Empty Stomach Cardio
– The Holy Grail Of Fat Loss!
– The Holy Grail Of Fat Loss!
Some people who used get embarrassed about their bodies now have a lean and sexy person staring back at them in the mirror. And they’ve got their lean physique with empty stomach cardio. But there’s a problem…
Some people swear by empty stomach cardio, whereas others say it is not only inefficient but harmful too. Well, both sides have a valid point depending on HOW you do it, it’s very powerful if you use it correctly but it can actually fight against your goals if you do it incorrectly.
Fasted cardio is nothing new, it has existed for quite some time and is currently gaining popularity again as an effective way to hasten fat loss.
And like everything in the fitness and health space, it has its proponents and detractors. Much like you see with flexible dieting, there will always be someone saying good and bad things no matter what.
Well, we thought it was time to weigh in on the matter because while we do have a great scientific understanding of the matter, we also have practical expertise and know what it requires to get lean and sexy without burning away youthful lean muscle. And you know what? Empty stomach cardio has been a significant part of our clients’ overall fat loss routine.
So, in this article we are going to review the science of fasted cardio, then look at the way to properly use it to make fat loss quicker and easier. Let’s start.
What Exactly Is Empty Stomach Cardio?
Many folks believe fasted cardio is simply training on an “empty stomach,” which they usually think is just a belly that “feels empty.”
Well, they’re incorrect. Empty stomach cardio is cardio done while in a “fasted” state, yes, your stomach is empty, but it is a bit more than that. It has to do with how the body actually absorbs and processes the food you’ve eaten.
When your body is digesting and absorbing what you’ve eaten, your body is in a “fed” or “postprandial” state (prandial means “having to do with a meal”). Once it has finished processing and consuming the nutrients, insulin levels drop to a “minimum” low (or “baseline” amount), and your body enters a “fasted” or “post-absorptive” state. Every day your body goes between “fed” and “fasted’ (or “post-prandial” and “post-absorptive”) states.
Thus, to recap:
- Exercise done during periods where insulin levels are elevated and food continues to be being processed and consumed is “fed” training.
- Exercise done during periods where insulin is at a low, baseline amount and food is no longer being processed and absorbed is “fasted” training.
Alright, now we understand what fasted cardio is. Let us now look at how fed and fasted states relate to fat burning and storage.
Your Body Doesn’t Get Rid Of Fat When It’s Fed – It Holds & Stores It
Insulin does more than merely shuttle nutrients into cells-it also impairs the breakdown of fatty acids. That means, the higher your insulin levels are, the less your body is going to use fat for energy (both body fat and dietary fat).
This makes sense. Why would your body burn fat when there’s a surplus of energy easily accessible via the food you just finished eating? So, when you eat food, your body essentially shuts down its fat-burning mechanisms and lives off the energy supplied by the meal, and it also stores a portion of the excessive energy as body fat for later use.
As your body processes and consumes the food, insulin levels decline, which tells the body to start going to fat for energy as the “fuel” from the meal that is running out. Eventually, when the absorption is complete, your body is completely running off its own fat stores for energy.
The Science of Fasted Cardio and Weight Loss
Fasted cardio is often advocated as a means to speed up fat loss, but generally without an in-depth explanation of how this fits into the bigger picture of weight reduction, and how it might really work it can be misused.
Thus, that’s our “inspiration” for this post, because only telling someone to do empty stomach cardio with no other guidance almost definitely will not make a difference in regard to losing weight.
The first thing you ought to know about fasted cardio is it will not help you lose fat faster if you don’t also follow a proper diet.
Empty stomach cardio does not let you somehow cheat the laws of energy balance. At the end of the day, fat reduction calls for an energy (or calorie) shortage, and that means you definitely have to burn more energy than you eat.
Nevertheless, fasted cardio does offer some unique fat loss advantages when done correctly. Let me explain.
As you would anticipate, if your insulin levels are elevated before exercise due to a pre-workout meal, your body will resist breaking down fat cells (lipolysis will be blunted) . Research has shown this true both with untrained and trained individuals.
Having said that, lipolysis is just one part of fat reduction. The other part is the actual fat oxidation, in other words, the actual use (“burning”) of the fatty acids by cells. Your body could break down every fat cell it has into usable fatty acids, but most would go unused (your body can only use so much energy at a time) and end up turning back into body fat all over again.
And this is where empty stomach cardio is criticized by some people as useless. They say that while it’s accurate that less lipolysis is caused by exercising in a fed state during the workout, fat oxidation rates aren’t changed so all that happens is your body mobilizes more fat cells than it can actually oxidize (burn).
This is wrong for several reasons.
1. Research indicates that the total amount of fatty acids accessible regulates fat oxidation rates.
While your body may not be able to burn all the fatty acids marshalled during fasted cardio, the more it has available, the more it burns. Consequently, it is not astonishing that…
2. Studies have also shown that ingestion of carbohydrate reduces fat burn-off while at rest and when ingested before exercise.
I’ve scoured the literature and based on what I’ve found, it’s quite clear: absolute fat oxidation is simply higher with fasted cardio than fed. Check out this graph on fat oxidation and carb intake…
In this study you’ll notice that CC had carbs 30 minutes before and during exercise; PC had a placebo drink a half an hour before and took his carbs during exercise; CP had carbs 30 minutes before and a placebo beverage during exercise; and PP received a placebo beverage both before and during exercise (this was the fasted group).
And as you can see, PP burned the most fat throughout the whole workout.
Now, “ingested before exercise” is a vital phrase here because the study most often cited as “evidence” that fasted cardio is a waste of time revealed that when carbohydrates are taken during exercise (30 minutes after, in this instance), then fat oxidation rates aren’t changed until after 80 to 90 minutes of exercise.
Researchers noted this effect is likely as a result of how the insulin response to carbohydrate ingestion during moderate-intensity exercise is nearly totally suppressed. Thus, insulin levels remain more or less unchanged from their pre-workout (fasted) fat oxidation rates and levels stay the same.
That is fascinating, but who starts their work outs fasted and then eats carbs 30 minutes into the routine? Nobody. We eat our carbs anywhere from 15 mins to a half an hour before we workout, and this reduces both lipolysis and fat oxidations rates and in turn reduces the entire amount of fat we lose in the work outs, as you now know.
So, the bottom line is when we contemplate all the available research, it is clear that empty stomach cardio leads to a bit more fat loss than “fed” cardio, and hence is rewarding.
Overall fat loss is not the only plus we like about empty stomach cardio. Additionally, it greatly helps remove “stubborn” fat particularly.
How Empty Stomach Cardio Gets Rid of “Stubborn” Fat
If you are a woman, your hips, thighs, and boootay are probably the last spots on your body to really tighten up when you are slimming down.
This isn’t a hex or curse as much as it’s pure genetics – it’s simply a physiological mechanism.
You see, your body uses chemicals known as “catecholamines” to break fat cells down into usable energy. Catecholamines go through your blood and “attach” to receptors on fat cells, which then trigger the release of the energy stored within the cells so it can be burned off.
Fat cells have two types of receptors for catecholamines, they are: alpha-2 and beta-2 receptors. To keep this simple, beta-2 receptors speed up fat mobilization, whereas alpha-2 receptors hinder it.
The more alpha-2 receptors a fat cell has, the more “resistant” it is to being marshalled by catecholamines. On the other hand, the more beta-2 receptors a fat cell has, the more “open” it’s to the fat-mobilizing molecules.
As you have likely figured, the places on your body that get lean the quickest have a lot more fat cells with beta-2 receptors than alpha-2, and the areas that do not have a substantial amount of fat cells have more alpha-2 than beta-2. Simple right?
Another problem with these “stubborn fat” regions relates to blood flow. You might have discovered that fat in places like the lower back and thighs are slightly colder to the touch than fat in other areas of your body like the arms or torso. This is only because there’s less blood flowing through the areas.
Less blood flow = less catecholamines reach your stubborn fat cells = fat loss will be slow as crap.
So we have a double whammy going against our fat reduction efforts here: large amounts of fat cells that do not react nicely to catecholamines and reduced blood flow to keep the catecholamines away.
How Does Fasted Cardio Help?
Well, blood flow in the abdominal area is raised when you’re in a fasted state, which means the catecholamines can reach this obstinate fat easier, leading to more mobilization of it.
This is where I have personally found a great difference in shedding fat with and without fasted training. While I do fasted training (both cardio and weightlifting), the journey from about 9% to 6%, where the majority of the fat you’re losing is the “stubborn” areas, is clearly faster than when I do not.
What Sort of Fasted Cardio is Best?
If you’re familiar with my work, you know that in regards to cardio, I am a big fan of high-intensity interval training.
Studies like those conducted by Baylor College of Medicine, Laval University, East Tennessee State University, and the University of New South Wales have conclusively demonstrated that briefer sessions of high-intensity cardio result in greater fat loss over time than longer, low-intensity sessions.
In reality, a study conducted by The University of Western Ontario demonstrated that doing only 4 – 6, 30-second sprints burns more fat over time than 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking.
Additionally, keeping your cardio sessions briefer means you preserve your muscle and strength. This is especially important to fasted cardio as it accelerates muscle degradation, and the longer you train the more muscle you lose in a fasted state.
All that said, some naysayers claim that HIIT performed in a fasted state is useless because fat oxidation rates are considerably lower during HIIT exercise. Well, while it is true that fat oxidation rates decline as cardio intensity increases (as glycogen then becomes the fuel of choice), there is more to consider.
Studies have shown that as you continue to perform regular high-intensity interval cardio sessions, your muscles “learn” to use less glycogen during work outs (hence raising fat oxidation rates during the workouts), and your muscle cells additionally get better and better at oxidizing fats.
This latter point is especially applicable to fasted training as, over time, high-intensity interval training raises the overall amount of fatty acids your body is able to metabolize during workouts.
Research has revealed the post-exercise “afterburn” effect (EPOC) is greater with high-intensity interval training than with low-strength steady-state cardio (about double, actually-13% vs. 7%).
The real amount of added calories burned off due to HIIT’s greater “afterburn” effect will probably never be more than 50 to 80, but hey, that adds up over time.
Studies have shown that high-intensity interval cardio is particularly good for getting rid of persistent abdominal fat, for instance, dangerous accumulations of visceral fat.
Given all the above, I believe it is simply a no-brainer to choose high-intensity interval cardio over low-strength steady state.
Many people say doing so puts an excessive amount of strain on your own body and will cause overtraining, but I’ve yet to run into the hundreds of individuals I have worked with or that problem with my own body. (Seriously-I have never had one person write me complaining about feeling over-trained shortly after incorporating fasted HIIT into their workout routines).
That is probably because I advocate an extremely reasonable amount of high-intensity interval cardio when dieting for fat loss.
So if you are ready to take on empty stomach cardio, I hope you will take this article to heart and do it the right way. The fat will burn off so much better than you are used to!