FASTED VS FED CARDIO FOR FAT LOSS
Looking for the minutiae within something before having a good foundation can be a common issue, and the method of how to perform cardio also fits into that bracket.
When the goal is fat loss, performing some sort of cardiovascular exercise is wise to help create a negative energy balance, but is there any more benefits towards fat loss when performing fasted cardio?
A Comparison of Fed vs Fasted Cardio
Performing cardio in a fasted state and then followed by fasting shows to have a benefit in reducing an individual's body fat percentage (1). Fasted cardio seems to have a higher fat oxidation rate (fatty acid released from a fat cell stored in the body) when compared to cardio performed in a fed state, creating the possibility of higher potential fat loss (2,3).
On the contrary, fasted cardio is generally performed fasted overnight and followed by a consumption of food. In doing so the performance of fasted cardio does not seem to provide a great difference in the contribution of fat loss, compared to fasted cardio (4,5).
During exercise, expenditure is a certainty, but maintaining elevated levels of expenditure is not! The consumption of a meal before exercise seems to have a positive effect in keeping expenditure high (6). Therefore, if your individual performance is positively affected by food prior to cardio, long term fat loss may be at higher possibility.
Additionally, a habit can be a big influence in adherence and if the performance of fasted cardio is your preferred method then continue with that habit.
Expenditure in the form of cardiovascular exercise is a great tool in aiding fat loss, but exercise should not be the primary focus. Creating a calorie deficit (the number of calories burnt off being higher than the number of calories consumed) (7) through your nutritional intake is a more suitable approach for many individuals.
The choice between fasted or fed cardio is generally a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. If you are managing all your variables and looking for a potential added benefit, then fasted cardio may be worth a try. Your lifestyle and available time should take priority and forming a habit that suits them needs is a more practical viewpoint.