Does fasted Cardio Really Burn The Most Fat

By Lawrie Gormley

treadmill

The wonderful joys of fasted cardio. For me it’s pretty scary when you read x, y and z doing something and straight away take a look at there physique and think yes! I’m going to do what they do and look like them, right? Well no! Wrong!

I remember prepping for my first comp and moaning at my coach a lot, when do I do fasted cardio, when do I drop carbs, when do I water load? He must have thought oh god not again after every beep and vibration of his phone. For me my journey is now a lot easier as I am a question asker! Why? Why? Why? Now this is not because I doubt my coaches it is more that I have a need to understand so I can justify the hard work and challenge. Following blind instructions just isn’t really my bag.

So lets take fasted cardio. Do we really need to go out on an empty stomach and hit some cardio? The method or science behind the theory; Completing cardiovascular exercise on an empty stomach should use fat as an energy source due to glycogen levels being depleted. A reduction in circulating blood sugar causes glycogen levels to fall. At the same time creating low levels of associated insulin which is conductive to fat breakdown, thus increasing the amount of fatty acids we can use as an energy source during the workout.

Ok so that’s cool and I’m probably not the only one that when starting out, or even now, that just did fasted cardio without actually considering why or what it is we are trying to achieve.

When we are exercising ultimately the body will continually adjust its use of fats and carbohydrates for fuel depending on a number of factors. So if you are utilising fasted cardio for a greater fat loss the numbers are so small they are pretty insignificant. Also it has been proven that eating prior to cardio increases EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) this is a measure of how the increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity is intended to erase the body’s “oxygen deficit”, so in theory more fat shall be burned in that post exercise window with food than without.

For me as a fitness model, bodybuilders will fall into this and pretty much most people looking to hold onto muscle burning fat and not muscle is really the challenge. So any training done in a glycogen depleted state will increase the chance of catabolic effects or simply muscle loss. I remember myself attempting my own carb cycling, with no real structure to my training schedule and losing weight, but also losing muscle. Since then I have a paranoia regarding losing muscle when aiming to lose fat.

But….I still sometime partake in a little fasted cardio. For me my fasted cardio is maybe 45-60mins walking with the dog, my diet is structured for the most part with a high level of carbs so catabolic effects won’t really come into it as much. No chance I would be doing HIIT or anything too strenuous on an empty stomach. Simply put I’m not driving my car with no diesel in there, something is going break and go wrong! But that moment of getting straight out of bed popping my clothes on, saddling up Oscar (well putting the lead on the dog) and wandering around and clearing my head for a while sets the day up perfect. So if fasted cardio is, like me, your way of meditation then go for it. If you think doing HIIT on an empty stomach and killing yourself is a good idea, then there certainly is better ways to get that fat off.

lawrie top and medal

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