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  • Mariana Dineen

Fasted Cardio: Does It Really Boost Your Workout?

girl doing fasted cardio

Fasted cardio, the notion of hitting the gym on an empty stomach, has been making waves in the fitness scene. Does fasted cardio really boost your workout? People are turning to it in the hopes of supercharging their fat-burning journey. Let's have a friendly, science-backed chat about fasted cardio, shall we?

Is Fasted Cardio the Fat-Burning Magic Bullet?

Fasted cardio often gets a pat on the back for giving your fat-burning engine a kickstart. The concept is that when you exercise with an empty tummy, your body dives into those fat stores for fuel. While there's some science behind this idea, the real-world results aren't as straightforward as they may seem. Let's unravel this fat-burning mystery.

Let's Talk About Glycogen: The Energy Stash

Glycogen, the stored form of glucose in your liver and muscles, is like your body's energy piggy bank. It's your go-to energy source during exercise. After a night's sleep, your glycogen reserves are usually running on the low side. Why, you ask?

Well, your liver keeps a relatively small but crucial stash of glycogen. This liver glycogen is mainly there to maintain steady blood sugar levels and provide a continuous supply of glucose for various bodily functions, including keeping your brain in top shape during fasting periods.

During your beauty sleep, as you go without food for hours, your liver kindly releases glucose into your bloodstream to ensure your blood sugar stays on an even keel. This process is a vital energy lifeline for your essential functions.

As the night ticks on, your liver's glycogen slowly gets used up as it provides that precious glucose to maintain your blood sugar. By the time you greet the morning sun, your liver's glycogen reserves are usually lower than when you hit the hay.

Fasted Cardio's Fat-Burning Boost:

So, yes, when you embark on a cardio journey with an empty tank, your body might burn more calories form fat stores for energy because your glycogen levels are playing hard to get.

But... (Here's the Curveball):

Data on ACTUAL FAT LOSS when total calories were equated showed no difference between fasted and non-fasted exercise. It turns out that this apparent fat-burning boost during fasted workouts doesn't have a big impact on your overall fat loss journey in the long haul. What truly matters for losing fat is your total calorie balance. If you consistently consume fewer calories than you burn, fat loss will be your trusty companion, regardless of whether you eat before or after your workout.

*NOTE: Note: Maintaining a calorie deficit does not mean starving yourself. Even a modest caloric reduction of just 250 calories can be effective.

In Simple Terms

While fasted exercise may make it seem like you're burning more fat during your workout, it doesn't guarantee greater fat loss in the long run. Research has revealed that whether you do cardio on an empty stomach (fasted) or after eating (fed), it doesn't significantly affect your overall body-fat loss. In fact fasted cardio might seem like it burns more fat during your workout, but it could lead to less fat burn throughout the day. On the flip side, non-fasted cardio may not maximize fat burn during the workout but can result in greater fat loss throughout the entire day. In the grand scheme of things, the distinction in the amount of fat burned is minimal and doesn't sway the scales in favor of one over the other.

Something to Think About

Fasted cardio is a matter of personal preference, and it's crucial to consider its potential impact on your workout. Everyone's body reacts differently. For some, exercising on an empty stomach feels efficient, while for others, it can leave them feeling light-headed and unable to give their best effort. The type of exercise you're planning should also be taken into account. Some activities may be more forgiving with an empty stomach, while others might require a bit of fuel for optimal performance.

I've personally tried both approaches, and I can relate to the mixed experiences. There are days when fasted cardio feels ok, and other days when it's a struggle. It's all about finding what works best for you and your body.

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