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Morning Cardio Controversy

Author: Tom Venuto

Does cardio in the morning on an empty stomach really burn more fat?

Dear Tom,

I've read a few of your articles on the web. Of particular interest is the one about doing cardio in a fasted state in the morning. I enjoy doing that, as I am a morning person anyway. However, I've run across an article on the 24 hour fitness website under "fitness myths" that is contradictory to your thoughts as well as Body-For-Life (which I follow). The article claimed that cardio in a fasted state causes the body to go into survival mode and save the fat - which means you burn muscle. Both theories sound right to me depending on the angle I look from. Any thoughts? Thanks and keep up the very good writing.

Bill Gillin

First of all, let me say that the fasted cardio in the morning theory IS controversial, and everything I write about it is strictly my personal opinion. However, I think my opinion is probably worth something because it's founded on 19 years of experience - both academic and "in the trenches" experience.

You're right that both theories have merit. Muscle loss could be an issue depending on the intensity and duration of your morning cardio session as well as your nutritional status. But why sit around a table and argue about it? Why not tackle the issue of muscle loss head on? Simply measure your body fat and calculate your lean mass, then you'll know if you're losing muscle or not. Why guess?

Does morning cardio burn a greater amount of fat than cardio done at other times? Well, the bottom line when evaluating any training or nutritional practice is results - period! I don't care what any "expert" says or what any research study says - I measure my results carefully and if I'm getting results training or eating in a certain manner, I'm going to keep doing it. And so should you. I suggest you base all your decisions about your training and nutrition on results and results alone.

Speaking of results, I've reached 3.4% body fat with no drugs and no supplements and part of my strategy on "cutting" programs has always been morning cardio. My clients have also achieved great results. And since you brought up Body for Life (which also recommends early morning cardio), regardless of many people's mixed feelings about the program or its creator, Bill Phillips, plenty of people have gotten great results on Body For Life. (And Phillips is no slouch in the physique department himself).

Although most academic types don't believe in the morning cardio theory, there's plenty of research that supports it. I found it especially interesting that Dr. Mel Siff, Author of Facts and Fallacies of Fitness and moderator of the Supertraining Yahoo f orum, included a brief section in his book called "Slim Before Breakfast." He quoted a study lending support to the a.m. cardio theory. Dr. Siff wrote;

"A study carried out at Kansas State University (Wilcox, Harford & Wedel Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, 17:2, 1985), indicates that a kilogram of fat will be oxidized sooner when exercising in the fasted condition in the morning than when doing the same exercise in the afternoon. By measuring respiratory gas exchange, caloric expenditure, and carbohydrate and fatty acid metabolism, these researchers showed that the mass of fat burned during aerobic exercise amounts to 67% of the total energy expenditure achieved when the same exercise is done later in the day or in the fed state."

The reason I mention this is because Dr. Siff is known as one of the most logical and scientific minded (skeptical?) experts in the field.

This article was provided courtesy of Tom Venuto and


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About the Author

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, freelance writer, success coach and author of the #1 best-selling e-book "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has written over 170 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Olympianís News (in Italian), Exercise for Men and Menís Exercise. Tom's inspiring and informative articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and motivation are featured regularly on dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's "Burn The Fat" e-book, click here:

Other Articles by Tom

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Rob's Note:Morning cardio is a practice I have done now for many years. I find that morning cardio exercise burns more fat and I feel awake and energized afterwards. If you're serious about burning fat, then forget about the snooze button and get up to do your morning cardio.

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