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Is Fasted Cardio a Good Way to Lose Weight?

By Joe Talarico on Feb 23, 2021 11:45:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time


The short answer is, it is an OPTION as a way to lose weight. It’s not really a matter of good, or what is better. It all comes down to preference.  

The Big Picture

The research shows that ultimately while there MAY be some slight benefits, in the bigger picture it doesn’t make a difference. In other words, when it comes to your goals, the reason you hit or don’t hit your goal isn’t going to depend on whether you implemented fasted cardio or not. It’s very easy especially these days to hear all these new “hacks” for speeding up fat loss. The reality is, influencers or coaches will find a random study, and take one minor finding and try to build whole platforms off of it to capture a niche.

The other thing to keep in mind is your recovery. If you are doing cardio at a pace above 140bpm, and you are in a deficit, you have to keep your muscle retention in mind. The body needs energy for fuel during those cardio sessions, and if the intensity is too great, and the body knows it doesn’t have enough calories coming in to supply the effort, it has to pull it from somewhere else. It CAN pull from your fat stores, but keep in mind muscle is calorically expensive to have on. In a deficit, your body would rather get rid of the costly thing over the one that’s going to provide you with sustenance.

Follow Your Preference

What you should really be focusing on is what YOU as an individual prefer. I, for example, like working out fasted in general. I have never felt that huge bump in energy that people talk about when they say they need carbs before a workout. I’ve tried having a meal 30 minutes before, 60 minutes before, you name it. I’ve never really noticed a difference significant enough for me to need adding a meal in. I also like to workout in the mornings so it’s easier for my schedule for me to just stay fasted and get the workout in before my day starts. If I had to focus on getting up even EARLIER just to get my pre workout meal in then wait to digest and workout, I’d be miserable. But again, that’s just my preference.

If you find you are sluggish and can’t perform without food in your system then by all means eat! Also keep in mind when you are doing your cardio. If performed before your workout, is that taking away from your max efforts on the weights? That should be priority number one; pushing as much weight to perform better than you did last week. I’ve definitely had days where I tried doing cardio before my lift, and my workout suffered because of it. I usually save my cardio for either after my workout, or on an off day so that I’m not completely wiped. I also like the idea of always having something active to do everyday. I feel a little stale and somewhat stiff if I have days off where I am doing absolutely nothing.

One last thing you may want to note is it’s good to train the body to adapt to new types of stress. If you’ve spent your whole lifting career swearing by a pre workout meal, and needing carbs before in order to do well, it might be a good mental challenge to try workouts fasted and see if you can adapt to it (although I’d suggest doing this when you aren’t dieting). I never like letting myself be too reliant on one thing so every now and then I’ll throw some new alternatives and styles in like this to see how I can handle it.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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