Should You Do Fasted Cardio? 6 Pros and Cons
There's often a lot of debate surrounding the topic of fasted cardio – some people swear by it as a great way to burn fat, while others claim it's more harmful than helpful.
So, what's the verdict? Is fasted cardio a valuable tool for weight loss, or should you avoid it altogether?
Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of fasted cardio to help you decide if it's right for you.
What is Fasted Cardio?
Fasted cardio refers to doing cardiovascular exercise in a fasted state – that is, after an overnight fast or extended period without food (usually 8-12 hours).
Benefits of Fasted Cardio
1. Increased Fat Burning
One of the main reasons people do fasted cardio is to increase fat burning. When you exercise in a fasted state, your body is forced to burn stored fat for energy, rather than the food you've recently eaten.
2. Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Another potential benefit of fasted cardio is improved insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body store and use sugar for energy. When you have insulin resistance, your body can't effectively use insulin, which can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, and some research suggests that doing cardio in a fasted state may further increase this effect.
3. Enhanced Mental Clarity and Focus
Another benefit of fasted cardio is that it may help improve mental clarity and focus. When you're in a fasted state, your body is more likely to use stored fat for energy, which can help to clear out any sugar cravings and brain fog.
4. Decreased Inflammation
Fasted cardio may also help to decrease inflammation. Inflammation is a normal response by your immune system to protect against infection and injury. However, chronic inflammation has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
Some research suggests that fasted exercise can help to decrease inflammation, although more research is needed.
5. Increased Endurance
Fasted cardio may also help to increase your endurance. When you exercise in a fasted state, your body has to adapt by burning more fat for fuel. This adaptation can lead to increased endurance over time.
6. Better Time Management
Another potential benefit of fasted cardio is that it can help you to better manage your time. If you're trying to fit in a workout before work or school, doing cardio in a fasted state may be a more efficient option since you won't have to make time for a meal beforehand.
Risks of Fasted Cardio
1. Low Blood Sugar Levels
One of the main risks of fasted cardio is low blood sugar levels. When you exercise in a fasted state, your body has to burn stored sugar for energy, which can lead to low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
Hypoglycemia can cause symptoms like fatigue, shakiness, and dizziness. In severe cases, it can lead to unconsciousness.
Another potential risk of fasted cardio is dehydration. Since you're not consuming any fluids while you're fasting, it's important to make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
3. Muscle Breakdown
Another risk of fasted cardio is muscle breakdown. When you exercise in a fasted state, your body may start to break down muscle for energy. This can lead to muscle loss and decreased performance.
4. Gastrointestinal Distress
Another potential risk of fasted cardio is gastrointestinal distress. Since you're not consuming any food, your stomach may start to produce more acid, which can lead to heartburn, indigestion, and nausea.
5. Low Blood Pressure
Another potential risk of fasted cardio is low blood pressure (hypotension). When you exercise in a fasted state, your body may have trouble regulating blood pressure, which can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting.
6. Impaired Performance
Finally, another potential risk of fasted cardio is impaired performance. Since you're not consuming any food, your body may not have enough energy to sustain a high level of intensity. This can lead to fatigue and decreased performance.
How to Do Fasted Cardio Safely
If you're considering doing fasted cardio, there are a few things you can do to help ensure it's safe for you.
Check with Your Doctor First
If you have any chronic health conditions or take medications that could be affected by fasting, check with your doctor before starting.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout to stay hydrated.
Eat a Post-Workout Meal
Be sure to eat a nutritious meal after your workout to help replenish your energy stores and rebuild muscle.
If you're new to fasted cardio, start slow and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Listen to Your Body
Finally, be sure to listen to your body and stop if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous. If you experience any severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Fasted cardio is a type of exercise that's performed in a fasted state. While there are some potential benefits, there are also some risks to consider. If you're considering doing fasted cardio, check with your doctor first and be sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat a nutritious post-workout meal. Start slow and listen to your body to help ensure it's safe for you.