It seems counter-intuitive to fast before working out. Doesn’t your body need that energy? What is it going to do if you fail to provide it with fuel: energy has to come from somewhere? Will the response be catabolic? Here is what you need to know about fasted cardio.
What is Fasted Cardio?
First of all, fasted cardio is exactly what you think: working out without eating anything before hand. We are not talking about a full-on fast when you eat nothing for days. That is the time to bring in some good books from the library, stock up your Netflix queue with some good movies, and shut the curtains, not workout for an hour each day.
Nope: fasted cardio is a period of short-term denial chosen by determined individuals to fight fat that simply will not melt away no matter how many kilometers they run or how many step-aerobic routines they complete.
Not for Everyone
Even the experts who advocate fasted cardio feel moved to clarify that it is not for everybody. As with everything in fitness, what works for one body causes another person to fall flat on her face. Moreover, research by bodybuilders suggests that time of day plays a part in whether this is a good idea or not.
Can you do anything in the morning without food? Will trying to exercise on an empty stomach make you dizzy? If so, don’t even try. For women it is essential to consider the vagaries of monthly cycles, and as for pregnancy, never put your body through something like a fast. It’s natural and desirable to lay down fat reserves at this time.
Your body is going to use what it can access most easily for energy. Usually that’s carbohydrates if you are not eating refined sugars which it can’t usually access fast enough. This is followed by muscle and finally fat.
That’s why burning the bulge is so hard: your metabolism is inclined to preserve fat in case you are stranded on a desert island, threatened with starvation. The North American metabolism hasn’t clued-in yet that there’s a fast food restaurant on every corner and starvation is unlikely for most individuals.
When you try fasted cardio, however, there is an argument that you burn carbs and fat without having to consume anything. Then again, a lot of the fat burning your body does is a slow all-day process, especially following a bodybuilding workout where the muscles are put to use.
A weight-lifting workout can still create cardio benefits, especially when combined with movement. Circuit training is a good example. Your whole body is put to work and doesn’t stop working even when you are watching TV.
Body Fat Solution
What if you are fat to start with and trying to get down to a healthy weight and shape? For the first several months you won’t need to think about fasted cardio at any time of day. Just working out and eating a healthier diet is a great way to improve your shape and slim down.
By the time you get to your goal weight, taking muscle density into account, you might not even care about a little bit of stubborn fat. If you do, that’s the time to determine if tweaking your workout will look after lipids or fasting cardio is the right way to go.