Morning Cardio for Fat Loss

Want to lose Fat – workout in the morning before you eat breakfast!
MYTH. Busted.  
You see it every morning at most gyms. Zombie like grey faces, sad eyes, baggy sweatpants, and a headphones trying to drown out the world.
It is the morning fasted cardio crew.
Why are they there? Because they just woke up and haven’t eaten since dinner the night before. They are fasted and ready to blast fat with an AM empty stomach workout. Because we all know that working out on an empty stomach is the best way to burn body fat!
Is it?
No. This is another of those long held beliefs that gets passed down from one gym rat to another, from one shitty trainer to clients.
Like so much else in this industry it is poorly interpreted science.
Now, you are going to have a bunch of people tell you that this isn’t true and I am wrong and point out a list of bodybuilders and fitness competitors who do it all the time – and look at THEIR bodies? Isn’t that what you want?!!!!
Maybe you do. And that’s great. But AM fasted cardio isn’t what’s giving them those bodies. They might use this cardio regime as an ADDITION to their already intensive workout schedule and very restrictive diet. So if you want to follow their entire program – go for it!
But if we step back to reality and the fact that 99% of people are lucky to get in 2 or 4 workouts a week there are a lot more variables we have to take into account when it comes to maximizing fat loss and getting a fit looking physique.
You are going to have to stay with me here – we need to get a little science-y to really understand all of this.
At 60% of your max effort your body will resort to burning fat for fuel instead of stored muscle and liver glycogen. Check.
In order to dip into this jiggle reserve and burn it up you have to first exhaust your glycogen storage. So if you have been eating all day and your muscles and liver are all stocked up with this stored fuel, you are going to first have to burn through that before you can get that fat mobilizing.
The theory then is that when you wake up from sleep you are fasted and your stored glycogen reserves will be minimized as they have been fuelling your body all night. So when you get up and hit your 60% intensity cardio you can move to that magical happy fat burning zone faster and thus burn more fat during that workout.
This makes sense! If its 1975 and you are working out at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach.
There is so much more going on when it comes to burning fat in your body.
Whether you burn off body fat is going to be much more dependent on your hormones (this of course is assuming that you are in a calorie deficit). You need to manage your insulin, leptin, growth hormone, testosterone, and estrogen (no, not an inclusive list) in order to get a beach strutting body. How the hell do you do that?
Don’t worry about it. Honestly, it is super complex and in reality even the best science minds in the world don’t fully understand all of it. You don’t need to know. If you want to, go for it.
Instead what you want to do is get the best bang for your buck. And to create the best overall fat burning, bikini body getting workout you need to be working at high intensity. Not like, ‘oh, I think I might be sweating,” intensity, more like, “holy shit I would talk about how disgusting sweating this much is but I can’t speak because my lungs are going to explode,” kind of intensity.
When we talk about just burning fat we are talking about the earlier mentioned 60% low intensity exercise. This is low intensity. This is talking to your friend on the elliptical while watching TLC intensity. Note most of the people in this category will NOT be walking happily in a bathing suit this summer on the beach.
At this intensity your body can switch over to just burning fat.
When we want the high intensity work, which we just discusses is what is going to create the best long term fat burning machine, your body cannot use fat energy to fuel this exercise. It wants that energy storage, glycogen for this.
This means if you are low in the tank you won’t have the fuel to hit high intensity exercise. Two options reaming – you either can’t do any high intensity exercise or your body has to make some more glycogen to fuel it.
How does your body make more? It rips apart some muscle tissue and turns it into fuel. Once this process happens (we science-y folk call this a catabolic environment) you are defeating the whole purpose of everything. You are now burning off muscle, slowing your metabolism, and teaching your body to create even more of a safety net – which to your body is more fat storage!
So when you hit the AM exercise session and you don’t eat some easily digestible carbohydrate a half hour prior you will not be doing anything high intensity. In fact you are more likely doing exactly the opposite of what you want to do.
Be a morning zombie if you want to continue hating working out (oh, did your trainer bother to tell you how tough it is for all those bodybuilders and physique competitors to struggle through those workouts?) in the morning and trashing your body by not fueling it when it needs it most – just keep on doing what you are doing.
If you want a lean fit body and want to actually do something a little less monotonous in the morning (dare I say maybe even start to enjoy it more??), get up, eat some good, nutritious carbs and protein, and HIT the gym. Yes, HIT is gym slang for high intensity training – fun word games are not as much fun when you have to explain them.
-Strength Coach Taylor

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