Does fasted cardio help you lose more fat? Or is it just another fad that has taken the fitness world by storm? In this article, you’ll discover the evidence-based truth about what you should do to maximise your fat loss results.
What is Fasted Cardio?
It refers to doing cardio in a state during which insulin levels are reduced and your body is no longer processing food. In other words, you're doing cardio in a fasted state.
This isn't inherently the same as doing cardio on an empty stomach. That's because even if you have an empty stomach, your body can still be processing foods and be in a fed state.
When it comes to true fasted cardio, it's done when you haven't eaten foods for an extended time-frame. The best example of this is after an overnight fast, when you do cardio before you consume your first meal of the day.
Does Fasted Cardio Help You Burn More Fat?
According to many fitness ‘gurus,’ the answer is yes. They claim that there are two reasons fasted cardio is superior for fat loss:
- Since insulin levels are low first thing in the morning, your body burns more fat when you exercise at that time. (After all, elevated insulin levels suppress fat burning.)(1)
- The overnight fast reduces glycogen levels within your body. As a result, if you train in a fasted state, your body will burn more fat for fuel instead of glycogen.
Both of these reasons sound plausible. And research also shows that if you elevate insulin levels by consuming food, especially carbohydrates, you’ll burn less fat for fuel during exercise.(2)(3)(4)
So that sounds like a win for fasted cardio, correct?
Well, even though you do indeed burn more fat for fuel during a fasted cardio session, this does not imply that you'll lose more fat overall.
That's because research shows that if you burn more of one substrate during a cardio session, you will burn less of it over the next twenty-four hours.(5)
In other words, your body will compensate for the increase in fat burning later on in the day. And, as a result, you’ll burn the same amount of fat over a twenty-four-hour period whether you train fasted or not.
Research Shows That Fasted Cardio Does Not Help You Lose More Fat
Building on the data outlined above, let’s consider a weight-loss study by Brad Schoenfeld and his colleagues during which they split twenty-four women into two groups.(6)
Both groups maintained a daily energy deficit of 500 calories. And the only difference between the groups was that one would do three hours of fasted cardio per week while the others did the same amount but in a fed state.
The result was that after four weeks, both groups had lost a significant amount of fat, but there was no difference in fat loss between the groups. So, fasted cardio and fed cardio were equally effective for fat loss.
What's more, another systematic review and meta-analysis found similar results. The researchers concluded that "fasted compared to fed exercise does not increase the amount of weight and fat mass loss."(7)
They also noted that "weight loss and fat loss from exercise is more likely to be enhanced through creating a meaningful caloric deficit over a period of time, rather than exercising in fasted or fed states."
Here’s what to Do Instead if You Want to Lose Fat
Instead of worrying about whether you should do cardio in a fed or fasted state, follow the following five steps.
While these five steps are by no means everything you can do to maximize your results, they’ll provide you with the most bang for your buck. If you follow them, you can rest assured that you’ll lose fat like clockwork.
Step 1: Be in a caloric deficit
To lose fat, your primary focus must be on consuming fewer calories than you burn. If you accomplish that, you’ll be guaranteed that the number on your scale will go down.(8)(9)(10)
To figure out how many calories you should consume per day, use this calculator and pay attention to the “lose weight” section in the results area.
Then, once you know how many calories you should consume per day, keep track of your calorie intake. There are various apps available that make this process easy, such as MyFitnessPal and Cronometer.
Step 2: Consume enough protein
Doing so will benefit you in two ways.
First, consuming enough protein boosts fat loss, primarily by reducing hunger cravings and calorie intake. Second, it prevents muscle loss, which enhances your sex appeal and keeps your metabolism in high gear.(11)(12)
To reap all the benefits, consume 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 70 kg, that represents at least 112 grams of protein per day.(12)
If you’re having a hard time consuming such a protein intake, a high-quality, plant-based protein powder offers a perfect solution.
Step 3: Do resistance training
Hitting the weights prevents muscle loss while you lean down. That not only benefits your figure, but it also supports your long-term weight loss results since muscle is metabolically active.(13)
Simply put, the more muscle mass you carry, the higher your metabolism will be, and the easier it is to lose fat and keep the pounds off.
When you lift weights, focus primarily on big, compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, lunges, lat pull downs, rows, and push-ups.
Step 4: Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for fat loss. Research shows that getting enough sleep reduces hunger. Plus, it ensures that the weight you lose comes from actual body fat and not from muscle mass.(14)(15)(16)
While there’s no set-in-stone length you should aim for, most people do best by getting between seven and nine hours of quality shut-eye per night.
Step 5: Supplement with a multivitamin
All vitamins and minerals are, in one way or another, involved in processes related to fat loss.
Zinc, for instance, has a significant influence on your metabolism. Calcium enhances the ability of your body to burn fat. And vitamin D is essential for hormonal health.(17)(18)(19)
For such reasons, taking a multivitamin can help you lose fat. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 96 obese Chinese women found that taking a daily multivitamin for six weeks led, on average, to:(20)
- 3.6 kg of body weight loss
- a BMI reduction of 1.4 points
- a weight circumference loss of 2.4 cm
- and a decrease in body fat of 2.8 kg
It’s important, however, that you consume the right multivitamin. Here’s the product we recommend.