The Skinny On Fasted Cardio
How many times have you heard your favorite fitness idols referencing fasted cardio? The benefits of fasted cardio have been debated amongst many coaches, athletes, and trainers. These debates are all compelling, which leaves the general population in a state of confusion. So, does fasted cardio trump cardio in a fed state?
First, let’s dive into a little physiology. Fat loss occurs through three processes:
- Mobilization: Removing fatty acids from a fat cell.
- Transport: Moving fatty acids via the bloodstream and finally
- Oxidation: Where the fatty acids are burned within smooth and skeletal muscles.
The facts on fasted cardio are limited. For individuals who have lower body fat (less than 15% in men and less the 20% in women), performing cardio in a fasted state may be beneficial. As the body becomes leaner, mobilizing fat becomes more difficult. At lower body-fat levels, you are likely to notice the effect on “troubled” areas. These are typically areas of less circulation, making mobilization and transport all the more difficult. When exercising, up to 50% of the fat being oxidized is intramuscular triglycerides, which would have no impact on appearance.
For trainees carrying body fat levels of 20% ±, chances are there are no issues mobilizing, transporting, and oxidizing fatty acids because there is an abundance of fat cells available. From an evidence standpoint, it does not appear that this category of people would benefit from fasted cardio, even in the presence of a moderate energy deficit. The most important aspect of cardio and its effects on fat loss is how many calories are burned.
With so many claims on what form of cardio is best for fat loss, we tend to lose track of the most important factors: Nutrition and adherence to “the plan.” Combining a customized cardio prescription with an individualized nutritional plan that involves a caloric deficit can result in optimal fat loss if adherence is consistently present.
– By Brian Devins, CPT, PN1, Coach/Founder of Upstate Empire Fitness, LLC