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Should You Do Fasted Cardio?

Today, head coach Mark Ottobre shares his thoughts on fasted cardio, and sheds some light on the common misconception that fasted cardio is the only way to get lean….

Rope Slams

If you’re considering fasted cardio, the first question that you need to ask yourself is;  for what purpose are you doing cardio? 

  • Are you training for a marathon?
  • Are you in your final stages of prep?
  • Do you think you have to? 
  • Is it something you enjoy? 

Many people do cardio because of the dogma that goes unquestioned: “If you want to be in shape, you need to do cardio”. Although this is not true, it’s also not false. It’s ONE way to cut the mustard (cutting mustard refers to getting it done), but not the only way. 

Ultimately, cardio (to take it or to leave it) should be part of a bigger plan. It should serve your main objective. 

Most people are far too emotional when it comes to their body composition goals, which causes them to do things erratically and stupidly. As emotion goes up, intelligence goes down. 

Instead of following a sound plan of proper training and nutrition, they believe it’s not happening fast enough so they lower their food intake (unwisely) and increase their training. Usually the increase in training looks like hours on the stepper. In the short term, they may get some results, but usually it’s unsustainable and they burn out, crash, then binge on the closest bucket of strawberry shortcakes. 

I am not anti-cardio. Fasted or not fasted, it has it’s place. And just because I am not anti-cardio it also doesn’t mean all my clients do cardio. As the great Stuart McGill would say; “It depends”. I’ve had plenty of competitors compete (and win) from not even looking at a treadmill. But I’ve also had those who have done there share on the treadmill. 

When you come into Enterprise Fitness, you might notice something… There is not one single piece of traditional ‘cardio equipment’. No treadmill, stair climber, bike or cross trainer. If cardio got the results people were after, I would have opened a studio with nothing but cardio machines.

Go to your favourite health and fitness centre, whip out your iPhone and take a photo. Save that photo with a date. Then, in approximately 365 days, come back to the same place and take a photo. Apart from the same machines still being out of order, you might notice that the people using those machines also look the same.

Cardio machines are great to entertain people at big chain commercial gyms. They are a hell of a lot safer than weights. It’s popular because it sells memberships at gyms and all gyms need to do is teach people the on button. 

If cardio was one of the most important things for body composition, the question of whether or not you should do it fasted or non-fasted might be important. But its not, hence it carries little relevance.

So the first thing you need to consider before even speaking about cardio is ‘for what purpose am I doing cardio?’

  • If you say, ‘to be a better runner’– that’s absolutely merited!
  • If you say, ‘the sport I play requires me to run or ride a bike’- again, absolutely merited!
  • If you say, ‘because it clears my head and I enjoy it!’- that’s also absolutely merited!

But if you say, to lose weight or get leaner, there is much to consider and needs to be formulated in part of the whole plan. Regular body fat should be tracked to ensure your plan is working and if not, then it might be time to add a couple of walks around the block.

The majority of people I work with are looking for better body composition or to compete.

If you are one of them,  here’s some golden nuggets in the context of body composition and competing;

  • If you want to see results from cardio; your diet and weight training needs to be on point. 
  • No amount of cardio will out-do a bad diet. 
  • Increasing cardio will increase your appetite, so be aware, if you’re restricting calories, you can only do this short term before crashing 
  • Cardio’s effectiveness for body composition will usually only yield results for no more than 8 weeks. 
  • Fasted or not, if cardio needs to be done, do it at a time that is conducive to your lifestyle. I would rather you get in a great session at a time convenient for you. In other words, I have not noticed a massive different in fasted vs not fasted; but a difference in actually doing it (with competitors). 
  • Do not rely on cardio to yield the majority of your results. If you do, you will look small and week. 
  • You should already have a well established baseline with your food and a high level of training before adding cardio to the mix if you’re utilising it to drop stubborn body fat.
  • Remember the body is adaptive, start with least, gradually work up. 


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