This article should help you learn and by the end of it you should be able to answer these questions:

Does fasted cardio have the capability to help in the loss of fat faster?

Does fasted cardio accelerate muscle loss?

Should one practice it?

Information to note

  1. Fasted training is exercise done during times when the body is not processing and absorbing food and it is attained 3 to 6 hours after eating a meal.
  2. Fasted cardio does not aid in faster fat lose, instead it can aid in the loss of ‘persistent’ fat faster within the body in areas like thighs, hips, butt, low-back and the abs.
  3. When mixed with other supplements, like yohimbine and synephrine, that have been proven to accelerate fat burning, fasted cardio is more effective.

Faster fat lose can be enhanced by cardio. However, engaging in too much cardio makes muscle and strength gain difficult.

Therefore, it is important to understand the minimum amount of cardio exercise that is effective for a person’s good body composition and structure. 

The question that you really need to ask yourself is, how can you attain your fitness goals while taking part in minimal cardio as possible?

Since fasted cardio burns significantly more fat that non-fasted cardio, many individuals believe in fasted cardio.

Some purport that fasted cardio is particularly handy in getting rid of the ‘persistent’ fat particularly in the stomach, and lower back for men and the butt, thighs, and hips for women.

Others disagree with this claim by purporting that fasted cardio makes fat lose even harder by hastening muscle loss and making workouts a lot harder than normal.

So, from both these claims, who is right?

Both of them are right while neither of them is right.

Fact is, fasted cardio cannot help one lose fat faster, but instead, it can help one lose persistent fat faster only if done right. If done wrong, then all you can get is smaller and weaker muscles.

Fasted cardio can be successfully used to cut down body fat while at the same time maintaining muscle and strength.

This does not simply mean going for a morning jog before breakfast.

To achieve this, it means following a very specific cardio regimen. In this article, this regimen is going to be broken down so that by the end of it you can clearly understand.

You will understand:

  • What and what does not count as fasted cardio
  • Why people have the thought that fasted cardio helps in faster fat lose
  • The best type of fasted cardio to help in fat lose without losing muscle
  • The advantages and disadvantages of fasted weightlifting
  • The best supplements for an effective fasted cardio
  • What foods to consume after fasted cardio
  • And others…

Let us get started.

Many think that fasted cardio is training that is undertaken while on an empty stomach, which in most cases they think is when the stomach feels empty.

This thought is not right.

Fasted cardio entails the exercise done while in a fasted state. This is a state that is more than the stomach being empty. It has to do with the body processes and absorption of the eaten food.

After eating food, it undergoes digestion thereby being broken down into different molecules that can be utilized by the cells and then released into the blood stream. Insulin is released so as to increase uptake of these digested molecules by the cells.

During digestion and absorption just after consuming a meal, the body is in a postprandial state. In this state insulin levels are constantly high.

Once the body finishes processing and absorbing nutrients, the level of insulin drops to the baseline level and this is the time the body enters a fasted state.

The time it takes for insulin to drop back to baseline is dependent on the composition and quantity of the meal consumed. Meals composed of fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber digest slower than meals composed of one or two components.

For instance, research shows that if you consume close to 600 calories of pizza, the insulin levels will rise and remain to twice their baseline level for not less than five hours. This is because pizza provides close to 17, 75 and 37 grams of fat, carbohydrates and protein respectively.

If one consumes a simpler and smaller meal, for example, whey protein isolate, the insulin levels will be back to baseline in a few hours. This is because this meal contains close to 100 calories, 20 grams of protein, and trace quantities of carbohydrates and fats.

One’s body gets in and out of these fasted and fed states severally per day. Therefore, correct timing of exercise is important to conducting fasted cardio.

In a nutshell:

  • Exercise conducted when insulin levels are high above the baseline level when food is still undergoing digestion and absorption is fed training
  • On the contrary, exercise conducted when insulin is at baseline level and when food processing absorption is finished is fasted training.

Now that we’ve known what fasting cardio is, let us examine scientific information on whether it can help in the faster fat lose.

Does fasted cardio aid in an individual losing fat faster?

The relationship between insulin and fat loss is the reason behind people’s belief that fasted cardio increases fat loss.

Insulin interferes with fatty acid breakdown meaning that less body fat and dietary fat are utilized when insulin levels are high.

When you consume food, fat-burning processes are halted and the surplus energy also stored as fat in the body for later use as the body operates on the energy provided by the food.

As the energy from the meal runs out, insulin levels start dropping thereby signaling the body to commence the utilization of stored body fat for energy.

The reasoning behind fasted cardio is, therefore, one can burn more total body fat by doing workouts in a fasted state, when the body is utilizing body fat, than when in a fed state.

Fasted Cardio and Fat burning

A meta-analysis conducted in 2016 by scientists from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil looking at 27 studies done on fasted cardio, concluded that exercise performed in fasted state cause a higher fat oxidation as compared to those performed during fed state.

Conversion of carbohydrates into energy during exercise is very easy, therefore, in a fed state, the body utilizes more of carbohydrates and less of fats for energy. This is supported by a several studies done in the ‘70s.

So, up to this far, it’s quite clear that fasted training causes more fat burning in the body.

Also, the number of calories burnt during an exercise is just a small percentage of an individual’s total daily energy expenditure, which is the key determinant of how much fat one loses.

In order to determine the relationship between a small increase in fasted fat burning and its significance in boosting fat loss in a day, a group of scientists from the University of Padua conducted a study in 2011 to find out.

They had eight men split into two groups:

  1. The first group consumed breakfast before their exercise
  2. The second group consumed breakfast after their exercise

Each man ran on a moderate-paced treadmill for 36 minutes. To determine the percentage of the specific calories the participants burnt, the researchers measured calories burnt from carbohydrates vis-a-vie calories from fat before, at 12 and at 24 hours after their exercises.

The group that trained fasted, burned more fat during the exercise. However, they burned more calories from carbohydrates and less from fat later in the day.

On the contrary, the group that trained fed burned more carbohydrates during the workout and more fat later in the day.

On average, both groups burned the same amount of carbohydrates and body fat the entire day, implying that fasted cardio offered no clear advantage of fat loss.

The explanation is that; the body utilizes any source available for energy and it has a specific priority for nutrients with blood glucose coming first, then muscle glycogen, stored body fat and lastly stored body protein (muscle).

This implies that the body prefers readily available carbohydrates for energy over body fat when glucose is readily available. When glucose is in insufficient quantities, the body embarks on dietary fat and body fat for energy.

However, this study had its shortfall, as it only measured fat burned in a single day. It did not account for the effect of fasted cardio on body fat after a long period of time.

Scientists from Lehman College in 2014 went ahead to find out the effect of time on fasted cardio. They had 20, 20-year-old female subjects split into two groups. One group did a fed cardio (after eating breakfast) while the other did a fasted cardio (before eating breakfast).

Each participant conducted one hour jogging on a treadmill thrice every week for four weeks. They were subjected to a diet that had them maintain a 500 calorie deficit each day.

The study found out that both groups reduced by about 1% their body fat composition, clearly showing no clear effect of fasted cardio over fed cardio.

Fasted cardio and calorie burning

Fasted cardio burns calories just as much as fed cardio.

Scientists from University of Tsukuba in Japan proved this through a study conducted that involved 12 young male endurance athletes. The participants were subjected to one week intervals of one-hour easy indoor cycling after consuming breakfast and one hour of that particular exercise before consuming breakfast.

The participants underwent close monitoring of their energy intake, energy expenditure, and fat loss. No difference was found in a span of 24 hours in energy expenditure between the two groups.

How fasted cardio can help burn persistent fat faster

For women, the butt, hips, and thighs are often the last to get tighter during weight loss. For men, it is normally the lower back, lower abs, and love handles.

It is so because it is the body’s physiological mechanism of sufficient fat storage for future use.

Let us examine persistent fat physiological explanation.

Fat burning trigger chemicals, catecholamines, move across the body attaching to receptors on fat cells. This triggers release of energy stored in cells for utilization.

There are alpha and beta fat receptors for catecholamines. Beta receptors hasten fat utilization while alpha receptors hinder it.

The more alpha receptors a fat cell has, the more difficult it is to be mobilized by catecholamines. The converse is true for beta receptors. Therefore, areas with beta receptors get lean quickly while those with alpha receptors have considerably large amount of fat cells.

Also, areas with persistent fat have less blood flowing in those areas compared to areas that are more lean.

Less blood flow implies fewer catecholamines reaching the persistent fat cells resulting in a slow rate of fat loss.

There is double burden of fat loss where, most fat cells have alpha receptors, and secondly a reduced blood flow meaning insufficient catecholamines reach these areas.

This explains why during steady weight loss; most fat comes from body parts that are fairly lean. As commonly seen in men that forearms, chest and calves get leaner faster as compared to lower back, lower abs and love handles while for women, their legs, arms, and abs get leaner while the hips, butt, and thighs remain significantly unchanged.

How does fasted cardio help? It will help lose more of the fat an individual want to lose most (persistent fat), despite it having less effect on the daily total fat.

This fat loss would be effective if an individual combine with yohimbine and synephrine supplements.

Fasted cardio and yohimbine

Yohimbine supplement is derived from the Pausinystalia yohimbe plant.

Numerous studies have shown its capability in hastening fat loss. Its mechanism of action is stimulation of production of catecholamines, speeding up basal metabolic rate and suppression of appetite.

A group of scientists from Paul Sabatier University in France conducted a study to show the effectiveness of yohimbine.

They had six male participants who underwent a weekly interval of the following protocol;

  1. Consumption of 0.2 mg of yohimbine per kilogram body weight after an overnight fast
  2. Consumption of 0.2 mg of yohimbine per kilogram body weight after eating breakfast.

The results were an increase by double figures of blood fatty acids levels after taking yohimbine after an overnight fast. The blood fatty acid levels did not change when yohimbine was taken after consuming breakfast.

Another experiment was carried out by the same scientists on a group of 8 men. They underwent the following three different protocols with one-week interval between:

  1. Consumption of 0.2 mg of yohimbine per kilogram body weight without exercise
  2. Consumption of a placebo with 30 minutes of moderate indoor cycling
  3. Consumption of 0.2 mg of yohimbine per kilogram body weight with 30 minutes moderate indoor cycling 

From this study, they realized that both yohimbine and exercise alone raised fat utilization to 50 to 100% above baseline level respectively. A combination of both raised fat utilization to over 150%.

Yohimbine can also aid in the utilization and the burning of persistent fat stores. This supplement accomplishes this process by attaching itself to alpha receptors and deactivating them thus making it easier for catecholamines to bind this fat cells and making them available for utilization.

In a study done in the Institute of Sports Medicine in Serbia, scientists found out that adding yohimbine and a new strength plan in soccer training aided in significant fat loss among athletes as compared to those that were subjected to a placebo. And most of this fat lost was attributed to persistent fat.

Despite numerous counter arguments, from the many studies and people’s own experiences it is convincing to say that yohimbine and fasted training speeds up fat loss in a significant way.

Fasted cardio and synephrine

Synephrine is a particularly abundant naturally occurring substance in bitter orange fruit.

Chemically, it is similar to pseudoephedrine and ephedrine found in cold or allergy medications and energy and weight loss supplements that have ma huang.

Synephrine increases the rate of basal metabolism and the thermic effect of food.

Some evidence also indicates that synephrine blocks alpha receptors on fat cells.

Therefore, its combination with fasted cardio would be effective.

The best type of fasted cardio

Studies have proven that high intensity cardio characterized with shorter sessions produce greater fat loss within a specified time as compared to sessions that are of low intensity.

A study by The University of Western Ontario indicated that 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking burns less fat as compared to 4 to 6 30-second sprints.

Keeping cardio sessions brief and short helps in the preservation of muscle and strength.

The longer your exercise in a fasted state, the more muscle one degrades and loses.

There is a discussion that as cardio intensity increases, there is declination of fat oxidation rates. This is true, but nonetheless, research has proven that as one continues to practice regular high intensity interval cardio sessions, the body adapts to using less carbohydrate during workouts while at the same time getting better at fat oxidization.

Also, research has shown post exercise afterburn effect is higher in high intensity interval training as compared to low intensity cardio. It is at 13% versus 7% of low intensity cardio.

Therefore, not more than four sessions a week, 25 to 30 minutes of high intensity interval cardio is recommended for effective fat loss.

Fasted weightlifting

There is a rise in blood catecholamine levels during weightlifting. Their main role is to mobilize fat in this fasted training state.

Individuals can get and feel weaker during first stages of fasted weightlifting. This weakness is due to significant effect that carbohydrates have on improving performance while exercising.

As much as the body can adapt and adjust to fasted weightlifting, fed weightlifting is more efficient and effective.

Maximizing the effectiveness of fasted training

For an effective fasted training with maximum results; then

  1. Consume the right supplements
  2. One should eat a post-workout meal

Consuming the right supplements

Fasted training should be done in a way that persistent fat loss in evident with no side effects like muscle degradation. The following supplements are key in aiding fasted training weight loss: yohimbine, beta hydroxy beta methylbutyrate (HMB), synephrine, caffeine.

Post-workout eating

Eating within 30 minutes of finishing workout is best as this minimizes muscle protein breakdown while increasing muscle protein synthesis

Any given type of food would be appropriate for consumption after a workout session. 30 – 40 grams of protein with about the same amount of carbohydrates would be appropriate. These figures can be adjusted depending on one’s caloric targets and macronutrient needs.

Any advice that waiting for more time before eating after a fasted exercise would prolong burning of fat is misleading. As elongated waiting before eating will:

  1. Not help in the loss of more body fat as an individual’s caloric intake for the day is constant whether you have a meal right after training or not.
  2. Lead to a probability of muscle loss and degradation as muscle protein breakdown increases after cardio exercise and resistance training. This process is hastened by fastened cardio.

An effective way of decreasing muscle protein degradation is by raising insulin levels by consuming a carbohydrate and protein rich meal.

Conclusion on fasted cardio

Fasted cardio will not help lose more body fat than fed cardio.

A combination of fasted cardio with the right supplements would lead to significant loss of fat. This is strategy individuals should consider trying.

For individuals with the persistent fat, then this strategy would be helpful as it will help in dealing with the persistent fat.

High-intensity interval training is the best form of cardio exercise that will aid in more fat loss within a short time as compared to low-intensity steady state cardio.

Fasted weightlifting can help in accelerating persistent fat loss when cutting weight. The drop in strength can be regained by switching back to fed weightlifting.

To minimize muscle loss, it is best to consume post-workout meals within 30 minutes after fasted exercises.