Are you trying to cut down on body fat and not seeing enough success? Are you typically an early riser who prefers to get your workout done in the morning? Are you practicing intermittent fasting, or can you wake up without immediately feeling hungry? If so, fast cardio might be a good training option for you.
This type of training could make your body adapt to target fat for energy and lead to overall changes in body composition.
What is Fasted Cardio?
The idea of fast cardio is performing a cardio workout without eating a meal or snack first. Most of the time, fast cardio occurs in the morning with a “fast” of not eating for the past 6-10 hours prior. While some athletes swear by fasted cardio for fat lass, others find it difficult. Here’s the evidence for and against fast cardio, which will let you decide if it’s a strategy worth trying.
Why does fasted cardio burn fat?
When you exercise, your body’s first choice of fuel is carbohydrates — after you eat carbs, your body has glucose (the building blocks of carbs) available in your blood stream and muscles for energy. Long, intense cardio sessions burn through the available glucose and then start to burn stored energy (muscle glycogen).
Weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you consume — the reason why most of us do cardio. However, targeting fat to burn instead of carbs (the body’s preferred energy source) can be tricky. The theory behind fasted cardio is to work at a level that’s less intense so that when glucose isn’t readily available, the body starts to break down stored fat for energy instead.1 It can be a difficult balance to get your body to burn stored fat for fuel instead of breaking down stored glycogen or muscle.
What are the benefits?
1. Burning stored energy – fat
Normally, people want to try fasted cardio because they think that working out without eating beforehand forces your metabolism to adapt. However, the type and intensity of exercise being performed also has an impact on the way that your body chooses to fuel your workouts. The ideal conditions for fat burning include having no recently ingested glucose (no food in the last 4-8 hours) and not working at an intensity high enough to damage/break down muscle tissue.2
2. Works with intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting or eating only during a short window of time throughout the day, means that a morning workout would most likely occur during a fasting period. While there are many different types of intermittent fasting and research is being conducted on all its potential benefits and side effects, fasted cardio would easily fit into many of these plans.
3. Can be done immediately upon waking
There is no better benefit of fasted cardio than the fact that you eliminate the time it takes to consider fuelling for your workout. Typically, you want to wait about 30 minutes after eating to start working out, which means if your goal is a 6am workout, you have to finish your morning meal before 5:30. With fasted cardio, you don’t have to wake up earlier to make a pre-workout meal or snack, you don’t even have to chug a protein shake — just get straight to your workout and worry about the nutrition after.
Fasted Cardio for Fat Loss / Weight Loss
So, does fasted cardio REALLY work for fat- and weight loss? As with most bodybuilding and exercise strategies, it depends. While research supports that idea that more fat is burned without carbohydrates in our digestive system, it might be difficult to have enough energy for your running, biking, or elliptical session.1 If you like to push yourself to the max or do long periods of intense cardio exercise, your body will likely not perform as well when it has to focus on breaking down fat for energy. It may also shift into breaking down muscle.
If your go-to workout is low- to moderate-intensity cardio, fasted cardio is a small tweak to your normal routine. You might still be able to fit in fasted cardio if you find it difficult to wake up early in the morning, as you could even perform this type of a workout 6 hours after your last meal — between lunch and a late dinner, for example. As long as your previous meal has been digested and absorbed, the glucose levels and insulin in your blood should be low enough for your body to call upon its fat stores for energy.
Studies have shown that regularly training fasted makes your body become even more efficient at burning fat for fuel over time.2 Without readily available glucose for energy, your cells are forced to adapt to get the energy that they need. That means fat is used when you train at the right cardio intensity.
Is Fasted Cardio Safe?
Unless you have blood sugar control issues that would make it unsafe to exercise without a proper meal or snack, it’s typically safe for most people to perform a low to moderate intensity fasted cardio workout.1 Most training plans have “active recovery” or moderately light cardio days built in, which are good opportunities for trying fasted cardio.
However, if you want to attack high intensity interval training or long-distance training runs, swims, or bike rides, it’s best to schedule those during times when you are properly fuelled. Intense workouts like these often require additional nutrition during training in addition to a high carbohydrate pre-workout meal. Long bouts of cardio exercise put so much demand on our muscles that they need both readily available glucose (carbohydrates) and stored energy (in the form of glycogen), that you get from fuelling properly for the days and weeks beforehand.
Research has shown that proper pre-workout nutrition is key to optimising your performance for activities like weightlifting and other high-intensity, short-duration exercise.1 If you go above the recommended low intensity (about 50-60% of your target heart rate) during fasted cardio, you run the risk of burning muscle instead of fat during your workout, in addition to not being able to perform well.
Is Fasted Cardio for Me?
So how can you decide if you want to try fasted cardio? When you’re struggling to see changes in your body composition or lose those last few stubborn pounds, it could be a suitable option to try. Adding fasted cardio workouts at a low to medium intensity in addition to your regular workout schedule might be the boost that you need to see some results. As with all training regimens, keep track of how you feel during and after your workout so you can adapt and find what works best for you.
Easier workouts that lightly elevate your heart rate are the best options for fasted cardio. Workouts like easy elliptical work, yoga, Pilates, easy cycling, or a light jog would be good options. Not only do higher intensity workouts take your heart rate out of the fat burning zone, they can also make you feel light headed or weak without having any fuel beforehand.
When might fasted cardio not be for you? Anyone who has blood sugar control issues (like diabetes or hypoglycaemia) or has to eat first thing in the morning due to any other medical condition should talk to their doctor before trying fasted cardio.
If you find yourself starving all day after a fasted cardio workout, you might end up overeating later in the day, making your effort pointless. Some research studies found that subjects were unsuccessful for this reason. The timing and type of your post-workout refuelling can help to limit this — choose foods high in protein and fibre to keep you feeling satisfied.
Often, burning fat for energy without a carbohydrate source can make us crave more calories for refuelling, so choose your post workout snack carefully (and quickly) and get balanced nutrition through the rest of the day. Make sure you include plenty of protein just in case your muscles were overly stressed by the fasted cardio workout.
Regular exercise is an important part of getting in shape and living a healthy lifestyle. However, finding the best exercises that work for your body and daily routine can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for novice exercisers, but it can also be a challenge for people who exercise several times per week.
Although there’s a variety of workout programs available, building an exercise foundation through bodyweight exercises is a great place to start. It’s always a good idea to perform an exercise using the weight of your own body before progressing to more advanced levels.
There are many workout programs—like TRX suspension training—that use bodyweight to build strength and stability, as well as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs that use bodyweight exercises in most routines.
According to an article published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), bodyweight exercises should be incorporated into an exercise program to address performance gaps, improve movement quality, and maintain/accelerate progress.
ACSM recommends building entire training days exclusively for bodyweight exercises. Some of the benefits include:
Day 1: Prisoner Squat Jumps
Targets: This plyometric move builds strength, power, and stability in legs, glutes, and hips. Your core and back are also activated during the movement.
Get Started: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, cradle hands behind head, look forward and keep your elbows and shoulders back. Squat back keep your core engaged, and explode upward using your lower body, fully extending your ankles, feet, and hips in one movement. Land softly returning to starting squat position with weight distributed evenly between the heels.
Modification: Keep the jump less explosive, barely coming off the ground.
Day 2 Push-Up
Targets: Chest, arms, shoulders, core
Get Started: On the floor, place hands shoulder-width apart like a plank, keep your core engaged not allowing hips to sag, back straight, and head neutral. Bend elbows and lower your body to about a 45-degree angle. Push up to starting position.
Modification: Perform exercise from the knees, using an exercise mat to support them.
Day 4: Mountain Climber
Targets: Core, quads, hamstrings, hips, chest, shoulders, arms
Get Started: For this full body exercise, start in plank position, back and body straight, core tight. Bring your right leg toward the chest and quickly switch, pulling left leg toward the chest like a plank running motion. Continue to switch back and forth, maintaining proper body mechanics.
Modification: Perform exercise at an incline instead of on the floor. Or, you can alternate a slow step back instead of running during the movement.
Day 5: Squat
Targets: Glutes, thighs, hips, quads, and hamstrings
Get Started: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, sit your butt back and keep bodyweight over heels, look straight ahead and avoid rounding your back. The body should not be shifted forward while the knees are over the toes.
Modification: Use a chair or flat bench for assistance or support.
Day 6: Plank
Targets: All core muscles, hips, back, shoulders
Get Started: Start on hands and knees on an exercise mat. Lower your forearms to the floor, hands shoulder-width apart with palms down and elbows positioned under your shoulders. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle. Step feet back one at a time, balancing on the balls of your feet and your toes. Keep your core tight and body straight from head to toes. Hold the exercise for a determined amount of time.
Modification: Perform the plank from your knees instead of toes. Hold exercise for a shorter period.
Day 7: Bent Over Leg Lift
Targets: Glutes, hips, thighs, core
Get Started: Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, bend over slightly, keep core tight and back straight, place hands behind your back, bear your weight on the right leg, and extend left leg to the side resting on the toe. Sit back in a slight squat, lifting left leg to the side with a flexed foot in one motion. Lower left leg back to resting position. Perform the exercise for a determined number of reps. Repeat on the other side.
Modification: Perform exercise using a chair or counter for an assisted spot.
Day 8: Abdominal Crunch
Targets: The pair of ab muscles in front/sides of the body—your six-pack (rectus abdominis)
Get Started: Start on the floor, lie on your back, knees bent, and envision your navel sucked toward your spine. Place your hands gently cradled behind the head or crossed over your chest. Avoid pulling on your neck to take your chin toward chest. With eyes focused on the ceiling, tighten your core, and lift shoulder blades off the floor a few inches, exhaling as you lift. Return to start position and repeat for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Maintain one or both hands behind head if neck feels
Day 9: Burpee
Targets: This full body move works the arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core.
Get Started: Start in standing position, feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core, move into a deep squat position with hands on the ground. Jump feet backward holding a plank position, then jump feet forward returning to squat position. From there, you'll jump upward extending through ankles, knees, and hips, and land back in squat position. Repeat move for a determined amount of reps or for time.
Modification: Advanced exercise adds a push-up after jumping back into a plank. Beginning exercise uses an incline (bench/chair) instead of the floor and/or removing the jumping portion of the exercise.
Day 10: Lower Ab Leg Raise
Targets: Hip flexors, rectus abdominis, obliques
Get Started: Start on the floor using exercise mat and lie on your back keeping low back pressed into the floor. Place hands at your sides or under your butt for support. Start with legs lifted to the ceiling, tighten core, and slowly lower legs to the floor or your comfort level. Keep core engaged and lift legs back up toward the ceiling. Repeat move for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Avoid lowering legs all the way to the floor if it causes back discomfort. Keep the range of motion smaller and at your comfort level.
Day 11 Oblique One Arm Sweep
Targets: Core, obliques, rectus abdominis, hip flexors
Get Started: Sit on the floor using an exercise mat, with legs extended in front of you, bent knees, and resting on heels. Tighten your core, maintain a neutral spine, lean back, and sweep the right arm behind you twisting at the core in one motion. Return to start position and repeat on the other side. Perform the exercise on one side or alternate sides for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Perform the exercise without twisting.
Day 12: Bicycle Crunch
Targets: Obliques (side abs) and rectus abdominis
Get Started: Starting on the floor, lie on your back on an exercise mat with your low back pressed into the floor, legs extended with slightly bent knees, and head and shoulders raised a few inches off the floor. Place hands lightly on sides of your head. Avoid pulling on head and neck. Tighten your core, bring one knee toward the chest and opposite elbow, twisting the body through the core in one motion. (You don’t have to touch the elbow.) Lower the leg and arm at the same time and repeat this motion on the other side. Perform exercise for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Change the knee angle using a more bent knee for less range of motion.
Day 13: Lunge
Targets: Hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads, inner thigh, core
Get Started: Stand with feet hip-width apart and engage the core. Step forward with the right leg, weight landing on the heel first, lower body until right thigh is parallel to the floor. Knee will be at a 90-degree angle but not traveling over the toe. Maintain tight core and press back through the heel to return to start position. Repeat on the other side.
Modification: Eliminate forward motion and perform a stationary lunge. You may also consider holding a counter or chair for assistance
Day 14: Plyo Jack
Targets: Hip abductors (outer thigh), hip adductors (inner thigh), glutes, shoulders, core, calves
Get Started: Stand with feet hip-distance apart and push butt back slightly. Bend at knees, preparing your body to explode off the ground extending legs to the sides with arms up overhead and returning to start position in one motion.
Modification: Perform without extending arms overhead.
Please sure you are properly warm up, for at lest 5 minutes before workout each day and 5 minutes cool down.
Bodyweight exercises are recommended to build a strong base for proper body movement during workouts. Routines dedicated to this type of training program address performance gaps, improve movement quality, and maintain/accelerate progress.
You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other exercise program to determine if it is right for you.
The moment you go on a run, the body produces lactic acid which makes the muscles fatigued and sore. Hence, it is important to stretch as stretching eliminates the lactic acid that has accumulated inside the body and relaxes the muscle
Post-run is a great time to stretch because your muscles will be warmed up. These stretches target areas that frequently get tight during and after running. Make them part of your post-run routine to help improve your flexibility, comfort, and performance. I am going break down for you, five essential stretches you should be doing, that can help to prevent DOMS and minor injuries are running
This hamstring stretch feels great, and it's easier on your back than the bending-over stretch. Here's what to do:
1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and your back straight. Make sure your lower back is on the floor and your hips are level.
2. Bend your left knee and keep your left leg extended on the floor.
3. Slowly straighten your right knee, grabbing the back of your leg with both hands.
4. Gently pull your right leg towards you while keeping your hips on the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on your left side.
If straightening your leg is too difficult, you can also do this stretch with a bent knee.
Your quadriceps (front thighs) are powerful muscles that work hard when you're running, so it's important that you stretch them. Here's what to do:
1. Stand straight (don't lean forward), lift the foot of your cramping leg up behind you, and grab your foot with your hand on that side.
2. Pull your heel gently toward your butt, feeling a stretch in your quad.
3. Keep your other leg straight and try to keep your knees as close together as possible.
4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat. Switch legs and repeat steps on the other leg.
Your calf muscles work hard when you're running, so they'll need a good stretch when you're done. Stretching your calves can also help prevent shin splints. Here's what to do:
1. To begin, stand facing up a flight of stairs or exercise step.
2. Position yourself so that the ball of your foot and your toes are on the edge of the step. You can hold a railing or wall for extra support.
3. Drop the heel of one foot toward the ground, while bending the knee of the opposite leg. You should feel the stretch in the calf of the leg dropping the heel.
5. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat with the opposite side.
This is a great stretch for your hip flexor muscles, which work hard lifting your legs up during running. Here's what to do:
1. Step into a lunge position.
2. Keep your toes pointed forward and your upper torso straight. Your back leg should be straight back behind you.
3. Press down with your hands and extend the hips forward until you feel a stretch from the front of your hip and the top of your thigh (of your back leg).
4. Hold 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.
The shoulder is the body's most complicated joint. It's where the ends of the collarbone, upper arm bone, and shoulder blade meet. And it's prone to arthritis (a wearing away of the cartilage between the bones), as well as tears or tendinitis (inflammation) in the rotator cuff — the group of tendons that helps you raise and rotate your arm. Shoulder pain can keep you from being able to raise your arms to get dressed or reach up to a cupboard or out to a door.
But an easy way to stave off shoulder problems is to regularly stretch the muscles that support the joints. "The muscles need to be long and flexible to stay healthy. You're more vulnerable to injury when your shoulder muscles are tight and restricted," explains Clare Safran-Norton, clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
How stretching helps
Muscles are a little like cotton fabrics. They may shrink up slightly, but if you pull on the fibers, you can stretch out the fabric again.
Stretching your muscles fixes the shortening that occurs with disuse and extends muscles to their full length. The more you stretch the muscles, the longer and more flexible they'll become. That will help increase your range of motion, ward off pain, reduce the risk for injury, and improve your posture.
Types of stretches
The best way to stretch muscles is with long, static (motionless) stretches that last 30 seconds to two minutes. But don't jump right to this step.
Warm up the muscles first to get blood and oxygen to them and make them more pliable. You can do this with exercise (take a brisk walk, pumping your arms, or go for a swim). Or you can try a few minutes of dynamic stretching — repeatedly moving a joint through its available range of motion, without holding a position. Just roll your shoulders backward and forward a few times or make windmill motions with your arms (but not too vigorously).
Safran-Norton says that stretches should be gentle and pain-free. "If there's pain, you may be injuring your muscles," she notes.
She also warns never to bounce your stretched muscles, which can cause injury and keep you from a productive stretch. "Bouncing sets off a protective mechanism called the stretch reflex. The muscle will recoil so you won't overstretch it. But as a result, you'll never get to a true stretch," she says. "A true stretch is sustained, with no bouncing."
Try the shoulder stretches we've laid out here. All you need is a doorway or wall.
Safran-Norton recommends stretching your shoulders three to seven times per week. "If you're stiff, stretch daily. If you're already flexible, it's fine to stretch every other day," she says. But avoid stretching for too long or too vigorously: back off quickly if you start to feel pain.
Other tips: make sure you stand up straight when you stretch, and make sure you're hydrated.
Movement: Stand up straight facing a wall. Extend your right arm with your elbow soft (not locked) and place your hand on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly walk your fingers upward, stepping in toward the wall as your hand climbs higher. Stop when you feel mild tension in your shoulder. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Slowly walk your fingers back down the wall and return to the starting position. Repeat three to four times. Switch arms and repeat.
Chest and shoulder stretch
Movement: Stand alongside a doorway or wall. Extend your right arm and put your right hand on the edge of the door frame slightly below shoulder level, palm facing forward and touching the door frame. Keep your shoulders down and back. Slowly turn your body to the left, away from the door frame, until you feel the stretch in your chest and shoulder. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat three to four times, then repeat on the opposite side.
Movement: Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your sides. Place the back of your right hand against the small of your back at your waist. Your fingers should be pointing up. Slowly slide your right hand farther up your back as high as you can. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat three to four times, then repeat with left hand.
This blog is updated by Tranquillity 360 fitness personal trainers, as well as other guest bloggers.