Nobody wants to lose muscle when training first thing in the morning.
But should you be taking BCAA’s before fasted cardio?
If you read a muscle building magazine, you’ll be led to believe that your body will enter a catabolic nightmare, stripping you of lean muscle while you workout, and leaving you with as much energy as an Oompa-Loompa on a sugar comedown.
Now, in a recent article I explained why eating protein before cardio is great for increasing fat loss results, and the facts in that piece tie into today’s article, as you’ll see below.
The BCAA cardio myth has been present in gyms for decades, so today I’m going to show you exactly why my clients do not conform to this belief.
Why Your Pre-Workout Protein Rocks
For those of you who don’t have time to get stuck into the article mentioned above, here’s the lowdown:
Protein is the best preworkout for cardio.
Consuming around 16 grams of whey protein before your cardio workout will help you to burn more fat than training on an empty stomach.
That’s right – fasted cardio is no longer the “best” way to burn body fat.
Yet you’ll still be told that it is in most gyms.
Before we get stuck into some science, let’s get rid of this whole “muscle breakdown” concern. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about cardio burning muscle.
You needn’t worry, of course, and you certainly don’t require a BCAA to prevent this from happening.
In fact, unless your cardio routine is that of a marathon runner, you have very little to be concerned about.
Further still, consider that fact doubly underlined if you are performing HIIT cardio, as HIIT has been shown to retain lean muscle to an even greater degree. (1)
But this is where things get really interesting.
During a 2010 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers compared the effects of a group of participants to training in a fasted state versus consuming pre-workout protein.
They discovered that the group who got the protein enjoyed increased fat oxidation both during and after the training. (2)
Then, during a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers confirmed these findings once again when participants were found to be burning more calories (and more fat) both during the workout and after the workout.
In fact, they were still burning fat at an accelerated rate almost 24 hours later. (3)
So Does Fasted Cardio Suck?
I’m not bashing fasted cardio. I’m simply saying there is a superior way.
I’ve performed cardio on an empty stomach before and it has yielded good results for me, as well as plenty of my clients.
But hey, the Playstation 3 was great – that doesn’t mean I didn’t upgrade to a PS4.
Performing your cardio workout before breakfast on an empty stomach is still a decent way to increase fat loss results. It isn’t a gimmick, and it isn’t broscience. (4)
The BCAA Cardio Myth
Now that we’ve established that the fasted cardio myth needs to die, this actually makes answering the BCAA cardio myth much easier.
Fasted means zero calories. Fasted means zero macronutrients. Fasted means zero supplements.
If your goal is to perform cardio in a fasted state, you’d be better served using water before and during your training, and that’s all.
Because if your goal is to perform fasted cardio (i.e. to train in a fasted state), then consuming BCAA’s is breaking that fast.
From the moment branched chain amino acids enter your bloodstream, they are being broken down and used for muscle protein synthesis and muscle recovery, thus breaking any “fast” the body was going through.
Hopefully, this article puts to bed the whole “Should you take BCAA’s before fasted cardio?” myth, because BCAA’s basically render any fasted cardio invalid. However, I want to go one further and ask why you would want to perform fasted cardio in the first place, given the evidence supporting protein before cardio?
I am of the belief that when people ask “Should you take BCAA’s before fasted cardio?” what they are really asking is “Will taking pre-workout BCAA’s help me to burn more fat and retain more muscle?”
And since BCAA’s are derived from protein, the answer is yes.
So my advice is to let this old gym myth die.
Consume your whey protein or BCAA’s prior to cardio and you will burn more fat. This is the way to go. Just don’t let anyone fool you that it’s “fasted”.
Another reason I wanted to get this post up is because I know many of you use intermittent fasting when you are going through a cutting phase.
You see, IF comes with it’s own set of fat burning benefits (read more about them here), and this old myth will essentially have you breaking your fast and losing those benefits without realizing it.
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- Wilson, et al. Concurrent Training: A Meta-Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):2293-307. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823a3e2d.
- Hackney, K. J., et al. Timing protein intake increases energy expenditure 24 h after resistance training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Feb;21(1):48-54.
- Paoli, A., et al. Exercising fasting or fed to enhance fat loss? Influence of food intake on respiratory ratio and excess postexercise oxygen consumption after a bout of endurance training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Feb;21(1):48-54.
- Gonzalez, J. T., et al. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. Br J Nutr. 23:1-12, 2013.