As the popular internet meme goes ‘losing weight is like riding a bike, except the bike is on fire, and you’re on fire, and everything around you is on fire’. Basically, losing weight isn’t as easy as some obnoxious personal trainers on Instagram would have you believe. If losing weight was really a question of ‘hard work’ and ‘mind over matter’ and other tired clichés thrown around aimlessly in the fitness industry, the majority of the human race would be walking around with a six pack, rather than struggling with their weight. On paper, the formula for weight loss is very simple: You eat less, you eat healthily, and you do more exercise. In terms of which exercise is the most beneficial, most people focus on cardio when trying to lose weight. Now, there are many different forms of cardio currently being utilized by people looking to shed the pounds, yet it is fasted cardio that’s grabbing the headlines lately. Some swear by it, some believe it’s a waste of time, and some are undecided. There are certain benefits associated with fasted cardio whether you like it or not, and we’ll be highlighting what they are shortly. In the meantime, however, here’s a better look at what fasted cardio actually is.
What is fasted cardio?
Cardio for some people is something that is looked forward to. For other people however, it’s something that is hated. Whether you like it or loathe it, one thing that is for certain is the fact that it works wonders for people looking to burn fat and lose weight. Cardiovascular exercise, in its simplest definition, is any form of exercise that causes the heartrate to become elevated. Fasted cardio however, is different. As you probably know, when you’re in a fasted state, your stomach is empty. And by empty, we mean properly empty. We aren’t just talking about one or two hours after a meal. A true fasted state will be achieved roughly 8 – 12 hours after your last meal. Yes, it really is that long after eating. Does that mean you can’t do fasted cardio if you’ve not waited at least 8 hours? No it doesn’t. Fasted cardio can be performed on an empty stomach roughly 3 – 6 hours after your last meal, depending on how much you ate and how fast your metabolism is running. Most people will perform fasted cardio early in a morning before having breakfast. The reason for this is simply due to the fact that they will have gone for at least 8 hours, if not more, between meals. This means that when they begin performing cardio, they will truly be in a fasted state.
But wait, there’s more. You see, not every scenario in which your stomach is empty will constitute as fasted cardio.
What does it mean to be fasted?
When you consume food, your body will digest it and break it down in your stomach, breaking it down into smaller molecules such as glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. Next, your small intestine will earn its keep and will get to work on absorbing these specific nutrients into your bloodstream. Next, insulin is produced and secreted by the pancreas to shuttle nutrients out of your bloodstream and into your cells. The cells need them for energy. Insulin is basically the key that unlocks the cell doors so the nutrients can enter. While your body is processing the food you’ve consumed, you are in what is known as a ‘fed state’. Here, insulin levels remain elevated. What you ate, and the amount you ate, will determine how high your insulin levels remain. Now, once the food has been digested and all of the nutrients have been extracted, your body will then enter a fasted state. Now, insulin levels are very low. Needless to say, as you eat several times per day, your body will alternate between these states. Just because you feel hungry however, that does not mean that you are now in a fasted state. To be in a true fasted state, your stomach needs to be completely empty.
What are the benefits of fasted cardio and how does it work?
Now it’s time for us to leave you with a few benefits associated with fasted cardio. Primarily, the main reason why people perform fasted cardio is so that they can burn fat and lose weight. But what is it about fasted cardio that makes it so beneficial when compared with regular cardiovascular exercise? To begin with, it all comes down to insulin. Not only does this hormone shuttle nutrients into your cells, it also hinders the breakdown of fatty acids. So, the more insulin you have in your system, the less fat your body will break down and use for energy. As we looked at, fasted cardio is performed on an empty stomach in a fasted state. When you are in a fasted state, your insulin levels are extremely low. This means that when you begin exercising, your body can now freely burn fatty acids and use stored body fat as a source of energy, without being hindered by insulin. On top of that, because there is no food and no nutrients in your body, your body is forced to look for something to use for energy to get it through the workout. What does it use? Why, stored body fat of course. Not only are you fuelling your workout with stored body fat, but at the same time, you are also enabling your body to burn more fat without being held back by insulin. This is hugely beneficial for anybody looking to shed those stubborn pounds. As an added bonus, when you exercise on an empty stomach, you don’t need to worry about suffering from bloating, or stomach cramps of a runner’s stitch.