Things to Know About Fasted Cardio

At Wizard Athleisure, we believe in the power of exercise and having a proper training plan to reach your goals, so today we will be going over the research that was done with regards to fasted cardio and fat loss.

Including cardio exercise in your training regime is important as it’s benefits go beyond just fat loss, it supports and enhances the respiratory system.

Just like any other exercise there are debates about the best cardio exercise and the best time to do it. Mornings when you are in a “fasted state” or after having at least a meal.

The Common Perception About Fasted Cardio
We will begin by examining the idea behind exercising on a empty stomach. This will force your body to use the already stored energy which will initiate the metabolism process leading to burning the stored fat and a leaner shape with time.

The flip side to this, which is also supported by many, is that your body will resort to using muscle fat instead of body fat when exercising without a meal in advance. The reasoning for this is that if you eat a healthy meal before you exercise then it will start your metabolism before you start the cardio session.

This will lead to an improved performance throughout the training session. You will be burning more fat all through the day since your body is already fed before the workout.

We don’t have any intention to tilt the balance to any type of exercise but we will look more into fasted cardio and if it would be a good choice for athletes.

Looking at Research Studies
Much has been written and researched about fasted cardio to either prove or negate its effectiveness. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2016 reviewed exercises which compared the metabolic effects of aerobic exercise for up to two hours.

Some athletes during the study exercised the cardio fasted while others exercised after having a meal. The outcome was that fat oxidation in the fasted cardio was higher when compared to the ones who exercised after being fed. Thus the study concluded that “aerobic exercise performed in the fasted state induces higher fat oxidation than exercise performed in the fed state” 1.

A study conducted in 2014 concluded that body composition changes happened regardless of whether the cardio was performed fasted or after being fed first. Even though the study didn’t determine which one was better, the outcome for those that went for fasted cardio was that it still proved to be effective.2

It Might Not Be Applicable for Everyone
A key takeout here is that fasted cardio might not be suitable for everyone.

A 2012 study by Cambridge University focused on 12 active men in which some performed cardio after an overnight fast and without breakfast, and others ate a meal first. That study concluded that while there was no difference in energy intake or performance, the group that ate first had a more suppressed appetite later in the day, meaning they were less likely to eat excess calories that they didn’t need.3

Which is The Best Type of Fasted Cardio
A book published in 1999 by Bill Phillips generated a lot of interest in the form of exercising using fasted cardio. He suggested using HIIT workouts as this form of exercise will lead the body to respond to the various levels of intense training. With time, a debate was undergoing comparing the LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) with HIIT when performing training fasted.

A study conducted in 2020 considered the effects of fasted HIIT cardio on 32 obese women. The findings were that some of the women reported a decrease in performance while others reported little to no change. Changes in fat oxidation was also very minimal. The study continued to assert that that endurance athletes don’t benefit much from performing HIIT workouts in a fasted state as well.4

As a conclusion, it is good to look at research reports, however it is also good to research what works best with your body and plan your workout sessions accordingly.

One key finding which most sports communities came to is that doing HIIT workouts in a fasted state is not a good idea. Fat oxidation is not that great, and it would affect your lean body mass. If you are to perform fasted cardio, it would be better to go with LISS.

In essence, you need to measure your weight and body fat percentages then compare the numbers after 4-5 weeks. Follow a regular training program and a balanced nutrition diet in during these weeks.

Drink 200 to 400 ml of water before you start your workout. Water does not impact your fasted state yet it provides the hydration that your muscles need to perform.

Aim for a moderate exercise and repeat on the days that you train during the week. Make sure that you take one day off during the week if we plan a 3 or 4 days workout sessions.

During the second week, increase the duration of your exercise and do the same on the week after. After you complete your 4 – 5 weeks program measure again your weight and bodyfat. If there is a change then you would know that fasted cardio is good for your body. In case you don’t see a change then you need to repeat but this time with a healthy meal before start your cardio workout.


Fadi D.

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