Brace yourselves, #ShokzSquad! We’re here to break it to you as easily as possible: your old running coaches were wrong. Running or working out on an empty stomach used to be considered taboo. But now, it’s a popular way for many to cut calories, burn fat, boost metabolism, and improve endurance over time.
The exercise technique has become so mainstream that it’s even been vetted by celebrities and fitness experts including Hollywood couple Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez. If you’re considering switching up your cardio workouts by skipping breakfast, check out these quick tips to get prepared for your next gym or road running session.
“E” is for Empty. So what exactly is fasted cardio, anyway? Simply put, it’s the act of completing a workout without fueling up on food beforehand. Most often, people who prefer to work out on an empty stomach will crush their cardio first thing in the morning, after waking up from a good night’s sleep. For best results and the most benefits of fasted cardio, exercising in the morning is your best bet.
If hitting the snooze button several times in the A.M. is more your vibe, fasted workouts can be done any time of day so long as you’ve forgone eating food for several hours. You should be fasting for at least 10 to 12 hours to see the best results.
The Scientific Receipts. Even though fasted cardio goes against more traditional training methods of exercise, the concept has some pretty solid science to support its benefits. According to Tiffany Chag, a performance coach and registered dietician, working out first thing in the morning without eating can cause your body to go and find fuel from fat as opposed to the protein or carbs that may typically be the preferred sources.
Chag continues to explain that if you practice fasted cardio over time, the body becomes acclimated to using fat for energy, and will learn to prioritize burning fat, results in losing body fat quicker (you may even see some weight loss).
Safety First. By now, you may be thinking “Is fasted cardio even safe?” The short answer is: yes, but only if practiced correctly. As for the long answer, let’s get into it! Fasted cardio isn’t for everyone. Working out on an empty stomach is ideal for people with particular lifestyles, specifically those who prefer to sleep in or those who prefer to forego breakfast. However, if you choose to give fasted cardio a try, don’t plan a long or intense workout.
According to Meghann Featherstun, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, doing easy workouts and going on runs that are under 90 minutes is recommended to avoid fatigue and depleting your glycogen (a substance in your body tissues that stores carbohydrates) levels when fasting. When considering if fasted cardio is right for you, take note of your training and exercise goals and your daily routine to decide if it’s the right call. If you’re still unsure, consult a physician or dietician for credible medical advice.
Start Small. For some, trying fasted workouts can require a conditioning period of intermittent fasting to allow the body to become accustomed to running on empty. If you usually work out after eating a healthy snack or meal a few hours before hitting the trail or the gym, try eating your snack earlier in the day or cutting the portion size of your meal in half. As you continue your fasted workouts, decrease the amount of fuel you’re consuming until you eventually reach a fully fasted state.
Just like you can start small with cutting back on pre-workout foods, you can also start small with the amount of fasted workouts you complete. In fact, even two fasted workouts a week can make a drastic difference in the way your body burns fat and can improve your endurance, according to a report by Refinery29.