Now that you’ve settled into a low carb diet, and you learned how to ramp up fat burning by remaining in a fasted state longer, you may wonder how your morning workout fits into this new routine.
If you’re ready to add in exercise for best results, you may question if you should workout in a fasted state, and if so, does fasting after workout also help burn more fat?
While building muscle sounds great, and it’s probably something you should focus on eventually, right now your primary goal is weight loss. That jiggle around your middle has been plaguing you for too long – and you want it gone!
All of the bro-bloggers say you’ll strip away the little muscle mass you have by fasting after a workout (or even before one). However, there are several potential benefits you should learn before deciding whether or not fasted cardio is right for you.
Keep reading to understand the difference between balancing a fasting window with a fed state in relation to exercise. Crush your weight loss goals by learning if eating before a cardio workout is right for you … or if you could benefit from working out on an empty stomach.
What Does Fasted Cardio Mean?
Before we talk about the positive effects of fasted cardio, let’s review what fasted cardio means. We’ll also get into how to use this type of exercise to your advantage to squash unwanted fat stores.
Fasted cardio means performing cardio activity, like walking, running or climbing stairs, on an empty stomach. While the time of day most people perform fasted cardio is in the morning, that doesn’t mean that’s the best time for you. For some people, performing fasted cardio later in the day is the best option.
When you workout on an empty stomach depends on when your fasting period ends. If you don’t begin your feeding window until late in the afternoon, it may be OK to sneak in a cardio session before your first meal. Whether or not this is a good idea depends on how you feel, as well as if you’re fat adapted through a low carb lifestyle.
If you prefer to eat first thing in the morning, you can still take advantage of fasted cardio later in the day. Simply wait 3-4 hours after your last meal before jumping on the treadmill. This gives your body time to burn through stored glycogen, making getting into that coveted fat burning zone easier.
Simply wait 3-4 hours after your last meal to get similar effects of a fasted workout.
How To Do Fasted Cardio Correctly:
There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to fasted cardio. Here are a few tips to help you add this fat burning tool to your weight loss toolbox:
- Don’t eat immediately before or after a fasted exercise session
- Black coffee or green tea prior to a workout can kick up fat burning
- Choose low to moderate intensity workouts
- You should drink plenty of water during fasted exercise
- Keep cardio sessions to 60 minutes or less
- Always listen to your body and end your session if you feel bad in anyway
One last thing to keep in mind is that exercise is only one more way to amp up your current healthy lifestyle. This includes any kind of exercise, fasted or not. Other lifestyle factors like sleep, stress management, and nutrition always trump exercise when it comes to weight loss.
We’ll talk more about this in a minute since this point is crucial to an effective weight loss strategy.
What Exercise Should I do?
In the last section, I touched on keeping fasted sweat sessions at a low to moderate intensity. This is especially important if you’re in the testing phase of adding fasted cardio into your routine.
Adding a new exercise routine places new stress on your body. Then, remaining in a fasted state adds another level of stress. While some stress is a good thing, as hormetic stressors are necessary for positive changes, it’s a great idea to slowly introduce new stressors so your body doesn’t freak out.
That’s why it’s important to start with low to moderate fasted cardio workouts. Examples include a moderate walk or moderately paced elliptical session.
As long as you feel good throughout your workout, this type of workout can help get your body into a good fat burning zone. Attempting intense workouts while your body adapts could cause too much stress, which may lead to less than stellar results.
Once you allow your body time to adapt, you can attempt adding high-intensity interval training sessions in a fasted state. If you do this, keep workouts to a shorter duration – like 20-30 minutes. This is the amount of time it takes for muscle glycogen stores to begin to run low during a HIIT session.
Benefits of Fasted Cardio
Now that you understand that most weight loss results come from other factors beyond exercise, and that getting into a fat adapted state prior to fasting workouts is best, let’s talk about some of the benefits of fasted cardio.
If you’re wondering exactly how to train yourself, beyond becoming fat adapted through a ketogenic diet, don’t worry – we’ll get to that. First let’s learn the benefits so you understand the reasons you’re up at the butt crack of dawn to burn fat. Then you can learn the best ways to add fasted cardio into your routine for the ultimate fat burning trifecta!
With that said, some benefits of pushing your eating window until after a workout include:
- Increased Lipolysis – when the body breaks down fat cells to use them as energy.
- Fat Oxidation – when the body burns energy from fat cells when glycogen is low.
- Decreased Insulin Levels – when your body turns to using fat as energy instead of carbohydrates.
- Helps You Fast Longer – when done correctly, fasted workouts reduce hunger levels.
Is Fasted Cardio Safe?
If you experience hypoglycemia during a fasted workout, low blood sugar can lead to feeling light headed or lethargic. This is why it’s a good idea to become fat adapted via a ketogenic diet prior to adding fasted cardio to your routine.
A fasted workout is also not advised if you:
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Have low blood sugar or low blood pressure
- Suffer from an adrenal disorder, like Addison’s Disease
- Feel bad during or immediately after a session
As we’ve talked about several times throughout this article, start slowly with any new additions to your workout routine. Taking things slow and steady helps your body adapt, which makes a fasted workout safe for most people.
If you have certain health conditions, such as metabolic diseases like diabetes, it’s best to check with your doctor prior to adding a fasted training session to your routine. When it comes to a health condition, you may need to take extra precautions – or even skip a fasted workout routine altogether.
Why Is Fasted Cardio So Hard?
If you’re still asking this question, the short answer is you’re not ready to add fasted cardio to your routine. Like any type of exercise, you have to train your body to adapt to fasted exercise.
When you struggle through any kind of exercise routine, you risk over stressing your body. This could throw you right back into fat storing mode.
If you find a fasted cardio session too difficult to get through, then continue working on becoming fat adapted through a low carb diet. Once your body is more efficient at burning a different fuel source, aka fat stores, then fasted cardio becomes an easier task.
Does Fasted Cardio Burn More Fat?
Some studies show you can burn up to 20 percent more body fat when you include fasted cardio towards the end of your fast. However, a recent Biggest Loser study shows some people who exercised more often eventually burned less calories with more exercise.
This is because your body wants to prevent starvation by kicking into survival mode. The trick is to know your limit. Never push fasted cardio past the point where you feel sick or lethargic during, or soon after, a workout. Also, quit the calories in versus calories out mindset.
Please understand that cardio isn’t about burning more calories than you eat like most people teach. Look for the other benefits that come with a good cardio session – like more energy and less hunger.
If you continue to workout past the point of these benefits expiration, then your workout is too much of a stressor. This is when your hard work won’t provide the fat burning benefits you seek.
How Much Fasted Cardio to Burn Fat?
While what you eat is always more important than how often you exercise, taking advantage of this additional tool in the battle of the bulge is a great idea.
Since the benefits of fasted cardio extend far beyond getting in a good calorie burn, use how you feel to determine if you should have a long workout, or keep it shorter.
As previously mentioned, keep fasted cardio sessions to 60 minutes or less. If you take your fasted workouts to the next level with HIIT workouts, then keep these to 20-30 minutes per session.
Will Fasted Cardio Cause Muscle Loss?
When done correctly, you can avoid muscle loss when adding fasted cardio. In fact, you can even take advantage of an increase in human growth hormone for muscle gain with a fasted workout. To take advantage of this benefit, you’ll have to incorporate other aspects of a healthy lifestyle into your routine, such as resistance training.
In addition to weight training for muscle growth, you have to focus on eating the right foods during the feeding window. This includes high protein options like eggs and meats. While a ketogenic diet pairs well with exercise for ultimate fat burning, it’s also important to eat the right amount of fat without eating too much fat. Find the right balance for your body.
Speaking of eating too much – it’s important to actually eat during your feeding window.
Please understand intermittent fasting methods won’t work if you don’t have both the fasting and feeding parts correct. Quit focussing on the number of calories you eat to lose weight. Instead, pay attention to the quality of nutrients your meal contains, as well as how you feel during and after a meal.
If you continue to starve your body of the nutrients it needs in the name of following a low calorie diet, then your body will consume its own muscle tissue. This is when muscle loss can result.
As always, you need to find the right balance of nutrients FOR YOU to get into a fat burning zone. Find that Goldilocks zone: don’t eat too little, but don’t overdo it either.
When to Eat After Fasted Cardio?
While there is no hard and fast rule about the amount of time you should wait to eat, it’s a good idea to not have a post-workout snack immediately after completing a fasted workout.
Give your body a little time to burn fat by waiting at least 30-60 minutes after your workout before eating. (While 60 minutes is preferable, listen to your body if you feel weak or shaky. Those are signs you need to eat a-sap).
What to Eat After A Fasted Workout?
After you put in the hard work with a fasted sweat session, and you continue to practice fasting after workout – what should you eat to get the best results?
Don’t screw up your efforts by shoving in the first fistful of junk food you can find. If this seems to be an issue for you, then you’re not ready for a longer fasting window, nor a fasted workout. Keep training your body by adding smaller windows of fasting at a time.
A good post workout meal is one that contains both protein and fat. If you’re not following a strict keto diet, you may be able to sneak in a small amount of healthy carbs too. However, I recommend sticking with mostly a high quality protein meal at this point. I prefer to save healthy carbs until later in the day for the ultimate fat burning formula.
And when I say meal, I’m talking about something you chew.
If your go-to is a protein shake, please understand most protein shakes are filled with junk ingredients that aren’t helping you reach your goals. You will also feel hungry sooner since there’s not much for your body to digest when drinking a cup filled with liquified protein and too much liquid sugar.
Get Right With Your Ketogenic Diet First
Now that we talked about all things fasted workout, you need to understand the importance of training your body to take advantage of this amazing fat burning tool. Part of that training comes down to being fat adapted through a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Back in the day, I too heard the rumor that a fasted workout first thing in the morning could help me burn all of the body fat! You best believe I was on my elliptical bright eyed and bushy tailed at 4:30 most mornings.
OK, so no one is really excited to workout while the sun is still fast asleep – but I grabbed my sugar-free Monster energy drink and got to work. I had fat to burn and calories to restrict! If a high-intensity workout first thing was the way to reach my weight loss goals, so be it.
Except that it wasn’t. Never was the right way, never will be.
I now understand this after 20 years of struggle and more than 100 pounds lost. Still, I went through a whole lotta struggle before I got to this understanding. I want to help you with the right answer so you don’t have to deal with the decades-long struggle part.
Food Before Exercise for Weight Loss
When I struggled with constant yo-yoing weight, I thought weight loss was all about how much aerobic exercise I could fit into my day, while also forcing caloric restriction. Too much exercise, plus too little calorie intake, led to a whole lotta muscle loss and fat cells that seemed ever expanding.
The important part to understand when it comes to reaching your weight loss goals is that what you eat makes up the biggest percent of your results. The smaller slices of the weight loss pie, (not to be confused with actual pie) comes from other lifestyle factors.
In order to reach optimal fat loss, all of your weight loss ducks have to be in a row. Said ducks include proper nutrition, restful sleep, low stress levels, and an exercise regimen that suits your fitness goals. All of these lifestyle factors work together to balance hormones, which in turn, heals your body.
Once the healing begins, weight loss comes as almost a natural side effect. Then your fat-burning potential is limitless! Except that it’s limited to the amount of fat you have on your body to shed, of course.
The Fasted Cardio and Fasting After Workout Wrap Up:
Now that you understand how adding fasted exercise can ramp up fat burning in your already healthy lifestyle, it’s time to test this fat burning tool out!
Remember to start slowly, and listen to your body at all times. While it’s true you sometimes need to push out of your comfort zone for best results, learn to spot the difference between leveling up and burning yourself out.
While adding fasted workouts to your routine is a great way to level up, if you want the best fat burning results possible, get your eating routine down first. You can learn everything you need to know in the Keto Quick Start Course.
This is the same info I used to lose more than 100 pounds with a low carb lifestyle. Since then, hundreds of women used these same exact methods to shed stubborn fat that wouldn’t budge with any other method.
Fasted Cardio and Fasted After Workout
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