Fasted cardio is a hot topic in the fitness world, but does it really offer an edge when it comes to fat loss? In this article, we’ll dive deep into what fasted cardio is, examine the science behind it, and explore its relevance in different training programs including contest prep, off-season, and lifestyle routines.
What is Fasted Cardio?
Fasted cardio is a workout strategy where aerobic exercises are performed on an empty stomach, usually after a period of fasting that most commonly lasts overnight. This approach is based on the principle that glycogen stores are low after an extended period without food, leading the body to utilize stored fat as the primary source of energy.
Mechanism of Action
In a fed state, your body has readily available glucose and glycogen (stored form of glucose) to fuel workouts. However, in a fasted state, these readily available energy sources are depleted. As a result, the body is thought to shift its energy source from carbohydrates to stored fat, increasing fat oxidation.
Timing and Duration
The most common time to perform fasted cardio is in the morning after waking up, following an overnight fast. The fasting period should ideally be at least 8 hours to ensure a shift towards fat metabolism. The duration of the cardio session can vary but often ranges from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on individual goals and tolerance levels.
Types of Exercises
The types of exercises performed during fasted cardio are typically low to moderate intensity to allow for sustained effort without the need for immediate energy from carbohydrates. Common exercises include walking, jogging, cycling, and elliptical workouts.
Who Uses It?
Fasted cardio is often popular among bodybuilders, fitness models, and athletes who are aiming for reduced body fat levels. However, it’s also used by regular fitness enthusiasts seeking fat loss benefits. Its popularity arises from the belief that it’s more effective for fat loss compared to cardio performed in a fed state.
By understanding the intricacies of what fasted cardio is, one can make a more informed decision about whether to incorporate it into different training programs, from contest prep to off-season and lifestyle-focused routines.
The Science Behind Fasted Cardio
Fat Oxidation vs. Overall Fat Loss
The concept that fasted cardio increases fat oxidation during exercise stems from the physiological shift toward using stored fat as fuel due to depleted glycogen levels. Research shows an increase in fat oxidation rates during fasted cardio when compared to fed-state cardio (Horowitz, Mora-Rodriguez, Byerley, & Coyle, 1997).
However, the critical point here is that fat oxidation does not necessarily equate to long-term fat loss. Fat loss is more influenced by your overall caloric balance—calories in vs. calories out—over an extended period. The acute increase in fat oxidation during a single session may not have a significant impact on overall body composition, particularly if the calorie intake later in the day compensates for the morning’s energy expenditure.
Meta-Analyses and Long-term Impact
Meta-analyses have been instrumental in providing a comprehensive view of the efficacy of fasted cardio. A meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al. (2014) assessed the long-term effects and concluded that there were no significant differences in fat loss or body composition between fasted and non-fasted aerobic exercise. This implies that the overall energy balance is the dominating factor in determining fat loss, rather than the metabolic subtleties of fasted versus fed-state exercise.
Similarly, a study by Paoli et al. (2011) evaluated whether fasted cardio had any influence on weight loss and body composition and found negligible differences. The study concluded that when caloric intake and exercise intensity are matched, there’s little to no difference in the outcomes based on the timing of food intake relative to the workout.
The scientific evidence suggests that while fasted cardio may increase fat oxidation rates in the short term, this does not necessarily translate to greater overall fat loss over an extended period. Meta-analyses and long-term studies have generally found no significant difference between fasted and fed-state cardio for affecting body composition changes. Some athletes report higher energy levels and better performance when exercising on an empty stomach. However, this is more about personal preference and comfort rather than any metabolic advantage from being in a fasted state.
- Horowitz, J. F., Mora-Rodriguez, R., Byerley, L. O., & Coyle, E. F. (1997). Lipolytic suppression following carbohydrate ingestion limits fat oxidation during exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 273(4), E768-E775.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., Wilborn, C. D., Krieger, J. W., & Sonmez, G. T. (2014). Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 54.
- Paoli, A., Marcolin, G., Zonin, F., Neri, M., Sivieri, A., & Pacelli, Q. F. (2011). Exercising fasting or fed to enhance fat loss? Influence of food intake on respiratory ratio and excess postexercise oxygen consumption after a bout of endurance training. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 21(1), 48-54.
One of the most common skin concerns people have is cellulite, the pesky, dimpled appearance on the skin that’s often compared to orange peel or cottage cheese. Despite the numerous products and procedures claiming to banish cellulite, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We aim to unravel the complex anatomy and factors behind cellulite, specifically focusing on the role of septae, to give you a better understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and why.
The Anatomy of Cellulite: Understanding Septae
Septae are fibrous connective tissues that anchor the skin to the underlying muscle layer. They partition the fat beneath the skin into pockets filled with fat cells, also known as adipocytes. When these adipocytes swell due to an accumulation of triglycerides, the result is tension between the skin and septae, creating the familiar dimpled appearance known as cellulite. In simpler terms, think of the fat cells as balloons filling up with air (triglycerides), and the septae as cords that hold these balloons in place. If the balloons expand but are restricted by the cords, the result is a lumpy skin surface.
Genetics and Cellulite: Can You Really Blame Your Parents?
Genetic factors significantly influence the structure, thickness, and elasticity of the septae, making some people more predisposed to visible cellulite than others. Variables like skin thickness and elasticity, both influenced by genetics, can either minimize or exaggerate the appearance of cellulite. Additionally, hormones like estrogen are another reason why women are generally more prone to cellulite than men.
Lifestyle Choices and Cellulite Appearance
While you can’t alter your genetic makeup, you have control over lifestyle choices that can affect cellulite. Higher levels of body fat exacerbate the pressure against the septae, making cellulite more visible. On the flip side, lowering your body fat through a balanced diet and regular exercise can alleviate this tension and potentially lessen the appearance of cellulite.
Treatment Options: A Glimpse into Solutions
There are multiple treatments targeting the septae to improve the appearance of cellulite. These include surgical procedures like subcision, which severs the septae bands to allow the skin to spring back to a smoother appearance. Other options involve radiofrequency, laser treatments, and high-frequency ultrasound that aim to either break down the septae or stimulate collagen production to improve skin elasticity. However, be cautious when exploring these options as they can be costly, and their effectiveness varies.
Navigating the Marketing Maze
A variety of products and treatments claim to miraculously reduce cellulite. These range from creams to specialized garments like anti-cellulite leggings. It’s crucial to approach these claims skeptically for several reasons:
- Limited Scientific Backing: Many of these treatments are not rigorously scientifically verified.
- Cost Factor: Most treatments can be quite expensive, especially those requiring multiple sessions.
- Safety Concerns: Some treatments have potential side effects, making it essential to consult healthcare providers for personalized advice.
Cellulite is a complex skin condition influenced by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. While certain treatments focus on the role of septae in cellulite formation, it’s essential to approach these options critically, considering their cost, efficacy, and potential side effects. Lifestyle adjustments like regular exercise and a balanced diet remain the most universally beneficial and low-risk methods for managing cellulite’s appearance. Being informed is the first step in making the best choices for your skin and body.
Executing a Reverse Diet correctly immediately after Contest Prep can go a long way to set your next Contest Prep under more favorable conditions. Doing so you can increase your rate of muscle gain while keeping body fat accumulation down. This will have a very positive effect on increasing your Metabolic Rate, and decrease the time of your next Contest Prep.
PRO TIP: Pay attention to your fiber. When we conduct our consultations, it still amazes me that so many competitors have no idea how much fiber they are getting. Fiber plays an important role in your nutrition. Fiber’s effects on digestion and cholesterol are big, but fiber is also a decent thermogenic and helps with Satiety, which is defined as “the absence of hunger”…or feeling full.
In addition, when athletes start to experience gastrointestinal (GI) distress, especially in the later stages of prep when calories are low and our metabolism is highly down-regulated, in many cases an adjustment to fiber (and keeping it consistent) can remedy some of the problems. More often than not, competitors will start taking in more high volume (and low calorie) foods due to hunger resulting in too much fiber. Usually a reduction in fiber can offset a lot of this problem.
So how much fiber should you consume? Well, the Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume around 14g of fiber for every 1000 calories. However, when calories get low in prep, if you can get at least 10g in for every 1000 calories you should be good to go.
What about Soluble and Insoluble fiber?
They both have their benefits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is believed to help with cholesterol and glucose control. Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water but it does help bring water in to the digestive track and helps make your poop softer. It’s also good for insulin sensitivity.
Both are good to help combat diabetes, and both are found in most plant based foods. So, if you are getting a lot of food variety, you should be fine.
Shameless Plug: This is another reason I believe macro counting is superior to meal plans. Meal plans (not the same as prepping food based on macros) are very restrictive which takes away a lot of food variety, and food variety is essential for gut health…especially in a deficit.
Q: Do I really need a coach for a bodybuilding competition? If so, when do I actually need one because that is a lot of money to spend in the “offseason” isn’t it?
A: If you want just to compete in a bodybuilding competition and do pretty good, no…you do not need a coach. If you want to compete in a smaller federation where softer physiques are the norm and competition might not be as fierce, you may not need a coach.
But, if you want to be “competitive” and deliver your “optimal physique” whether you’re standing on a small stage or a national stage against 1,000 other competitors showcasing their optimal physique then YES, absolutely 100% get a coach.
Here is something else to consider, and I’m sure it’ll ruffle some feathers. Don’t waste time, effort and money with a personal trainer. BIG MISTAKE. I am an NASM Certified Personal Trainer myself, and I thought I knew how to get someone ready (myself) to compete because of my certification and working as a trainer.
I was wrong.
Trainers are wonderful, for general health purposes. They provide a fantastic service for those who want to get fit, get in shape and improve overall health. That’s all well and good, but that is not what you need if you want to deliver a competitive physique on stage.
My husband is also an IFBB Pro and coach and we used to argue about the way to train folks for bodybuilding competitions. It wasn’t until I started training for a show myself a couple of years ago that I had to swallow my pride and admit he was right and have since changed my thought process and the way I do things. I transitioned from “trainer” to “coach” myself.
Trainers do not have the knowledge to prepare someone for the bodybuilding competition. Their training and education is primarily based on General Health and Fitness where as the way we train is 100% about asthedics for the stage.
So if you plan on competing in Bodybuilding (regardless of the division you are in) you will need a coach who is experienced in just that. Someone who understand how to balance everthing out from the viewpoint of the judges on the panel. Someone who understand EXACTLY what judges are looking for. Please understand. What YOU think will look good or your trainer thinks will look good is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is those 7-9 judges sitting 15 feet away from you. ANd NASM, ISSA, ACE and the others CPT’s do not teach that.
You need someone with experience in identifying your strengths and weaknesses for stage purposes, and with the expertience in how to balance them out. Someone with a trained eye and experienced eye.
You need someone who not only understands The 5 Stages of Contest Prep, but someone who knows how to set you up for all phases prior to prep starting and how to properly navigate through all 5 stages.
Someone who understands how to properly work through your Set Point and understands how you respond to carbs, sodium and other “variables”, which is crucial come Peak Week time.
Someone who will individually build your workout program and nutrition based on aesthetics, balance and symmetry.
You need someone who can DO THIS ALL while keeping your health a priority, and keeping it in check.
Look, a competitor’s physique is not built during prep, its built over time in the offseason. What I mean is, the purpose of contest prep is to peel the body fat layers off, and preserve as much muscle mass in return so when you step on stage you will be showcasing the “Grand Reveal” of all your hard work and effort that you put in during the offseason. And that hard work and effort needs to be under the guidance of someone who specializes in doing just that, a Physique Coach.
Unfortunately, too many competitors think that they need a coach after they reach a certain level of leanness or muscularity but the hard truth is that you leave a lot of gains on the table when you don’t have a coach help you do the building. Even the best coach can only get you to look as good on stage as your offseason allows. If you didn’t focus on the right body parts, from all the required angles and/or created imbalances, that is all going to show as a great big flaw for the judges to critique, regardless of how low someone cuts your calories or how many hours of cardio they prescribe.
So take it from someone who began as a Personal Trainer, but only made it to the next level (winning my IFBB Pro Card) when I realized there is a substantial difference between a Personal Trainer and a Physique Coach. Not to mention, getting ready for a bodybuilding competition is hard, time consuming and expensive. And if your personal trainer hasn’t been through that themself, preferably at a high level, you’re taking a huge chance on someone who is going to take you through hell and back who hasnt been there themself.
That’s a lot of things you risk wasting by not doing it right.