Two words: Fasted Cardio. This method of training is very popular amongst bodybuilders and although I was hoping to avoid this throughout my contest prep, unfortunately that’s no more. It can rough and incredibly challenging (as it has been for me since I’ve started) or it can be just a regular part of your routine (as it is for many who follow this approach).
The idea behind fasted cardio is that you wake up in the morning, maybe take a pre workout, but do not consume any food whatsoever including protein shakes, and then you start your day off with a cardio session. This approach is mainly geared towards fat loss as some believe that when you workout on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, you have the potential to burn more overall body fat. When you’re asleep your body is fasting and tends to hold on to its carbohydrate stores and can be geared towards using fat stores as fuel instead for its caloric use. Some people swear by this method, while others are hesitant (as I was). Research is fairly mixed on this topic as some results do in fact show that there is fat loss with fasted cardio, but other studies will show no real difference between a pre cardio meal or none. One big concern though, is muscle loss. Whenever you are trying to lose weight (and ultimately fat) there is the risk of losing muscle as well. With fasted cardio what happens is that the body can also turn to its amino acid stores (the building blocks of protein) and may cause you to start breaking down muscle tissue as well as fat. No good!
How to avoid this and optimize fat loss? Before hitting the pavement, have a scoop of BCAAs, which is known for stopping the breakdown of muscle, and have a quick digesting protein as soon as you’re done with cardio and combine it with something slow digesting as well. I opt for a shake of a fat free plant based protein blend with another scoop of BCAAs, along with a non starch vegetable sautéed with coconut oil. I know it sounds totally unappealing, but it’s very effective for me as I am nearing show day.
Right now I am 5 weeks away from my first competition and so my nutrition and workout plans have massively changed, hence the fasted cardio. I went from 4 days of 20 minutes cardio intervals along with 5 weight training days per week, to 5 days 30 minutes fasted cardio and 4 days of weight training instead. The goal now is the preserve muscle and drop the last bit of fat before I step on stage. I stopped doing fasted workouts years ago, when I realized that my sleep was being compromised, but of course back then I didn’t have all the knowledge about health and fitness as I do now. Thankfully I’m not up at the crack of dawn for my cardio, so I am able to get restful sleep, but it doesn’t make it that much easier. The first 2 days on my new plan were rough; I could feel the emptiness in my belly throughout my run, I had to move at a slower pace than usual and when I reached the 30 minute mark I would have stop altogether to get my bearings before being able to start my cool down walk. By the third day though, I started to feel significantly better and each day since, I feel improvements. Why? Because this dumb-dumb ran out of BCAAs last week and didn’t buy any until 2 days after starting my plan! What a difference once supplement can make.
Since I started my training back in March, every six weeks I would get and start a new plan from my coach; I always find that the first week is the hardest. The workouts feel super intense and the diet feels strict, even though it hasn’t very restricted, it was challenging, but I have always seen great changes in my physique as a result of being regimented and following everything as best as possible. I am so close to show day that I can practically feel what it will be like when I take to the stage, and although these last weeks in prep will no doubt be the most challenging, this will also be what gets me across the proverbial finish line.
Start It, Finish It