up and at ’em
FASTED TRAINING AND CARDIO!
A lot of people have been asking me about the fasted leg sessions and fasted cardio I have been doing recently during my prep.
It’s hard to deal with this briefly because there are a lot of different theories, and of course opinions in the background that need to be considered. Moreover, fasted cardio sometimes fits with your lifestyle but sometimes it can be totally impractical.
The idea behind doing fasted cardio is to utilise stored energy for fuel which is why it’s popular for fat loss. For this reason a lot of body builders will incorporate fasted cardio when looking to get leaner for the stage.
In theory, if you are using X amount of calories in the morning before you actually consume any calories you must convert fuel from somewhere for those X amount of calories. The idea then is that it is likely to be from stored fat if you’re running in a calorie deficit. That said, if you’re eating at a calorie surplus or you had a huge cheat meal the night before the cardio session and your body hasn’t digested or utilised all your fuel yet you may have plenty to burn!
People are often concerned about “burning muscle” if, in a state or deficit, they incorporate fasted cardio. This is certainly a risk although it is actually difficult for the body to break down muscle tissue so this is not likely unless you’re taking things to extremes. That said, if you DO want to break down muscle, perhaps fasted sessions will work to your advantage (keep reading!).
CHANGING MY SHAPE
My feedback post Olympia was to bring my legs down and also that I needed to be tighter. At the Olympia I didn’t manage to get my physique as dry as I usually would. This may have been down to stress or travel or just my body being stubborn after a long season on prep since January. Retaining more water made my legs look a lot “heavier” in addition to the fact that naturally I am a little bottom heavy with muscly quads.
Water retention aside, I do have naturally muscular legs from years of ballet so to bring them down needed to lose muscle.
Now people say, “why don’t you just not do any heavy leg training and train light instead”. Now, if I had been training legs heavy in the past I may be able to make a shift by switching from heavy training to volume training BUT because I naturally have muscular quads from ballet I actually had never targeted them with my training!
So, basically, I already didn’t train quads and I had that amount of muscle meaning that this isn’t a situation of decreasing the load with my leg training to slow down building any muscle. This is a situation of actually needing to create an atrophy response.
So what I have been doing is the opposite of what I would be doing if I wanted to build muscle. Instead of training legs and letting them have sufficient time to repair and recover before training them again, I have been over training them by training them too often at a high volume so that they never have time to repair and so will actually decrease muscle mass. By doing this in a fasted state there is more likelihood of breaking down muscle as there isn’t sufficient nutrients to really flood the muscle to grow.
It seems bizarre that I have been doing everything sort of the “opposite” of what I would usually do or encourage clients to do but it is a particular set of circumstances for ME and MY BODY that have made this work.
I have had plenty of preps where I haven’t done any of my cardio fasted. When I was working as a Personal Trainer I would start clients at 5.30am each day. This meant I was up at 4.30am in time to shower and eat etc etc to get to work. I would work from 5.30am through till 9 or 10am. I COULD have stayed fasted all this time (from, say 5am) through till after work if I really wanted to do fasted cardio but quite frankly I would be almost dead! Not to mention I would feel terrible and wouldn’t be able to give my clients my best attention! So, in this situation I did my cardio later in the day after eating at least once.
Now, some people swear by fasted cardio, but I am personally of the opinion that it is not that much more efficient than non-fasted cardio to warrant starving for hours in the morning just to be able to do your cardio “fasted”. At the end of the day (very generally speaking and not taking into account a multitude of hormone responses) your fat loss equation is calories in versus calories out. So, if you eat X amount of calories per day and burn Y amount of calories per day doing cardio it should not matter whether you burn those calories before consuming any – the equation is going to balance out the same on the whole.
The biggest thing I find with fasted cardio (and for me at the moment doing fasted leg sessions too) is that it actually really wakes me up in the mornings. Not only do I feel a lot more awake and alive all day if I have done fasted cardio but I actually feel less hungry throughout the day if I have done cardio fasted in the morning. This is nothing new, exercise is one of the best appetite suppressants and mood boosters around.
I feel physically more alert after doing fasted cardio, I feel less hungry and I also find that getting up and busting out a session first thing sets up my mindset for the whole day! I feel positive, focused and driven if I jump right on my goals as soon as I get out of bed!
If you’re doing fasted cardio the best way to ensure that you’re not breaking down muscle is to keep your system flooded with amino acids. These are the essential building blocks of all proteins in our body (hair, skin, nails, muscle) and my sponsors Optimum Nutrition have a stack of delicious BCAA supplements that I use year round to keep my muscle intact!
Some of my favourites are:
• ON Pro BCAA in Peach Mango flavor
• ON Amino Energy in Pineapple or Green Apple or Watermelon flavor
• ON Gold Standard BCAA in Watermelon or Cranberry Lemonade flavor
You will find me sipping on one of these supplements during fasted sessions as well as throughout my strength sessions and actually, during the day too!
LONG STORY SHORT
Fasted cardio IS effective for fat loss but it is not the ONLY type of cardio that is effective.
Fasted cardio may not be practical to work around your work, study, family, and life commitments. If its not, find a time that does work so that you can get into a functional routine for YOU.
Some people find it harder to build muscle and these body types are, in my opinion, the most likely to lose muscle (or inhibit muscle growth) by doing fasted cardio or over-training. If you struggle to build muscle you may find you achieve better results by (1) training less frequently and (2) not doing any fasted cardio or training.
Certainly if losing muscle isn’t a real threat for you or you’re trying to lose muscle, over-training in a fasted state may be effective. It has certainly been effective for me in bringing my legs down after only a couple of months!
I can’t wait to see the difference I can make in my physique by the time I compete next year through consistently annihilating my legs! Watch this space!
GOT QUESTIONS OR FEEDBACK?
I would love to hear your feedback or opinions on this, so, don’t be shy! If you have feedback or want to ask more specific questions on this or any other topic, send me an email to:
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