If you want to laser target and burn that last bit of stubborn fat, try fasted cardio.
Fasted cardio is an aerobic exercise done in a fasted state. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, fasted cardio helps burn and mobilize fat more effectively than in the fed state (1). But if you do not follow the basic guidelines, you may end up losing lean muscle mass and look skinny fat.
Read on to know more about fasted cardio – including how to burn fat without losing lean muscle mass, the types of exercises, and benefits. Swipe up!
Difference Between Fasted Cardio And Fed Cardio
The term fasted refers to the state when you have not had food for at least 6 hours and your blood insulin levels are low. So, basically, when you get up in the morning after at least 6 hours of sleep and do aerobic exercise – you are essentially doing fasted cardio.
Or say, you had breakfast and fasted for the rest of the day and do cardio exercises in the evening – again, you are doing fasted cardio.
Remember, fasted cardio is not the same as exercising on an “empty stomach.” Because your stomach may feel “empty” even after an hour of having a meal! But that “empty stomach” is not the fasted state that you want for burning the stubborn fat.
So, what really happens when you exercise in a fasted state vs. in a fed state?
When you exercise in the fed state (say, you have eaten a few nuts and an apple about an hour prior to exercising), your body will first burn the carbs from that meal and help you perform and sustain your exercise routine. So, you will not be burning the fat that you really want to target.
On the other hand, when you exercise in the fasted state, your body does not have the ready glucose (carbs broken down into a simpler form – glucose) to aid your exercise. Therefore, your body gets the energy from either muscle glycogen (glucose stored in the muscles) or from the stored fat that you really want to target.
But there’s one concern with fasted cardio. Scroll down to find out.
Does Fasted Cardio Cause Muscle Loss?
Yes, fasted cardio may lead to muscle loss. When you are in a fasted state, your body will first choose not fat but muscle glycogen or protein (proteins get converted to glucose through a biochemical process called gluconeogenesis) as a source of fuel.
Moreover, if you do endurance cardio like running on the treadmill or walking, you will lose more muscle than fat. And that may make you look skinny fat.
So, is there a way to do fasted cardio, burn fat, and not lose muscle mass? Yes, there is! Here’s what you can do.
What Type Of Fasted Cardio Is Best?
The best type of fasted cardio is HIIT. HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is a form of cardio performed at a high intensity for a short duration with an equally spaced resting phase. This means that you will do high-intensity exercises for about 2-4 minutes and then take rest for 30-60 seconds. In these 2-4 minutes, you will do at least two different exercises, a minimum of 3 sets and 12 reps. HIIT is anaerobic and burns fat even post 2 hours of exercise.
So, why is HIIT so good for fasted cardio? Let’s find out!
Why Is HIIT Good For Fasted Cardio?
HIIT is good because it prevents muscle loss and helps build lean muscle mass. HIIT is a great way to amp up your workout routine and keep it active, agile, and interesting. Imagine running on the treadmill for 20 minutes when you have fasted for 6 hours or more! HIIT will burn more calories and target the problematic fat in 4 minutes! Plus, there are other benefits of HIIT training:
- It may increase insulin sensitivity.
- It may prevent you from feeling extremely hungry post workout.
- It may increase growth hormone levels that help fat loss.
- It may increase fat-burning chemicals like catecholamine.
- It may increase metabolic rate for the next 24 hours.
Now, let’s get to the main question – how do you do fasted cardio?
How To Do Fasted Cardio
There are two great ways of doing fasted cardio:
- Exercising in the morning
- Exercising after fasting for at least 6 hours
So, which exercises should you do to get the maximum benefit? Scroll down to find out.
Sample Fasted Cardio Workout Routine
You can do a mix of cardio and HIIT exercises to get the best of both worlds. Not sure how? Well, take a look at a sample fasted cardio workout plan below:
- Warm-up – 10 minutes
- High knees – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Rope jumps – 3 sets of 50 reps
- Jump squats – 3 sets of 12 reps
Rest – 30 seconds
- Russian twist – 3 sets of 30 reps
- Leg up crunches – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Side jackknife – 3 sets of 20 reps
Rest – 45 seconds
- TRX pull-ups – 3 sets of 12 reps
- TRX knee tucks – 3 sets of 12 reps
- TRX abduction – 3 sets of 12 reps
Rest – 60 seconds
- Skater lunge – 3 sets of 15 reps
- Burpees – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Ball slam – 3 sets of 12 reps
Rest – 60 seconds
- Mountain climber – 3 sets of 15 reps
- Plank – 2 sets of 60 seconds hold
- Alternate plank dips – 2 sets of 10 reps
Rest – 30 seconds
- Cool down stretches – 5 mins
By the time you finish this routine, you will not only sweat (check out the benefits of sweating), but your “feel good” hormones will also work their magic, and you will feel super awesome!
But the burning question is – is fasted cardio enough to give you the desired results? My answer – no.
You must also follow a good diet and a healthy lifestyle to shed that stubborn fat from your arms, thighs, chin, back, and yes, your love handles.
There are also other dietary tips that you must follow to get the best results from fasted cardio. Take a look at the following.
Dietary Tips To Get The Best Fasted Cardio Results
Here are the tips to get the best fasted cardio results:
- Inform your doctor and trainer – Keep your trainer and dietitian informed about your new exercise regimen.
- Take expert advice – It will help you know if fasted cardio will actually suit you and your lifestyle.
- Caffeine – When you are at the advanced level of fasted cardio, consume black coffee as a source of caffeine and to induce greater fat burn. Avoid it if you are caffeine sensitive.
- BCAAs – Consume BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) that contain leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are essential amino acids and help prevent muscle loss and help gain muscle.
- Do not cut too many calories – Maintain balance.
Before we come to a close, let us list out the benefits of fasted cardio.
Benefits Of Fasted Cardio
- Helps lose stubborn fat.
- When mixed with HIIT, it prevents muscle loss and builds lean muscle mass.
- Tones the body and improves posture.
- Increases strength and endurance.
- Directs you toward a healthy lifestyle.
- Gives long-lasting results.
If you are curious to know why fasted cardio is preferred over regular cardio, fasted cardio gives the best results when it comes to targeting specific stubborn fat. But regular cardio only helps you lose overall body fat (and muscle if you do too much of long-duration endurance training) at a slow pace. With fasted cardio (with HIIT), you will get better and faster results. So, talk to your trainer today and lose that stubborn fat in a jiffy.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How long should you do fasted cardio?
You can continue fasted cardio until you achieve your fitness goals. Also, consult your trainer so that you get an expert opinion on whether to stop and switch to any other advanced exercise training routine or continue being on the fasted cardio.
Should you eat after fasted cardio?
Yes, eat within 45-60 minutes after fasted cardio. Consume good carbs and protein in your post workout meal.
How many hours until I do fasted cardio?
Your body goes into the fasted state 6 hours post eating. So, maintain at least 6 hours gap, do your workout, and then consume food.
Should I take BCAA before fasted cardio?
Yes, it will help prevent muscle loss and also build lean muscle mass.
Does fasted cardio boost metabolism?
Fasted cardio boosts fat burn and mobilizes the fat. So, in a way, it boosts metabolism too.