Is fasted cardio better for weight loss? This research might have the answer

Can fasted cardio be better for weight loss? Or is regular exercising more important? Research suggests it's the latter

Is fasted cardio better for weight loss
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every weight loss topic is hotly debated and that includes whether fasted cardio is better for weight loss or not? Many believes that by depleting energy resources by fasting before runs or cycles, the body will automatically draw energy from fat sources. But is this true or just yet another urban legend and misconception?

How to speed up your metabolism naturally: top 3 tips to blast belly fat and get in shape

A research called "Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise" – published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition – was trying to find an answer for this and divided a group of 20 woman into two groups: 10 participants exercised after an overnight fast while the other half of the group was given something to eat before the workout.

Best type of exercise for quick weight loss, according to research

Training consisted of one hour of steady-state aerobic exercise performed three days per week. The subjects of the research were provided with customised dietary plans designed to induce a caloric deficit. Nutritional counselling was also provided throughout the study period to help ensure the participants didn't cheat and eat more food than they were supposed to have.

Fitbit Aria Air Smart Bathroom Scale - White | On sale for £39.99 | Was £49.99 | You save £10 at Amazon

Fitbit Aria Air Smart Bathroom Scale - White | On sale for £39.99 | Was £49.99 | You save £10 at Amazon
Track changes in your weight and BMI using the Fitbit Aria Air. All data is fed back to the Fitbit App where you can further analyse all your body metrics using easy-to-understand charts. The Fitbit Aria Air runs on three triple-A batteries and measures weight up to a 180 kilos (that's around 28 and a half stones).

Fasted or not to be fasted, that is the question

(Image credit: Under Armour)

Is fasted cardio better for weight loss?

This is what the research paper has to say about the results: "Both groups showed a significant loss of weight and fat mass from baseline, but no significant between-group differences were noted in any outcome measure. These findings indicate that body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training."

How to avoid weight gain at home: 7 tips and essential equipment for home weight loss

In short: if you want to lose weight, it doesn't matter if you do cardio fasted or not, as long as you keep a calorie deficit and exercise regularly. As the research shows, it doesn't have to be every day either, although the participants were subjected to 1-hour long workout sessions each time which is not just just a short session for sure.

Intermittent fasting: everything you need to know from 16:8 to 5:2

It is worth noting that the research chose a peculiar way to test the theory by giving test subjects a meal either immediately before or after the exercise session, preventing us from finding out whether a sustained high-metabolic state after the workout would've helped shed fat even more or not. The sample size was also rather small (only 20 women were tested) and the gender ratio was also anything but balanced.

How to get fit when you're unfit: 5 easy strategies that mean even lazy people can be fitter and healthier

Taking this information into account, if you want to maximise weight loss doing cardio exercising, you are best off doing a workout early in the morning and having some food immediately after, preferably some protein and some carbs to aid muscle recovery. Also, as it turns out, the best time of day to workout for weight loss is early morning. Just saying.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.