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Can You Benefit From Fasted Cardio? Here's What To Know

by Heather Marr, CPT - April 08, 2021

Throughout my teens and most of my 20s, I performed daily fasted cardio, usually running 10–15km at a moderate pace. This was extremely convenient for my lifestyle at the time. I was able to sleep in until the last minute and then head straight to the gym. I was training at a moderate pace, which is preferable to use fat for energy. My workouts were short enough that I wasn't hitting a wall without eating first.

There are studies that show when moderate cardio is performed fasted, the body uses its own fat to fuel the activity. That alone has turned some former fans of evening exercise into early risers. But what are the benefits of fasted cardio? Read on for what you need to know.

Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.

What Is Fasted Cardio?

Fasted cardio simply means performing your cardiovascular workout without eating beforehand. The window of time between your last meal and the start of your workout would depend on factors like the quantity and quality of your last meal and how quickly you digest that fuel. Many people wake up in the morning and head straight to the gym for fasted cardio but it’s also an option for those who enjoy intermittent fasting as well. As with anything, arguments can be made for and against performing cardio in an unfed state. 

Is Fasted Cardio Bad?

The issue with performing cardio on an empty stomach is that the body may breakdown the protein in muscle to fuel the activity. And it's not for everyone. Depending on what type of exercise you do, it might be necessary to fuel up before your workout. And, if you work out in the evening, it's typically not healthy to fast all day in preparation for your workouts.

If you're trying to add or conserve lean mass, this might not be the best choice depending on how you choose to approach programming. The other issue is that training intensity and duration will, of course, be affected. This makes certain types of activities better choices than others to be performed in a fasted state. A slow, steady jog is preferable to sprints and an incline walk is preferable to weight lifting.

fasted cardio benefits

The Benefits of Fasted Cardio

When looking at lowering body fat, creating a deficit through training and nutrition is necessary for our body to use its fat. The most important factor here for most people in many cases is looking at overall numbers throughout the day.

If you are am able to train harder and longer after eating rather than before eating, then overall expended energy, both during the activity and throughout the day, even after completing the exercise is going to be higher. Assuming that macros and fuel are spread out throughout the day without compensating for the additional activity, a person is more likely to lose more weight. 

What to Eat After Fasted Cardio

Is fasted cardio better than cardio in a fed state? The answer is not black and white. Certain lifestyle preferences and activities lend themselves better to those that do choose to train before eating. Moderate cardio such as swimming, walking, and jogging are better choices for an unfed state versus intense activity such as HIIT, weight training, or longer cardio workouts. For those who do choose to train before eating, it is important to have fuel you can eat after your workout. Great options include a protein shake (try your next shake with Vital Performance™ Protein) with fruit, whole wheat toast and egg whites, and overnight oats with protein.

But the most important thing is finding a way to fit activity into our lives consistently in a way that works for us whether that be in a fasted or fed state.

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