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.
Functional fitness workouts are the key to long-term fitness, weight loss, and wellness. These carefully designed sessions won't leave you sweaty and breathless, but they can help you to burn more calories and stay active throughout the day. So how do you take advantage of functional training? First, it's important to understand why the training program works.
What Is a Functional Fitness Workout?
Functional workouts help to improve your balance, posture, muscular endurance and flexibility. During a functional fitness workout, you might use bodyweight, dumbbells or other resistance equipment to strengthen your muscles. But this type of training is different than a traditional weightlifting program.
During each functional training exercise, you must focus very closely on the movement to stay balanced and maintain good posture. For many exercisers, functional training is a workout for the muscles and the mind. Functional training improves the way that your brain talks to your muscles so that your body works better.
There are different ways to incorporate functional training into your regular workout routine. You can add a few posture and balance exercises into your weekly strength routine, or you can work with a qualified trainer to build a more comprehensive program to improve the way your body looks and feels.
Why Functional Training Is Beneficial
Functional training helps your body to move more comfortable. And, of course, bodies that move comfortably are more likely to burn more calories without exercise. But functional training can also make your other workouts more effective. And this benefit is key for people who are trying to lose weight.
“Before you start any exercise program, it's important to identify areas of weakness or limitations in range of motion which could affect your performance, says Jason Corrie. Jason is a certified personal trainer who specializes in helping clients around the world get leaner, stronger bodies. He explains why every weight loss client should start their exercise program with a functional assessment.
“Functional training can have a massive impact when you're trying to lose weight." He explains that when your body is working properly it becomes more efficient at burning calories. When your body burns more calories during exercise and burns more calories through activities of daily living, you lose weight faster.
Tips for Starting a Functional Fitness Workout Program
The best way to start a functional fitness workout program is to find a qualified professional. Personal trainers who practice functional training start by doing a complete evaluation of your movement patterns. They may identify past injuries and physical habits that have changed the way your body functions. Then they work together with you to retrain and rebuild basic movements so that the body moves more comfortably and efficiently throughout the day.
Not all trainers are qualified to do this form of assessment and program design. Jason recommends that you research a trainer’s background, ask questions and ask for referrals. “A good trainer will always be happy to provide testimonials and success stories from previous clients. Look for any testimonials which describe clients with past injuries or posture problems and ask to contact those clients directly.”
You can also find a trainer by searching online. The American Council on Exercise provides a searchable database to help find a trainer in your area. And the American College of Sports Medicine has an online service to find qualified trainers as well.
You can also join a gym that provides functional fitness equipment and classes. Planet Fitness, for example, provides PF360 and the Life Fitness S3 (TRX) equipment to help members take advantage of the newest functional training technology.
Functional Training Exercises to Try
If you simply want to incorporate a few functional training exercises into your routine, you can start with a few simple routines that can help to improve balance and coordination. When you do any functional fitness routine, it is essential that you focus on doing the movements correctly, rather than doing them with more weight or doing more repetitions.
Functional fitness workouts need to be done on a regular basis to provide results. But you'll notice a real change in the way your body looks and feels if you do them consistently. Try to do your functional routine 2-3 times per week. As you become stronger and more coordinated, add new exercises that challenge the lower body and exercises that build strength and coordination through your trunk and core.
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.
Calorie counters on treadmills, ellipticals, and other cardio machines are convenient. At the end of your work, the number of calories you burned can be surprising. It can certainly make you feel better and keep you motivated to run or exercise more.
It's important to know that these calculated calories are just rough estimates. While some types of cardio machines are more accurate than others, none of them will be 100 percent accurate. In general, they overestimate your calorie burn by 15 to 20 percent because there are too many factors involved. Learn what these factors are and how you can improve your estimated burned calories.
Calorie Burn Factors
Many of the high-tech cardio machines found in gyms today ask you to enter your personal details before you begin. This often includes your weight and some also factor your gender and age into the equation. The problem, however, is that there are other important factors to consider.
Cardio machines such as treadmills use standard formulas to figure out the number of calories burned. It is like a calorie-burn formula that you can do on your own. In either of these, factors like your fitness level and your body composition and size are not accounted for.1
Experience and Efficiency
More than with other machines, when you run on a treadmill, your form and efficiency play a larger role in calorie burn. The machine cannot account for these factors.
This is because beginner runners tend to be inefficient, running with a side-to-side movement and lots of bouncing up and down. These extra motions expend more energy than the experienced runner's efficient stride. This will change over time as a beginner runner perfects her/his stride, but it's an important consideration.
Also, if you are using the handrail on a treadmill or stair stepper, you may be diminishing your calorie burn because you're making the workout easier. You won't be swinging your arms naturally with your stride.
Due to the way athletes use them, there are also variables in the accuracy of different types of machines. For example, a stationary bike limits movement so everyone uses it in generally the same way. The calorie counters on these are much more accurate than treadmills and stair steppers, which offer more freedom of movement.
Cardio Machine Formulas
The formulas that cardio machines use to calculate can vary from one manufacturer to another. Generally, most machines will base their formula on The Compendium of Physical Activities. Initially developed in 1987 and receiving regular updates, it assigns a value to a variety of activities, from exercise to inactivity, and sex to home repairs. The values are based on the Metabolic Equivalent, known as MET.
he amount of energy (calories) you burn for other activities is compared with this baseline.
Once again, there are many factors involved and the Compendium gives many options. For instance, the running category is filled with variables. It states that jogging burns 7.0 MET (7.0 kcal/kg/hour), running 6 miles per hour (a 10-minute mile) burns 9.8 MET, and running 10 miles per hour (a 6-minute mile) burns 14.5 MET. This does not account for any factors relating to you personally.
Wearable Fitness Trackers
If you can't rely on the cardio machine's calorie counter, can you turn to your personal fitness tracker? These popular wearable devices can monitor all sorts of your things related to your health and activity level, so they're a great option for tracking your workouts.
A study at Stanford University took a look at seven different devices to check their accuracy. The results showed that the most accurate of them was off by an average of 27 percent and the least accurate by 93 percent.2 The heart rate monitor was the most reliable function, but the researchers concluded that the calorie counter should not be counted on.
Whether it's a cardio machine or your fitness tracker, it's best to take the calories burned readings with a grain of salt. It's fine to use the numbers as a benchmark for your workouts, but don't plan on consuming additional calories based on that number. Sometimes, this leads to gaining weight despite your best exercise efforts.
You can also gauge your workout by your perceived exertion or track your target heart rate. This can also help you when moving from one machine to another. If you get the same reading on two machines for the same duration but one seems easier, you're probably burning fewer calories on the easier machine.
Having a general idea of how many calories you're burning during exercise is a good way to manage your health and weight. Just keep in mind that any of the calorie counters are probably overestimating what you're burning. These are just numbers, though, and how you feel after the workout is more important
This blog is updated by Tranquillity 360 fitness personal trainers, as well as other guest bloggers.