Is Fasted Cardio In The Morning Better For Fat Loss?

by FitStaff

Performing fasted cardio in the morning has been a popular approach to fat loss for many years. You’ve probably heard it many times yourself.
fasted cardio in the morning

And many people have gotten great results doing just that. But is fasted cardio in the morning the most effective way to do your cardio?

Or even really necessary at all?

Performing early morning fasted cardio is a fat loss strategy that has been championed by many fitness trainers, experts and enthusiasts over the years. It’s been considered by many as a superior way to lose weight.

The idea behind fasted cardio in the morning is this; without any food in the body it will quickly tap into body fat stores in order to provide the energy necessary to fuel the workout. In other words, more of the calories being burned will come from fat.

On the surface it sounds great (other than the misery of a hard cardio session being done in a fasted state for any real length of time). And many people have gotten results from doing it this way.

But many people absolutely hate training this way. They are miserable trying to grind through a thirty or sixty minute workout after not eating for eight or twelve hours. And really, who can blame them?

In terms of practical matters sticking to this type of training program for the long haul is one problem with fasted cardio. If you aren’t training, you aren’t going to get results, right?

And does it really matter what percentage of calories burned come from fat or carbohydrates?

Many years ago it was accepted that low intensity cardio was superior for fat loss because a higher percentage of the calories burned came from fat.

However, the high intensity training sessions burned more calories overall and this is what was important. If you burn more calories each day than you take in, you’ll be in a calorie deficit and will lose weight, whether or not the calories burned from exercise are carbohydrates or fat calories.

In general, burning more fat during training will have you burning more carbohydrates at rest and vice versa. The important number is the total calories burned, not the type of calorie or even if they body is in a fasted state (Schoenfeld B. Does cardio after an overnight fast maximize fat loss? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 2001 (33): 23-25).

Just as interestingly, this study showed that exercising on an empty stomach actually lowers the thermogenic response when contrasted with not fasting before exercise.

There are two processes involved in fat loss, lipolysis and oxidation. Lipolysis “breaks away” fatty acids from the fat tissue itself and releases those fatty acids into the bloodstream. Organs like the heart and liver, as well as muscle, are able to grab these fatty acids and use them for energy, which is known as oxidation.

Any fatty acids that are not used for energy (not oxidized) go back into the fat tissue. So while lipolysis is important, without oxidation it won’t help when it comes to fat loss. Fasted cardio training does not increase oxidation over cardio performed at any other time.

You don’t need early morning fasted cardio

In fact, not only do you not have to do your cardio in a fasted state to get results, when it comes to oxidation (actually burning those calories), this steady state cardio may not be the best choice, either. Many studies have shown that high intensity interval training, or HIIT, causes more fatty acid oxidation than steady state lower intensity, or “traditional” cardio workouts.

Now, high intensity interval training is not the way to go every day, but performing two or three sessions a week, with more traditional lower intensity exercise on the other days, is likely to bring you better fat loss results, than traditional cardio in the morning on an empty stomach.

Fasted cardio in the morning may not be the best way to go. But if morning training is what works best for you, consider a serving of protein powder that gets you about 20 grams of protein and one hundred to one hundred and fifty calories, before your workout. This can help your body avoid a catabolic state, as well as give you some needed energy for your workout session.

Hopefully your eyes didn’t glaze over. Discussing “lipolyis” and “oxidation” won’t sell a whole lot of exercise machines or supplements! But understanding, at least in basic terms, what this means for your fat loss results from exercise, can help you get better results by training smarter!

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