Fasted Exercise – Good or Bad?

Fasted Exercise – Good or Bad?

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Lately, I’ve been working out very early in the morning. I usually do not eat before my workouts.

Why? Sometimes it makes me nauseous. Or I just ‘don’t have time.’ (<-- main culprit) Yesterday I worked out right after waking up. As I was bicep curling, I wondered whether or not lifting on an empty stomach was really a good idea. I never used to do fasted lifting, although I'd been absent-mindedly doing fasted cardio for a while now. I have not necessarily been doing this on purpose. I have seen, heard, and read blogs about people who swear by fasted cardio, but I haven’t really heard this for lifting.

fasted cardio

To take a step backwards…up to this point, my early morning routine has worked great for getting me started in a healthier lifestyle and drop some unwanted pounds. I have also built a lot of muscle. But, I’d like to build a little more. Maybe lean out a little, since I’ve maintained the same physique for about a year now.

I know I want to seek change in my body. That means I should probably be making some changes in my routine.

Time to figure out this whole ‘fasted exercise’ thing I somehow got myself into.

Of course, the first thing I did was Google ‘weight training on an empty stomach,’ and came across a slew of forums on Body Building and similar sites. Almost all supported the fasted cardio, but not fasted lifting. Many reasons against fasted lifting were nausea and less power/muscle pump in the workout.

The idea behind fasted cardio, as I understand it, is that your body doesn’t have food for energy and will be ‘forced’ to burn more fat during the workout. Though the downside would be that you also burn muscle. In the words of a biochemist, fasted cardio has a catabolic effect on muscle.

I’m a chemist and biology isn’t my first language so I had to look up ‘catabolic.’ The definition is ‘metabolic breakdown of complex molecules into simpler ones.’ I’m guessing body builders take this with a grain of salt.

During my Googling session, I found a really great article from a PhD in Nutritional Sciences discussing some research on fasted cardio. A study by Brad Schoenfeld (which I saw cited multiple times) showed that eating before exercise enhanced calorie burning at rest. He also describes the two different steps of fat loss. To summarize it briefly, fasted cardio does generate a greater amount of free fatty acid, but there is not an increase in the oxidation of the fatty acid. That mans that the fatty acid wasn’t burned and used for energy, and was restored as fat tissue after exercise.

So, what did I conclude from all this?

Well, first of all, I did read accounts from some people that do all workouts fasted and that worked for them.

I am looking for change, which could mean changing my routine. If I want to keep building muscle (or even just maintain) maybe I should start eating before my workouts. I should probably also just do more cardio in general since I know I’ve been slacking in that area. I have read everywhere that HIIT cardio is great for weight loss. HIIT workouts definitely need to be done after a meal.

My favorite HIIT workouts for the treadmill

I didn’t look up any fasted lifting articles after the forums. Less food = less energy = less intensity. Ah, makes sense.

Some changes to my routine are gonna have to be made. Get stricter with my ‘getting ready’ and breakfast schedule. Since bigger meals make me nauseous, maybe grab half a banana right when I wake up so I have something in me before a workout (I used to do this all the time, I don’t know why I stopped.)


I know everyone’s body, schedule, and preference is different, so I need to find what works for me. So tell me… what works for you?

Who has any additional advice?

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