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24 July 2021

Ask Your Muscle Professor: What Should I Eat Before And After Cardio?

Fasting cardio trend is in decline, low-carb cardio replaces it as fat burning king. Find out how you can maximize your results from proper cardio training.

Question: What Should I Eat Before And After Cardio To Burn Fat?

For those bodybuilders, this is an unfounded question of the kind that you will climb to the peak of the Himalayas and ask a wise guru. How does the guru answer? He says "it changes", no doubt!

Your program and type of work play a role in determining what is best for you. But before you go down the mountain, listen to me. In recent years, we have learned a lot about special nutrition for cardio practitioners and none of them is difficult to apply. 

Fat Burning 101

Let's contribute to the wise man's answer and start with the basics. The functioning of your fat metabolism is primarily through your ability to break down adipose tissue, and secondly through the distribution of the fatty acids that appear in the muscle tissues. After these occur, the oil is transferred to be used as fuel in the mitochondria. This transfer is via a carrier known as palmitoyltransferase-1, or CPT-1.

Carrier CPT-1 level is suppressed when the insulin levels are high and only rises when the carbohydrate stores in the muscles are empty. In theory, our body goes into the process of burning fat, as insulin drops in the fasting state and the carbohydrate stores of the muscles are empty. This is the rationale behind fasting cardion.

But how does this reflect on the real world?

The Facts Behind Fat Burning When Hungry

Despite many literature on bodybuilding, research on fasting cardio is very limited. The most important of the early studies, Dr. It was made by Trabelski and his friends on those who fast in Ramadan. The most recent study, Dr. It was held last year by Brad Schoenfeld.

In Ramadan, Muslims can only eat in the period between sunset and sunrise. In Trabelski's study, subjects attended 40-60 minute cardio sessions at night, either during the afternoon or after eating. The researchers observed that the only group that lost fat was fasting and that the loss was 6.3 percent.  

Dr. Schoenfeld approached the issue from a different angle. A carbohydrate protein mixture was given to a group just before exercise (full group), to one group immediately after exercise (hungry group), and surprisingly it was observed that both groups lost equal fat.

Why is this difference? It is difficult to say this, but the reason for the loss of fat seen in a possibility Ramadan study can be explained by the fact that the subjects left their carbohydrate intake for a few hours before and after the cardio session. In contrast, Schoenfeld achieved good results for both groups by giving subjects carbohydrates just before or immediately after exercise.

To dig deeper, we must honestly focus on the role that carbohydrates play. We are lucky that there is more work in this area.

Fasting Cardio etc. Cardio Full of Carbs

Ask Your Muscle Professor: What Should I Eat Before And After Cardio?

In 2005, I attended the World Sports Medicine Universities Conference. (One of the largest conferences in exercise physiology in the world) At that time, high amounts of carbohydrate consumption before or after exercise was considered to be ideal for long-term compliance.

At this conference, Dr. Hansen and his colleagues shocked the participants by presenting a study that reversed the claim. Their laboratory studies show that consuming carbohydrates in muscle cells increases the cell's ability to use non-carbohydrate fuel sources (fats).

To test this theory, lab workers had a group of inexperienced people get two sessions of cardio per day. After one hour of exercise with both legs, two hours of rest are given without eating anything, and then an additional hour of exercise is performed, with one leg being operated with repetitive stretching movements. Thus, one leg is run for one hour a day, the other is run for two hours a day.

The fact that the subjects were not allowed to eat anything between the sessions means that the first session was studied with the carbohydrate stores in the muscles full, and the second session was done with low carbohydrate cardio. Thus, in the study with double legs every day, there is a high carbohydrate presence in the muscles, while single leg exercises are performed with low carbohydrates.

These researchers have found that proteins that control fat metabolism in the mitochondria increase more in the leg, which is run two sessions a day. So we can summarize: In the case of low-carb twice a day, training can be more beneficial for burning fat.

More recently, Dr. Yeo and her colleagues repeated this work with trained individuals. This study was different from the others because after a single session of cardio, the subjects' ability to burn fat was measured. Subjects were divided into two groups. The first group of people doing cardio twice a day - in the case of low carbohydrate sessions the second session, and the second group of people doing cardio once a day in case of high carbohydrate each session. A few weeks later, fat burning rates were measured again.

Although the endurance performance of both groups has similarly improved, the fuel preferences during regular exercise have been greatly different. In fact, it was found that the fat oxidation (burning) of the group working twice a day increased much more than the group working once a day.

To draw a conclusion here: It is possible to study on an empty stomach (fasting), but working with low carbohydrates is equally important, if not more. But there are things you need to know more before getting on an exercise bike on an empty stomach.

Protect Muscles, Lose Fat

Ask Your Muscle Professor: What Should I Eat Before And After Cardio?

Before you start exercising, don't overlook consuming fats that contain high amounts of medium-chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil. This type of fat burns quickly, turning into ketone that your brain and muscles can use as fuel. The research presented here shows that cardio fasting may or may not be effective for you to burn calories, but taking low carbs Working - if you do it right - can be helpful in optimizing the use of oil as a fuel source. And in this way, you burn fat more effectively.

One way to adapt to doing cardio twice a day is to do the work every other day. For example, a preparatory competitor can perform regular aerobic exercises in the morning, high-pitched interval training (YTAA) in the afternoon or evening. Between sessions, it should limit the intake of vegetables containing carbohydrates, and instead replace them with sufficient fat and high-quality protein to meet lost calories. They can continue their normal carbohydrate consumption after the second session and the next day.

Alternatively, a person does cardio on low carbohydrate days, not on high carbohydrate days. On the other hand, if you are going to practice fasting cardio, you should consume enough protein and amino acids beforehand. Studies show that individuals who do cardio hungry have a risk of losing muscle tissue.

Before you start exercising, don't overlook consuming fats that contain high amounts of medium-chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil. This type of fat burns quickly, turning into ketones that your brain and muscles can use as fuel.

Even comparing medium chain triglyceride (MCT) and long chain fats have shown that medium chain triglycerides provide much greater fat burning. This is one of the reasons why MCT plays a big role in nutrition planning. These fatty acids can even act as signal molecules in intercellular communication, increasing the number of mitochondria that burn fat in muscle cells.


  1. Kelley, DE (2005). Skeletal muscle fat oxidation: timing and flexibility are everything. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 115(7), 1699.
  2. Sidossis, LS, Stuart, CA, Shulman, GI, Lopaschuk, GD, & Wolfe, RR (1996). Glucose plus insulin regulate fat oxidation by controlling the rate of fatty acid entry into the mitochondria. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 98(10), 2244.
  3. Trabelsi, K., El Abed, K., Stannard, SR, Jammoussi, K., Zeghal, KM, & Hakim, A. (2012). Effects of fed-versus fasted-state aerobic training during Ramadan on body composition and some metabolic parameters in physically active men. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 22(1), 11.
  4. Schoenfeld, BJ, Aragon, AA, Wilborn, CD, Krieger, JW, & Sonmez, GT (2014). Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11 (1), 54.
  5. Hansen, AK, Fischer, CP, Plomgaard, P., Andersen, JL, Saltin, B., & Pedersen, BK (2005). Skeletal muscle adaptation: training twice every second day vs. training once daily. Journal of Applied Physiology, 98(1), 93-99.
  6. Yeo, WK, Paton, CD, Garnham, AP, Burke, LM, Carey, AL, & Hawley, JA (2008). Skeletal muscle adaptation and performance responses to once a day versus twice every second day endurance training regimens. Journal of Applied Physiology, 105(5), 1462-1470.
  7. Tipton, KD, Ferrando, AA, Phillips, SM, Doyle, D., & Wolfe, RR (1999). Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 276(4), E628-E634.
  8. St-Onge, MP, Bourque, C., Jones, PJH, Ross, R., & Parsons, WE (2003). Medium-versus long-chain triglycerides for 27 days increases fat oxidation and energy expenditure without resulting in changes in body composition in overweight women. International Journal of Obesity, 27(1), 95-102.
  9. Philp, A., Hargreaves, M., & Baar, K. (2012). More than a store: regulatory roles for glycogen in skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 302(11), E1343-E1351. 

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