The most common question I get asked about cardio exercise has nothing to do with what type is best (steady state, interval training, etc.) Really the best approach is what TIME and what Intensity is best to do it for maximum weight loss benefits.
Firstly, that there actually is a certain time of the day to do cardio workouts that is somehow more effective in terms of burning fat and causing weight loss. Secondly, that there are then other times of the day that are less effective in terms of getting these same weight loss benefits from cardio exercise, and should therefore be avoided. Because of these two implications, the following reasons below will explain what is the best method depending on what outcome you want from your cardio sessions?
Technically: Fasted Morning Cardio is best (For high level exerciser’s)
This is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (before eating/drinking anything). It’s what’s commonly referred to as fasted cardio. Various research tends to show that the fat burning benefits of cardio exercise are slightly enhanced when the workouts are done fasted as opposed to doing them any other time of the day after eating.
But before you consider these following aspects. The fat burning benefits of doing cardio exercise in a fasted state don’t appear to be anywhere near as significant as most people think they are. Basically the more fat you have to lose, the less these benefits exist in the first place. This means the advantages might not truly be big enough to warrant doing cardio workouts in a fasted state. At the same time, while this might be the best time to do it in terms of weight loss, it may be the worst way to do it in terms of performance due to not everyone being able to exercise with no food or hydration on board especially if you’re new to exercise!
The Better option: Whenever Is Most Convenient (New or regular exerciser’s)
For most people who exercise whenever it’s most convenient and sustainable for you is the better answer to this question. Whenever is best for you and fits best in your schedule is going to be the time you’ll be most likely to consistently DO that cardio, that’s when you should do it. The main thing is just doing it in the first place is always what matters the most. If you’re trying to force yourself to exercise at times that are inconvenient or just generally annoying for you, then guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to hate it and eventually stop doing it.
So knowing that the benefits of fasted morning cardio aren’t all that significant in the first place for most people, and adding in that it might not be ideal for your schedule and preferences, you may realize that it might not be worth trying to make work.
So to sum it all up?
Here’s what it comes down to. Fasted cardio may have some small fat burning benefits (mostly among people trying to go from lean to REALLY lean), but the key to getting any form of weight loss benefits from any form of cardio exercise is just actually doing those workouts in the first place.
So, whatever time of the day works best for you, your schedule, your life, and your preferences… that’s when you should do it. Whether that’s first thing in the morning in a fasted state or any other time of the day after eating however many meals, that’s for you to decide.
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