, and the ways it can potentially increase or diminish your training results.
Does Fasted Cardio Really Work?
The basic premise of fasted cardio is to train on an empty stomach, before breakfast and before any meals. Studies by the 'British Journal of Nutrition' have found that you can actually lose up to 20% more fat when you work out this way as opposed to working out on a full stomach.
Even though this type of workout might be perfect for those looking to lose weight, it isn't exactly ideal for those looking to build muscle mass. This kind of cardio is best practiced in the morning because you give your body the chance to fast overnight. This gives your body the chance to conserve carbs and mobilise fat for fuel.
Additionally, because your body breaks down amino acid into glucose during these night hours, your body will then potentially mobilise more amino acids in addition to fat as sources of fuel thus burning more fat as you work out.
Fasted Cardio Benefits
Fasted Cardio Benefit 1: You Could Burn More Fat
Research shows that our bodies produce more cortisol in the morning. This is the hormone within our systems that helps metabolise fat into usable energy. This in addition to the fact that your body will have used up much of your carbohydrate reserves during the night will ensure that you wake up ready to burn fat and very low on carbohydrates on which to fall back. It is an effective way to burn through more fat while you work out.
Fasted Cardio Benefit 2: Short Term Weight Loss
Professional athletes looking to lose weight and fat quickly for competition purposes have used Fasted cardio to achieve that goal. According to Men's Fitness, these people have very low body mass indexes and thus very little fat and glycogen levels on which to fall back on when they exercise on empty stomach.
This means that they would burn more fat and a little muscle when they workout in the morning. While this may be an effective way to burn fat, it may not work so efficiently for those of us who aren't on strict 'Olympic class diets' and normal BMIs.
Fasted Cardio Disadvantages
Fasted Cardio Disadvantage 1: You will probably lose muscle mass
Even though according to bodyduilding.com there are a number of studies stating that this form of workout can help you lose up to 20% more fat, there are also studies that state that the amount of fat loss is insignificant. Practical studies, however, show that this is not the ideal training type for those wanting to maintain muscle.
Because your body resorts to using amino acids as a fuel source, you will be essentially tapping into the building blocks of protein and indirectly, depleting the very organic compound that leads to muscle mass.
Fasted Cardio Disadvantage 2: It does not promote long-term fat burning
Studies show that high intensity workouts work best when it comes to sustained fat burning. Unfortunately, when engaging in high intensity workouts, you will need to have some food in your stomach if you do not want to pass out. The kind of workout generally promoted for empty stomachs involve low intensity exercises. Even though these kind of exercises can be good for fat burning during the regime, they do not do well with sustained fat burning after you have cooled down. Therefore, this kind of cardio might not necessarily be the best option when it comes to sustained fat loss.
Fasted Cardio Disadvantage 3: Decreased Energy & Potential Injury
Training on an empty stomach, for some people, can result in injury especially for those who are not accustom to exercising on an empty stomach. Traditionally most people train 60-90 minutes post eating. Eliminate this and your body is searching for stored fuel sources. The result?
Decreased energy. Potential light headedness. Inability to focus. Potential injury.
It's for this reason we would never recommend a client try fasted cardio without supervision. Whether that be with a Hustler Fitness personal trainer or a friend.
Fasted Cardio Summary
The truth of the matter is that fasted cardio has some positive effects when it comes to burning fat. As studies have shown, you can actually lose up to 20% of fat when you exercise on an empty stomach. Whether or not it is suitable for a regular Jane and Joe as opposed to Olympic-level athletes on the other hand is a whole different matter altogether.