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Fasted Cardio and Muscle Loss – The Risk

Give it a try for a few weeks; if it proves effective, fantastic! If not, there are many other options. Many people have their success stories linked with fasted cardio
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“Our body’s response during fasting is not precisely calculable, and manipulating the fat-to-muscle ratio through fasting alone may lead to unintended consequences”Akanksha Thakur

Prolonged fasted cardio if not done under proper guidance can be adverse for muscle mass. A few weeks of fasted cardio sessions can indeed bring good fat loss results to an individual but continuous fasting and fasted cardio without any breaks is not a good idea. While we are on extended fasting cardio there are many chances that the body halts the fat-loss process and starts eating muscle tissues for energy requirements.
Fat stores are surely utilized for energy needs, but still, our body is generally cautious about utilizing all of its fat stores completely because fat provides a substantial long-term energy reserve and is needed for essential functions (like insulation and protection for vital organs) and survival mechanisms (like food scarcity, and maintaining stable internal conditions despite external change).
Our body intelligently balances energy requirements and sources during periods of energy scarcity, ensuring proper bodily functions.

What Happens to Muscles During Prolonged Fasted Cardio?

“Prolonged” describes something that continues for an extended period. When we engage in fasting cardio sessions every day for many consecutive days, there’s a possibility that our body may break down muscle tissues into individual amino acids for energy. This process, known as muscle catabolism, is a fundamental response from our body as it seeks energy to compensate for the deficit caused by prolonged fasting.
During muscle breakdown, amino acids are released and then converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This glucose is then used directly to fulfill the energy requirements of various tissues and organs in the body, ensuring a constant supply of energy.
Muscle breakdown is a protective mechanism to provide an alternative energy source, but it’s also a signal that the body is under extreme stress. Continued muscle breakdown can be pernicious, as muscles perform a range of functions such as pumping blood, supporting movement, and lifting weights.

How to prevent muscle breakdown?

Protein for muscle recovery – When we perform fasted cardio there are chances of muscles breaking down for amino acids and dietary protein is an essential element for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissues. Take a fast-digesting protein during post-workout to get the necessary amino acids supply to support muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of building new muscle proteins. Sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, legumes, nuts, and plant-based protein sources.
Carbohydrates for glycogen replenishment – Fasted cardio can deplete glycogen stores, consuming fast-digesting carbohydrates after exercise helps replenish glycogen levels more quickly. This is important because glycogen serves as a readily available energy source, fast absorbing carbohydrate choices include fruits, whole grains, oats, quinoa, millets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and white rice.

Cardio in Moderation – While fasted cardio can be effective for some individuals, it’s essential to approach it with moderation, especially if you’re concerned about muscle breakdown. Excessive or prolonged fasted cardio sessions can put additional stress on your body, potentially leading to muscle catabolism. Instead of long-duration workouts, consider shorter, more moderate-intensity sessions.

Opt for activities like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming that elevate your heart rate without placing excessive strain on your muscles. By incorporating shorter bouts of fasted cardio into your routine, you can still reap the benefits of fat-burning without risking muscle loss. Remember to listen to your body and adjust the intensity and duration of your workouts based on how you feel. If you experience any signs of fatigue or muscle fatigue, it’s essential to take a break and prioritize recovery.

Hydration is the key – Staying hydrated is crucial for overall health and performance, especially during exercise. When you’re properly hydrated, your muscles function more efficiently, allowing you to perform better during cardio workouts. Adequate hydration also helps maintain electrolyte balance, which is essential for muscle function and preventing cramps. Before starting your cardio session, make sure you’re well-hydrated by drinking water or electrolyte-rich fluids.

During your workout, sip water regularly to replace fluids lost through sweat. After exercising, continue hydrating to replenish fluids and support muscle recovery.

Balanced Muscle Development – incorporate strength training into your fitness routine, aim for at least two to three sessions per week, focusing on different muscle groups each time. Include a variety of exercises that target major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, and deadlifts. Strength training enhances the efficiency of your muscles, making them better equipped to handle the demands of cardio exercise. Stronger muscles can perform better during workouts, reducing the risk of fatigue and breakdown. Strength training promotes balanced muscle development and this balance helps distribute the workload more evenly during cardio activities, reducing muscle exhaustion.

Wrapping Up

When we engage in fasting cardio, exercising on an empty stomach, our bodies rely on stored energy. While fat can be a source of energy, our body cannot entirely deplete fat stores. In such situations, it may resort to breaking down skeletal muscles for energy. Since muscles play a vital role in both movement and supporting organ function, depleting them entirely for energy isn’t feasible, much like how the body cannot exhaust all stored fats.
Occasionally doing fasting cardio, a few times a week, can aid in burning extra calories and shedding fat. However, excessive fasting cardio, especially over extended periods, can disrupt this delicate balance within our bodies. It may interfere with normal bodily functions and even harm our muscles.
Thus, while fasting cardio can offer benefits, it’s crucial to approach it in moderation. We should aim for a balance where it helps burn fat without causing harm to our muscles or overall health.

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