It can be hard to know what to eat before you work out, or if you should even eat at all. All these variables can change depending on the time of day, the type of exercise, and the length of your workout. One of the even bigger questions is whether there are any benefits of eating nothing at all (fasting) before a workout or if you’re better to fuel up, so that you don’t drop before you’re done. If you’re looking to burn fat, then a cardio workout is where it’s at, but what’s the best way to eat to get the most out of your body?
What is a Fasted Cardio Workout?
If you’re up with the birds and blasting it at the gym before your breakfast, then this counts as a fasted cardio workout. Put simply, any time you do a cardio workout after fasting counts. Some people believe that this is the key to fat loss as your body will be using fat stores instead of energy provided by food, so that you ultimately lose fat quicker. As with most things, there are a few different points that you need to consider too before you believe every word and commit to this.
Should I Fast?
Usually, people keep fasted training to aerobic workouts as resistance training requires much more energy which would be fuelled by the food you eat. It’s mainly used in an attempt to lose body fat, but this method is not necessarily correct and may not lead to you eating a calorie deficit — the sure-fire way to lose fat.
Fat loss is based on a calorie deficit and therefore doing a fasted cardio session will actually increase hunger after your workout. This makes you more likely to eat more afterwards than you would have done if you’d eaten before your workout. It also makes dieting much more difficult, as if you’re focused on a calorie deficit then you’re going to make life much harder when trying to resist over-eating.
Studies have shown that the difference in fat loss between those who fast before a cardio workout and those who don’t see very similar results. It also shows that those exercising while fasting often can’t give as much to their workout as they’re already in an energy deficit and don’t have the fuel to push it to the maximum and, ultimately, burn more calories.1
If you can’t work as hard and burn as many calories when fasting and you’re more likely to eat more post-workout, then you might be better eating before your cardio exercise in order to get the most out of your body and eat a little less post-workout.
The real answer to this question is that if you enjoy doing fasted aerobic sessions and you feel it offers an advantage to the way you train and diet then by all means go ahead and do it. However, if you’re someone that’s only doing it because you’ve been told it’s the only way forward with fat loss then don’t believe everything you hear and remember calorie deficit is the key to weight loss.
If you are looking for a strength increase, fasted training simply will not cut it, you are much more likely to improve your strength by being fed and then going into your resistance workout.
Take Home Message
If stitches are constantly sabotaging your workout or you want your cardio out of the way in the morning, then fasted cardio will most probably suit you. Don’t, however, be sucked in by the idea that it could increase fat loss, as unless you’re very strict, you’ll more than likely eat much more post-workout thanks to a hungry tummy. If you’re looking to shift a couple of pounds, then do whatever it takes to get you on that treadmill or pounding the pavement — breakfast or no breakfast.