Cardio Contradictions...

I have been researching best methodoligies for doing cardio for fat loss but have found a LOT of contradicting info.

Could anybody shed any light:

1 - Should cardio be done on an empty stomach for potential fat burning benefits?

2 - Should you wait an hour after eating for the same reasons?

3 - What type of cardio - should you do anaerobic(HIIT) or aerobic(jogging) or both?

4 - How many times a week should you perform cardio?

Any advice much appreciated.



Check out the Cardio Roundtable article that ran fairly recently.

Chris, there are a lot of factors that go into answering those questions, like whether you’re bulking or cutting, whether you have cardiovascular disease in your family (or cardiovascular risk yourself), the time you have available to work out, personal preferences, cardiovascular conditioning, whether you carry a significant amount of excess weight, whether you participate in other sports/aerobic type activities and age.

Yes, there are different point of view on what type of cardio to do and how much. What is excessive for one person may be necessary for another. And, too, cardio doesn’t reside in a vacuum. It’s one part of an intengrated approach of diet, weight lifting and cardio. For example, if you’re following a particularly demanding/grueling weight lifting program, the cardio you could normally handle would put you into a state of overtraining. Dietarily, depending on how much of a deficit you’ve created, any cardio could be responsible for an unaccepetable amount of lean muscle loss.

The bottom line is that all of us have our preferences based on our metabolism and our goals, but there are no hard and fast answers and the cardio you do needs to be optimized for your situation.

Okay. I know you’re looking for better answers than the one I just gave you, so let me lay my neck out on the cutting block for you. (grin)

I’ve done a fair amount of FS cardio, but it is only useful if your diet is designed to complement it. Eating carbs and spiking insulin after your FS cardio kicks you out of fat burning mode. The body doesn’t allow you to step on the gas and the brakes at the same time. The body is set up to do one or the other; store or burn. So I would only recommend FS cardio if you were hypocaloric and eating at least the next 2 or 3 meals as P+F meals following your cardio session.

If you’re doing FS cardio, it’s a good idea to get a meal in immediately after, especially since you haven’t taken any protein in overnight while sleeping. We’re talking, what, 6-8 (or more) hours?

HIIT has other physiological benefits and provides greater/different cardiovascular conditioning, but it should NEVER be done FS.

How many sessions? The general consensus is less when bulking, more when cutting.

I hope that helps. I’m sure others will stop by shortly with their thoughts.


Just had to stop and say great post’s. Not much left to cover, you got it all.

Above all it is very individual, and dependent on many other factors, as is every part of one training and nutrition.

It seem only two points are universal to us all. If we want to gain mass we need a caloric surplus, and if we want to cut then we got to go in a deficite. That’s about it.


Terry, FS?

Sam…FS= fasted state cardio IE: cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach…

Fasted State

I saw this thread and wanted to comment.
Terry, by FS do you mean ‘fasted state’?

I too have used fasted state cardio to very good effect for competition. I tend toward low-mod intensity, 45-60 min. uphill walking while fasted for a few reasons:

1.) It’s lower impact and I’m too heavy for my quads / I-T bands to handle the jarring of actual jogging for more than a 10-15 minutes.

2.) Keeping HR in the 120-130 bpm range (even lower if you’re older than 40) is low enough not to induce a dramatic stress response (notably here, excessive cortisol release) and prevents overuse of muscle glycogen in working muscles. I intend to leave as much glycogen as possible for my WEIGHT TRAINING sessions. So,with the low-mod intensity approach, I can still whittle away 150-200 kcal in the morning without interfering with actual workouts.

3.) Perhaps most importantly, we need to consider the classic “crossover effect”, in which more intense cardio induces a shift toward more (up to 100%) carb usage. Again, I don’t want muscle carb stores wasted on cardio. I’m after DIRECT fat mobilization and usage!

[This is where opinions differ… since there is little doubt that high intensity cardio also makes a person leaner, it’s a matter of preference. I admit that gluconeogenesis and other processes will eventually result in adipose loss and muscle glycogen recovery -even for intense cardio guys. Still, though, DIRECT fat mobilization takes time (fat is an oxygen poor molecule and requires a ton of non-panting breaths as it “burns”). So, as a guy who has a definite ectomorphic side, I think slow and steady wins the race for physique-specific athletes.

4.) I have personally collected data seeing CLEARLY how even dilute sports drinks (i.e. 16-20 g carbs) drank within 90 minutes prior to cardio severely depress fat oxidation.

[One last caveat: I’ve also noticed that I tend to fast for too long prior to workouts in which I hope to lift and follow it immeditaely with treadmill. That’s why I personally do early AM fasted treadmill, then eat ad libitum prior to actual lifting - the performnce is hugely superior!]


If I’m cutting but trying to keep absolutely as much LBM as possible, is Surge really a bad idea for post HIIT sessions? Does muscle get “eaten up” post session like fat or is that generally something that happens only during the exercise?

You mentioned:

Why is should HIIT never be done FS?


Gears are still turning…

As cortisol concentrations are screaming for the first 2-3 hours upon waking, fasted cardio at any pace over mild-moderate is VERY risky to muscle mass. Better to take it easy. Even a brisk WALK is enough for a big man (condidering work = F x D).

Even at my fairly easy pace, I sometimes consume 5-10 g protein with my java about 60-90 minutes prior to hitting the treadmill. This is actually enough to make a metabolic difference yet probably not enough to induce enough insulin release to dampen fat loss.

My question is this:

“What else can be done other than long, otherwise unproductive treadmill work as morning aerobic activity?”

(I recently bought a bokken and am resuming a bit of martial arts practice staying conscious not to get too intense. I also sometimes watch a DVD on my laptop next to the T-mill.)

Any other ideas? I’ve grown sick of staring at the paneling on my wall for 45 minutes nearly every morning.


From my experience, a moderate pace, as in not breathing heavily, is the best way to go. When you do it at this pace your burning mostly fat.

When you start doing cardio the first 5-10 min. the energy in coming from glycogen stores and then as the time increases during exercise your body switches to fat.

I have been dieting down for the past 4 weeks and I have been doing 60 min long cardio sessions 3-4 times per week. My squat has come down a little, but as the saying goes “if you wanta make an omelet you need to break a few eggs.” I haven’t lost any muscle mass, I have actually gotten stronger since I started. If you want to maintain muscle and lose fat follow the Don’t Diet routine. Hope this helps.

I noticed in Lonnie’s first post that he saw steady-state as being more appropriate for an ectomorph. Would the converse be true? Should I, as an endomorph, concentrate the bulk of my efforts on HIIT? As a recreational athlete, HIIT would seem more in line with the relevant energy systems used in my sports of choice, although at this time of year, and where I live, my sports are on the back-burner for a few months anyway. With that being said, would there be value to early morning fasted state cardio, and then 10-20 minutes of HIIT after evening weight sessions?

My squat has come down a little, but as the saying goes “if you wanta make an omelet you need to break a few eggs.” I haven’t lost any muscle mass, I have actually gotten stronger since I started.[/quote]

Your squat has gone down, but you don’t think you’ve lost muscle? I’m wondering how you account for the loss in strength?

Lonnie, I’ve been walking OUTSIDE and find it about 1000X more fun than the treadmill. There are hills near my home that make it easy to achieve the exertion you described. I pick up the pace on downhill sections.

I do live in southern California, which means the weather is still beautiful this time of year. But even in snowy winter conditions, walking hills outdoors, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing would be (more?) enjoyable examples of this type of cardio.

I have had good luck with morning cardio sessions in the 130 HR range on an empty stomach. I typically go for about 30-40 minutes although I would like to get that from 45-60 minutes (I get bored). I also wait about 1 hour before I eat anything after the session. I’m pretty sure that if your cardio doesn’t cause a massive amount of stress (HIIT for example) that you won’t be catabolic to muscle and you can toy around with waiting to eat something. This has been very effective for me thusfar and I’ve only been doing it for 3 weeks.

Way back when I had a lot of luck with HIIT sessions either on the treadmill or in “spin” classes. Those classes kick your ass something fierce. I was definitely watching my food intake around those types of sessions. 45 minutes in a spin class with a good instructor leaves you 1/2 dead.

Good luck.

I personally have had good success with FS HIIT. I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but hey…it works for me, especialy when taking PH/PS. Actually been doing this for the past 4 weeks and have dropped 10 lbs, and…my strenght is up!

I haven’t lost any muscle, in all reality my calves and thighs have gotten a solid inch added on to them because of the cardio. The reason why I have lost squat strength is because I ride a bike. I can’t run because I get shin splints. The loss in strength is just from so much work being done on them. The loss in strength doesn’t bother me because my legs get strong pretty quick. My deadlift is coming up though.

Sorry, Sam (and L-Train). Not defining acronyms you’ve made up is a no-no. So a special thanks to Dave876 and thyrio for reading my thoughts and interpreting things so that we’re all on the same page. (grin)

Smitdogg, I only use Surge after weight training. Read John Berardi’s article, “Solving the Post-Workout Puzzle,” Parts I & II. HIIT properly done is NOT catabolic and doesn’t require or benefit from Surge. I do a 5-minute warmup and 14 minutes of sprints (i.e., 30 seconds high, 90 seconds for recovery), 7 actual sprints, and a 5 or 10-minute cool-down. Read up on HIIT, too, because there are all sorts of ratios that people use, 1:3, 1:2, 1:1.

dbart, the consensus is that even though HIIT is short and sweet, if done on an empty stomach, it is too catabolic. Cortisol release is just too high and too much LBM broken down. It doesn’t take much in the way of food intake, though. You can have a protein shake with about 20g of protein an hour or so prior to your HIIT session.

Any other ideas? I’ve grown sick of staring at the paneling on my wall for 45 minutes nearly every morning.

L-Train, I don’t have a treadmill, so when I want to do low-to-moderate intensity cardio at home (vs. the gym), I’ll walk around the condo where I live. Since I have trouble keeping my HR elevated, I’ve taken to walking up and back down the stairs of every entrance I pass, which works out to be at fairly regular intervals. In Tampa, though, walking outside and doing the stairs is not fun in the summer.

And actually, I’ve even thought of taking a jump rope along for my walk. I’m sure I’d very quickly settle into a routine of steps and jumping that kept my heart rate where I wanted.

Finally, one could always take an untrained dog for a walk, one that doesn’t walk on a loose leash, which will provide you with a bit of an upper-body, counter-resistence type workout. If you don’t have one, I’m sure one of your neighbors would be glad to lend you theirs. (wink)