Cardio On An Empty Stomach to Burn More Fat? The SHOCKING Truth…

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I’ve received a ton of questions lately about whether or not you should do cardio on an empty stomach to burn more fat and I’ve decided to put the mystery surrounding this theory to rest.  People have been doing cardio on an empty stomach since the good ole’ bodybuilding days and it’s still going strong today.

In fact, when I was first discovering all the fat burning strategies and methods doing cardio on an empty stomach was one of them.  So I always try something before I recommend it either way to my clients and I’m going to share with you my shocking results right here, right now.

So to be fair to both sides I’m going to weigh both the pros and cons of doing cardio on an empty stomach. WARNING: Science Content Ahead!

Your bodies preferred fuel during exercise is glycogen and this is the stored form of carbohydrates in your body.  Those who are FOR doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach argue that your glycogen levels are pretty depleted after a long night’s fasting, so therefore your body will burn a higher fat percentage as fuel because it’s main source of energy is gone.

Ask any dietician or nutritionist who knows anything about what they’re talking about and they’ll tell you that your body can store glycogen for 12-16 hours before it needs to refueled by another meal.  And if these glycogen fuels aren’t restored then they’ll turn to your hard-earned lean muscle to break down your quick energy stores such as glucose.

This is how it works.  Even with small trace amount of glycogen levels in your body, you body still will NOT burn fat as its main fuel source.  So therefore you’re actually burning off your sexy muscle to use as fuel which in the end will only have your body storing more fat and looking flabbier than a beached whale.

And most of the human race will eat a meal a couple hours or so before going to sleep and people on average should only be sleeping around 8 hours every night.  Do the math and this will obviously leave some amount of glycogen in your body when you train 10-12 hours or whatever after eating your meal last night.

All the old school fat burning “experts” will argue that when you train your body will have just enough glycogen to burn some fat but also low enough levels that to compensate for it your body will burn more fat that normal.

Then they also suggest dong slow-steady cardio for 60-90 minutes so your body burns more fat as a percentage.  While this statement is TRUE, it’s also a trick.  Your body does burn more fat as a percentage from doing slow-steady state cardio but it doesn’t burn anywhere NEAR as much as doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

And when you do cardio in a fasted state you’re in no shape to have a real deal HIIT workout session because those bad boys are intense!

So when it’s all said and done you can tell yourself that I told you that I DON’T RECOMMEND doing cardio on an empty stomach.  You willundoubtedly get some results from doing it for a long time but there are so many studies out there who have totally debunked slow steady state cardio as the best method of fat loss.

If you’re desperate for something to eat in the morning try a meal replacement or a protein shake, check out my Prograde review too.

Instead do the High Intensity Interval Training and make sure that you’ve had a smaller meal 1-2 hours before your workout.  Make sure that you’re well hydrated and this will be enough to ensure that you have the best fat burning cardio workout possible.  Also be sure to take in a meal with protein and carbohydrates after you finish your intense workout to start the recovery process.

If you have NO IDEA how to do a HIIT workout then be sure to check out my high intensity interval training treadmill video.  If you’re like me then I would also recommend going out in the great outdoors and doing your HIIT workouts.  All you need to do is go for run with sprints, or you could do do some sprints going uphill, or you could even get your bike and go fast!

I’d also recommend getting this handy little tool called the Gymboss Interval Timer, it’s super easy to use and I use it for all of my HIIT workouts.

Good luck and go get ’em!

Josh

About The Author → Josh Schlottman, CSCS, is an ACE certified Personal Trainer and he graduated from Sacramento State University with a degree in Nutrition. Josh takes pride in his commitment to his clients’ results by bringing out their maximum potential through positive motivation. You can reach him at www.TrainerJosh.com
  • Reply Alligator November 2, 2010, 4:13 pm

    Agreed. That said, I have found that depending on what I eat–say a smoothie 2hrs before my workout is best. Now say I slept in and have no time to digest (like 15-30min) ill grab a banana and/or some nice juice. Art should read this telling me to workout on an empty stomach. “Skinny jeans”

  • Reply JD November 22, 2010, 12:14 am

    Hey Josh,

    Since this is on the topic of cardio, I have become an avid runner averaging 4-5 miles 5 days a week. I do some of your leg workouts you have posted on youtube (skinny legs workout). I am a guy and have some pretty thick legs. Will running and spin class twice a week help trim them down?

    Also, in addition to thick legs, I am a pretty small guy but I have thick ankles, bordering on cankles. Will running help that at all or should I give up hope?

    Thanks, your great man. Your advice is the best!

    • Reply Josh Schlottman November 29, 2010, 2:25 pm

      @JD Sounds like you’re on the right path JD, I would definitely keep your weights low when you’re doing those workouts too. Be sure you’re eating the right diet too, if you’re looking to spot reduce then the only way to do that is going to be to lose weight overall. Doing the cardio workouts will help but you’ll get much faster and better results with nutrition in addition to the workouts.

  • Reply Mirza Jivá December 8, 2010, 4:18 pm

    Hello Josh again. I like your articles very much. I prefer to do HIIT in a elliptical machine. Do you consider that HIIT: 1 minute as fast as you can in level 6 (the machine has 10 levels, level 6 doing sprint for a minute is difficult lol), 1 min slowly level 2, and do this 6 or 7 times is good?

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