Fasted cardio, most often done first thing in the morning, has been a popular approach in the fitness world for years, but not without its share of controversy. Proponents claim that fasted cardio (a.k.a, cardio done in a fasted state), can accelerate fat loss, while detractors insist that it can also promote lean muscle loss, too.
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The idea that cardio done in the morning is more effective than any other time of day is both popular and technically true, because our body tends to utilize overnight stored fat for fuel. However, in a fasted state, our bodies also tends to break more amino acids for mobilizing more fat, which isn’t an ideal situation for building muscle.
In essence, both fans and critics of fasted cardio are correct. Fasted cardio can be an efficient way to lose fat, though it may lead to increased muscle loss as well, if done incorrectly. The key is to be smart about how you go about it, in order to maximize its benefits and minimize its drawbacks.
Is Fasted Cardio Related To Muscle Mass Loss?
Fasted cardio is basically done while the body is in the fasted condition, usually first thing in the morning, before breakfast. However, the whole concept is a little bit murky, because it is also important to factor in how body processes and absorbs the food you eat. The issue with fasted cardio is that if you attempt to do greater intensity of cardio in a fasted state, you are going to lose more fat, but also potentially more lean muscle mass — and nobody wants that.
Workout Plan Using Fasted Cardio
According to a research, fasted cardio doesn’t by itself burn all the fat. To get the most out of your fasted cardio you want to combine it with high-intensity exercise. Specifically, options like high-intensity interval training and sprint interval training will help produce drastic fat loss when combined with fasted cardio.
HIIT-style workouts simply mean alternating between periods of all-out intensity and low-intensity recovery. You cycle periods of intense and vigorous exercise (this can vary from 30 seconds to two minutes, depending on your routine) followed by periods of rest or active rest where you can catch your breath for the next sprint.
Some cardio experts believe that when you perform HIIT cardio sessions, your muscles adapt in producing less glycogen, which means increased fat oxidation rates during the workouts. As a result, your muscles in turn get better and better at oxidizing fats.
This is also the ideal way to do fasted cardio if you want to preserve your muscles. When it comes to muscle preservation, steady-state cardio has a pretty bad rap. Research shows that the longer your cardio sessions are, the more they impair strength and muscle growth. Keeping your workouts short and intense (a.k.a. HIIT-style), means you’ll be firing up your muscles while preventing muscle loss that is typically associated with long cardio workouts.
The Importance Of Resistance Training
If you choose to incorporate HIIT-style fasted cardio into your routine, you must also do resistance-training workouts at least two to four times a week in order to maintain your muscle and build strength. These workouts can be completed at any time of day, and can include weight lifting, resistance training or even your own bodyweight, so long as they’re focusing on strengthening your muscles.
Be sure to eat at least 20 grams of protein immediately following a strength-training session to maximize your gains. If you exclusively do fasted cardio without focusing on strength training as well, you’ll lose muscle mass, and you may not see the results you want.
Also Read: Should You Exercise On An Empty Stomach?
Alternatively, you can also consider doing full-body HIIT workouts that combine cardio and strength training to make the most out of your gym sessions, especially if you’re short on time.
No matter how you go about your strength-training programme — whether you get your cardio and muscle building done in one workout, or whether you choose to do separate cardio and muscle-building routines — it is essential to incorporate strength-training into your regime, particularly if you’re engaging in fasted cardio sessions several times a week.
Supplements To Make Fasted Cardio More Effective
Supplements taken in isolation will do nothing for you; you must always combine the right supplements with a proper diet and workout routine to see results.
One of the world’s most popular supplements, caffeine, is a powerful compound that helps you lose fat by boosting the amounts of energy your body burns per day. Apart from that, it improves strength, promotes muscle endurance and increases anaerobic performance.
The other obvious choice for supplement is β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (HMB). It is produced when your body metabolizes leucine – an amino acid that stimulates protein synthesis. It is an effective anti-catabolic agent that prevents muscle breakdown and thus you will recover faster from your workouts. Always ask your doctor before you begin taking any supplement, and read your labels.
Is Fasted Cardio Right For You?
At the end of the day, any exercise done at any time of day will help you burn calories and lose weight, regardless of whether insulin levels are high or low or whether you’re in a fasted state or not.
If fasted cardio doesn’t fit your schedule or lifestyle, don’t sweat it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with “fed” cardio.
If, however, you’re a morning riser who wants to get the most out of your cardio workouts, you may want to consider fasted cardio as an option — if you follow these guidelines, keeping your cardio sessions short and intense, and incorporating strength training into the mix.