I’m not a morning person. Chances are you might not be either. Dragging myself from underneath a warm comforter to run 3 miles sounds like a death sentence (Well, maybe not that extreme).
I could make up millions of excuses. I went to bed too late. The alarm clock didn’t work. I’m walking my imaginary dog later (that’s cardio, right?).
But like anything in life, excuses don’t produce results.
So what gives? Why do fitness experts preach morning cardio to lose weight fast?
Keep reading and I’ll tell you why…
Fasted State Cardio
Early in the morning our bodies are in a “fasted state” – which means our glycogen stores (storage unit for carbs and sugars) are depleted because we haven’t eaten anything in 8 hours.
Although there’s argument about how much glycogen we actually use at night, the body has to repair itself nightly and that takes energy. When glucose levels are low the body releases glucagon (fat-burning hormones) which tells the body to convert glycogen stores into glucose to steady blood sugar.
One problem: What if glycogen levels are depleted (fasted state)?
Add exercise to a fasted state and the body releases adrenaline, norepinephrine, epinephrines, and HGH (among others). In combination with glucagon, these hormones produce hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) which has the ability to “free” fatty acids from storage for fatty acid metabolism.
In fact, exercise in a fasted state has found to breakdown triglycerides (fat) in type I fibers while fat breakdown is prevented in a carb fed state (glycogen storage is full). Especially after an overnight fast, most energy is provided by oxidizing fatty acids from adipose tissue.
Therefore you can assume the body prefers burning carbs before fat – and a fasted state is the ideal situation for fat burn.
What Does all this Mean?
It means you’re more likely to burn fat in the morning. When glycogen storage levels in the liver and muscles are depleted, the body resorts to another energy source to keep blood glucose levels normal. What’s the next best energy source?
Fat is a costly process for the body to breakdown, but it packs around 9-kcal of energy per gram. The body burns carbohydrates first and fat later.
If you want to burn fat, you have to deplete your glycogen stores to tap fat reserves. This is why experts suggest cardio be performed for an hour to maximize fat burning. The alternative is to perform exercise in a fasted state to “trick the body.”
Won’t Fasted Morning Exercise Burn Muscle?
The short answer is yes (especially aerobic exercise).
But there is a way to combat protein breakdown. Martin Berkhan from LeanGains.com suggests consuming 10g of BCAA before and after early morning fasted training. This should be enough to keep protein synthesis active while maintaining a fasted state.
The body will burn fat before it burns protein granted it has enough protein to keep synthesis active. By supplementing BCAA’s before and after a workout you can greatly reduce muscle damage.
Also, be sure to get enough protein post-workout. That can come from whey protein or eating a balanced breakfast (oatmeal, egg whites, fruit).
Morning Workout Fat Loss Schedule
- Monday Split: Cardio AM – Chest, Shoulders, Tris PM
- Tuesday: Cardio AM
- Wednesday Split: Cardio AM – Back, Bis PM
- Thurday: Cardio AM
- Friday: Cardio AM – Legs PM
- Saturday: Cardio AM
- Sunday: Rest
If the split workouts become too much for you to handle, try dropping the Monday and Friday AM cardio sessions.
The goal is to get in a couple of fasted exercises/week. Couple this workout with a caloric deficit diet and you’ll be sure to drop the pounds quickly.
Do you workout in the morning? Are you losing more weight from it? I realize morning cardio is a heated argument between health gurus, so feel free to agree or disagree below: