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Unleash A Lean Physique with Fasted Cardio

When it comes to shedding those last few pounds of stubborn body fat or getting stage-ready for a bodybuilding competition, fasted cardio can be a game-changer. This strategic approach to cardio training has gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts and competitors alike, as it can help target those hard-to-lose areas and give you that extra edge in achieving your leanest physique.

Understanding Fasted Cardio

Fasted cardio refers to performing cardiovascular exercise in a fasted state, typically after an overnight fast or several hours without food. During this state, your body's glycogen (stored carbohydrate) levels are depleted, forcing it to rely more heavily on fat as a fuel source. This metabolic shift can enhance fat burning, particularly in those stubborn areas like the lower abdomen, love handles, and lower back.

Fasted Cardio for Competition Prep

Deciding to incorporate fasted cardio or not depends on your individual preference, tolerance, and how your body responds. It should be balanced with proper nutrition and resistance training to preserve muscle mass.

For bodybuilders and physique athletes preparing for a competition, fasted cardio can be a powerful tool in the final weeks leading up to the show. 

As you approach peak week, your calorie and carbohydrate intake may be significantly reduced, making it challenging to fuel intense training sessions. 

Fasted cardio allows you to burn fat without compromising your muscle mass or energy levels for weight training.

Competition Prep Protocol

Here's a sample fasted cardio protocol for the weeks leading up to a competition:

4-6 Weeks Out

  • Perform 30-45 minutes of fasted low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS) 3-4 times per week, first thing in the morning before your first meal.

  • Focus on moderate-intensity cardio like walking, cycling, or using the elliptical machine.

  • Maintain a heart rate around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

2-3 Weeks Out

  • Increase fasted LISS cardio to 45-60 minutes, 4-5 times per week.

  • Consider adding 1-2 sessions of fasted high-intensity interval training (HIIT) per week, such as 10-15 minute HIIT sessions on the treadmill, bike, or rower.

  • HIIT sessions should be short and intense, with work intervals at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.

Peak Week

  • Incorporate 20-30 minutes of fasted HIIT or LISS cardio twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.

  • Adjust cardio duration and intensity based on how your body responds and your energy levels.

  • Prioritize muscle preservation by keeping weight training sessions intense but shorter in duration.

Fasted cardio should be combined with a well-structured diet and resistance training program to ensure optimal results and muscle preservation during competition prep.

Maximizing Fasted Cardio Benefits

To make the most of your fasted cardio sessions, consider the following tips:

  1. Hydrate properly: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your fasted cardio session to stay hydrated and support fat metabolism.

  2. Supplement wisely: Consider taking branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) or a small serving of a fast-digesting protein supplement before or during your fasted cardio to prevent muscle breakdown.

  3. Monitor intensity: While HIIT can be effective for fat loss, it may be too taxing during the final stages of competition prep. Stick to low-intensity steady-state cardio or moderate-intensity intervals to avoid overtraining.

  4. Listen to your body: If you feel excessively fatigued or experience dizziness or lightheadedness during fasted cardio, it may be a sign that you need to adjust your approach or increase your calorie intake.

  5. Incorporate active recovery: On non-cardio days, engage in light activities like walking or stretching to promote blood flow and recovery.

  6. Seek professional guidance: Working with an experienced coach or nutritionist can help you tailor your fasted cardio approach to your specific needs and goals during competition prep.

By strategically incorporating fasted cardio into your competition prep routine, you can maximize fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass, giving you the ultimate competitive edge on stage.

Drawbacks of Fasted Cardio

While fasted cardio can be an effective tool for competition prep, it's important to understand its potential downsides. Research hasn't conclusively shown that fasted cardio leads to greater fat loss compared to non-fasted cardio, as long as the total calories burned are equal.

Additionally, intense fasted cardio sessions may do more harm than good. Going all-out on an empty stomach can increase muscle breakdown and impair your performance and recovery ability. Without fuel from food, sustaining high-intensity efforts becomes exponentially more difficult.

So while fasted cardio can provide a metabolic boost for stubborn fat loss, you need to be cautious about overdoing it, especially in those final stages of competition prep when your body is already depleted. Moderation and listening to your body's cues are key to avoiding excessive muscle catabolism or burnout.

Maximizing Fasted Cardio Benefits

Unlock Your Potential with Revive Fitness

If you're looking to take your fat loss or competition prep to the next level, consider working with the expert team at Revive Fitness. Our certified personal trainers and coaches can design a customized fasted cardio program tailored to your specific goals, body type, and fitness level. 

From nutrition guidance to resistance training and cardio programming, we'll provide the support and accountability you need to unlock your leanest potential. Contact us today and let's get started on your transformation journey!


Article Author: Dwight Wilson

Dwight has over 20 years of experience and is an NSCA-certified trainer specializing in weight loss and enjoys bodybuilding style training. Owner of Revive Fitness, Dwight educates his clients in the areas of strength training, cardiovascular endurance, and proper nutrition.

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