trying to burn fat - should I do my cardio on an empty stomach?


Q:  If I am trying to burn fat should I do my cardio on an empty stomach?

I know this strategy might seem appealing. However, the research used to support the idea has only been short term investigations. Like really short.

As in do the exercise test in the lab in the morning (with or without breakfast) measure respiratory quotients and the participants are out the lab door before lunch time. Probably off to Maccas or KFC.... Well, most study participants are college students!

A few studies have measured fat oxidation (burning) over a full day, 24 hours. None have really systematically examined whether this strategy actually leads to better body composition changes over weeks, months or years of exercise.

Here’s what we do know...

Exercise only burns around 10 calories a minute at the most! For most individuals, a rigorous, hour-long workout will only burn around 300-500 calories.

Compare that to your average meal, like hamburger and fries those college students are going to devour after their run in the lab, which easily exceeds 500 cals and then some.

And that’s just one meal.

While we’re in the lab, did you know that during sleep we utilize predominately fat stores for fuel. But alas, we don’t wakeup thin do we?

The fact is most people today are doing well if they can commit to 3 to 6 hours a week of physical exercise.

The truth is, the total amount of calories burnt during exercise is a small portion of the day’s energy expenditure – around 15-20%.

A better question would be how can we maximize the effects of every single moment spent exercising?

Now that’s a great question I’m so glad you asked!

In this regard, it appears that the consumption of protein (15-20g) 30 to 60 minutes before exercise provides the following benefits

• Promotes better fat burning oxidation during and after.
• Reduces or prevents muscle breakdown
• Improves immune response (which can be impaired after exercise)
• Reduces the incidence illnesses and infections during an exercise training program.

If you don’t fancy gnawing on a chicken leg or slab of chick peas before you head out to do your workout, thankfully a lot of these benefits have been achieved from the consumption of a protein supplement.

If you’re new to the supplement thing, I recommend you start with a small dose – just 10-15g mixed in water. Just experiment with amounts and types to find what sits well in your stomach

So the consumption of protein before you perform cardio may well promote better fat burning along with a host of other important benefits.

Recommended Reading: Nutrient Timing, Chapter 7. In Sports Nutrition & Performance Enhancing Supplements. Cribb Paul J. Eds: Smith-Ryan, AE, Antonio J, Linus Publishing.

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