For decades, many of us have been waking up at times so early the alarm clock has a question mark on it.
And we do it all in the name of fat loss.
Because bodybuilding folklore insists that working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will help you to lose more body fat.
Heck, it’s a training principle so popular that I’m sure you’ve already heard about it.
But what does science say?
Is it true that you’ll burn more calories if you do cardio before eating breakfast?
Let’s find out, as today I’ll look at the available body of research and answer the all-important question: does fasted cardio burn more fat?
Check out this email from Wendy (while you’re at it, get yourself on my email list so you can ask future questions too!):
Some of my gym friends tell me that my cardio is pretty much pointless unless I am doing it first thing in the morning before I eat breakfast. How true is this?”
Does Fasted Cardio Burn More Fat?
Let me start out by clarifying something:
Fasted cardio is great.
I’ve done it, and so do countless others around the world.
It can make you feel lean AF, and is a great way to start the day.
But nowadays, barely any of my clients use this technique.
It’s not because it doesn’t work (you’ll still burn calories and, therefore, burn fat), but times have changed and superior methods have been discovered.
Today I’m going to introduce you to something I call the Full Tank method, and explain why it replaced the idea of early morning fasted cardio for most of my clients a few years ago, and why they haven’t lost any results despite making the change.
Fasted Cardio Vs Fed Cardio
The theory behind fasted cardio is solid.
By training in an unfed state, our body will be forced to metabolize fat during exercise.
As a net result, we lose more body fat.
However, in the constantly evolving world of sports science you have to keep one eye on the ever-changing body of research on the best ways to burn fat, the best ways to boost sporting performance, the best ways to build muscle, and so on.
And over the past couple of years, a superior method has been unearthed.
Sadly, many people in gyms are still unaware of this new method – because trainers continue dishing out old advice.
So make it your personal responsibility to share the facts you see in today’s article with others at your gym.
So what is this superior method I talk about?
I call it the Full Tank method.
It’s really simple – instead of training in a fasted state, grab a high protein/low carb shake within an hour prior to training.
In doing so, you will:
- work harder during your upcoming session.
- increase your calorie burn.
- stave off hunger until you’ve finished training.
But don’t just take my word for it…
A 2010 study published in Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise was the first to reveal that consuming a serving of protein before exercise increased metabolic rate and boosted total calorie burn. (1)
Interestingly, the study compared the effects of training on an empty stomach, versus training after consuming protein, versus training after consuming carbohydrates.
They concluded that the group who consumed protein achieved the greatest results in their session.
So having protein prior to hitting the gym is actually superior to having other foods or no food at all.
A year later, a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism looked even further into this.
This time around, researchers from the University of Padua, Italy, set out to measure the fat loss benefits of training either fasted or fed. During the trial, they compared two groups of trainees during separate 36 minute moderate intensity cardio workouts, the only difference being group A performed cardio on an empty stomach and group B had protein beforehand. (2)
The protein group burned more calories (and more fat) again.
Incidentally, they were still burning calories than the other group a full 24 hours after the workout had ended!
The authors concluded:
“When moderate endurance exercise is done to lose body fat, fasting before exercise does not enhance lipid utilization; rather, physical activity after a light meal is advisable.”
But It’s Not For Everyone
As mentioned at the top of today’s article, I’m never going to say that performing early morning fasted cardio is “bad”.
You will still burn calories, and you will still lose body fat.
Plus, some people just prefer the feeling of training on an empty stomach.
But updated research has shown us that whether it’s lifting weights or performing cardio, training on an empty stomach is now yesterday’s advice.
There are certain exceptions to the rule, however.
At the top of this article I mentioned that nearly all of my clients have ditched fasted cardio for the Full Tank method.
You might be wondering “Why nearly all? Why not all?”
Well, aside from the people who simply prefer training in a fasted state, there are certain dieting techniques that don’t gel well with the Full Tank method.
One example is intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting comes with it’s own set fat loss benefits, but the time of your feeding window is going to determine whether you can eat before training or not. Most people using IF schedule their feeding window from mid-afternoon to evening, meaning if they hit the gym early in the day they have no choice but to perform fasted cardio.
And there’s really nothing wrong with that.
But for those simply looking to train harder, stave off hunger and increase total calorie burn for longer, protein is the way to go.
Give my Full Tank method a try for a few weeks, and let me know what you think.
If you’ve enjoyed my article “Does Fasted Cardio Burn More Fat?”, be sure to get on my email list below for future tips. You’ll probably enjoy reading some of the other gym myths I’ve busted on the website recently:
- Should you use BCAAs before fasted cardio?
- Does eating small frequent meals help you lose more fat?
- Is Lucozade really ‘better than water’ like the ads claim?
- Hackney, K.J., et al. Timing Protein Intake Increases Energy Expenditure 24 H After Resistance Training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2010)
- Paoli, A., et al. Exercising Fasting Or Fed To Enhance Fat Loss? Influence Of Food Intake On Respiratory ratio And Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption After A Bout Of Endurance Training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2011)