Fasted exercise being better for weight loss is a misguided belief. You will find this misguided notion on the plethora of different social media forums for losing weight.
Fasted exercise is not better for weight loss than exercising after you have broken your fast!
In fact, fasted exercise is counterproductive to your efforts at losing weight. Successful weight loss comes from eating fewer calories than you are burning. You need to understand that it does not matter when you eat those calories. Losing weight always has been, and always will be a matter of calories consumed vs calories burned. Fasted exercise is a hack. The problem with hacks are they may show temporary results, but that does not mean the results are going to be effective or long lasting.
Why do people believe fasted exercise is best for weight loss?
The belief is that when you exercise first thing in the morning before eating, you will begin burning fat sooner than otherwise. You will work a little quicker through your glycogen stores before burning fat than you would otherwise. People believe this will cause them to be more effective at working off their body fat. The problem is, fasted exercise will only make you weak earlier in your exercise session than you would be if you had eaten first. It is undeniable that you will be more effective at burning fat if you are well nourished. Being well nourished will allow you to perform at a higher intensity for a longer amount of time than if you are fasted. I will guarantee you have never seen an athlete competing on an empty stomach for this very reason.
Fasted exercise worked well for me!
You also realized gains in performance too, right?
There is a reason that despite performing fasted exercise you saw gains in your performance. The increase in your performance are what is referred to as “Newbie” gains. Everyone who is new to exercise of any type will see an increase in their ability to get through their session with greater ease. This does not mean that those gains are as good as they could be otherwise. It also does not mean those newfound gains are going to be as sustainable over the course of time either. The result of fasted exercise for the beginner is you will plateau sooner than you would have. Your weight loss from exercise will always be more effective when you can increase your duration and intensity. Fasted exercise will not allow you to do this as long as fed exercise.
It is true that fasted training increases fat oxidation, but this doesn’t translate to increased (body) fat loss.
This is where a lot of the confusion stems from, so let’s understand what fat oxidation actually is.
Fat oxidation is just a fancy word for ‘fat burning’ and consists of two steps:
- Lipolysis: This is when stored fat is broken down into fatty acids.
- Oxidation: Is when your body uses these fatty acids for energy.
Your body is constantly storing and oxidizing (burning) fat throughout the day. When you wake up in the morning, skip breakfast, and go to work, your body is oxidizing stored fat for energy. Once you eat lunch, your body stops oxidizing stored fat and now uses calories from your lunch as energy. You will be back in a fasted state once your lunch has been digested, therefore your body will begin oxidizing fat stores once again until you eat supper and the cycle repeats until breakfast.
Our body’s ability to do this is why we don’t end up incapacitated half-way through the day if we haven’t eaten for a while. Because of this fact, people assume if they train fasted they’ll burn more fat by forcing the body to use its own stored energy. The problem with this idea is that short-term fat oxidation (burning) doesn’t mean much for fat loss. It is the long term balance over days and weeks that will dictate whether you’re losing or gaining body fat.
If the amount of fat you burn stays the same as the amount of fat you store, body fat remains the same. You have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight even if you do fasted exercise!
Morning exercise can be a consistent and positive way to start the day.
It does have many benefits such as eliminating excuses for skipping your workout later in the day and improving your mood and energy by getting endorphins circulating throughout your body. But it’s not necessarily the best time of day to exercise. Morning exercise is not superior to evening exercise when it comes to weight loss. Losing weight always comes down to burning more calories than you consume.
While there is some evidence that fasted exercise may contribute to burning stubborn fat. The truth is, 98% of you don’t have a stubborn fat problem. You just have a fat problem. Instead of worrying about fancy protocols and weight loss hacks, get your diet and exercise in check and focus on reducing total body fat.