Fasting has taken center stage in the competition for most popular fitness and nutrition trends. The concept seems easy enough — eat during certain hours of the day. But just like any diet, the rules can get a bit hazy when it comes to extras such as supplements and drinks.
When it comes to working out on an empty stomach during your cardio session, you may be wondering if a pre-workout can help you achieve your fitness goals or kick you out of your fast.
Since some commercial pre-workouts contain sweeteners and unhealthy artificial ingredients, the best pre-workout for fasted cardio can be made at home using: creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine, and coconut water. These help promote muscle building, strength, energy, and hydration.
In this article, I’ll give you the exact recipe for making your own pre-workout for fasted cardio, and discuss the benefits of each ingredient.
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What Pre-Workout Supplements Can You Use For Fasted Cardio?
Pre-workout supplements, also called “pre-workouts”, are a mix of substances, promoted to improve exercise performance, strength, power, endurance, and decrease rate of perceived effort and fatigue.
There are many different types and blends but they typically include:
Amino acids (creatine, tyrosine, taurine, citrulline): protein building blocks are essential for muscle building and body structure. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are leucine, valine, and isoleucine. These have been suggested to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
B vitamins: (thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and B12. folate): are shown to be necessary for the energy-producing pathways of the body and required for the synthesis of new cells.
Caffeine: shown to be effective for enhancing sport performance in trained athletes when consumed in moderate doses.
Beetroot juice or coconut water: a review found that beet juice can help increase nitric oxide, a natural chemical that expands blood vessels and increases blood flow. Coconut water is full of hydrating electrolytes, helping replenish fluids during and after a workout.
Sodium bicarbonate: commonly known as baking soda, this may help lower acid build up in the body which can reduce fatigue and pain in muscles. Beware not to have too much otherwise you may get an upset stomach.
Some fitness fanatics claim that pre-workout supplements can offer extra energy to power through and up the intensity of tough workouts. While other specialists claim they’re not worth the money and can even potentially be dangerous. What matters most is the quality of ingredients you’re pouring into your body.
Related Article: Strength Training While Hungry: Should You Do It?
Why You Should Consider A Pre Workout Before Fasted Cardio?
Pre-workouts can give you that extra oomph when it comes to energy, endurance, and strength for your workout. So if you’re looking for a temporary boost in your training programs, it may be helpful to consider. Research has shown most pre-workouts are safe when taken in the short-term, less than eight weeks.
Research has suggested that pre-exercise consumption of multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, containing a mix of ingredients such as caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, amino acids, and nitric oxide can have a positive influence on muscle endurance and mood. But there are mixed results when it comes to force and power production.
In an International Journal of Exercise Science study, participants did not have any definitive benefit when taking a pre-workout when it came to improving peak power output, but they did see a 4 to 8% higher average force production This was during lower-body resistance training, when compared to a placebo group.
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The Best Pre-Workout for Fasted Cardio: Make Your Own!
The draw of these drinks and supplements is to get you feeling like a beast when you get going at the gym. But with a seemingly never-ending list of ingredients, these pre-workouts are complicated and unreliable in terms of ingredients and doses.
Related Article: Cardio for Beginners: 6 Mistakes to Avoid (Plus 3 Workouts)
BENEFITS OF MAKING YOUR OWN
Most pre-workout formulas are “proprietary blends” which means that they consist of varied ingredients. This can make it difficult to understand the amount of any given ingredient. Some of these blends can contain ingredients that are banned or substances that are not well researched.
Since many dietary supplements are not well regulated, the labels are not always a good indicator of product quality and content. By taking a proprietary blend, you may be exposing yourself to negative side effects of some ingredients such as sugar alcohol sweeteners and stomach upset. This is why it’s best to make your own.
INGREDIENTS: WHAT YOU NEED
The best way to get nutrients is in their simple form. Making your own pre-workout for fasted cardio is healthier, cheaper, and can be more effective. Here’s the recipe for one serving to slurp up before you start strengthening.
Start with some high-quality protein powder…
Creatine (5 g)
When we exercise, we use energy, such as glucose, and creatine. Once we use it up, our bodies start decreasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is energy. Creatine also helps ensure that muscles get stronger. Creatine also comes from natural food sources (aim for about 1-2 g per day) such as meat, fish, and poultry.
Beta-alanine (3-4 g)
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning your body can produce it. Since beta-alanine can increase carnosine, it may help your muscles reduce their acid level during exercise, leading to less fatigue. It has been suggested to increase exercise capacity and performance. Natural sources of beta-alanine include meat, poultry, soybeans, fish.
Then add a bit of energy booster…
Caffeine (100-300 mg)
Caffeine is known as an energy booster and stimulant. Research suggests that it can help improve physical performance and endurance when taken in moderate doses. It naturally comes from foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, and chocolate.
If you can’t take the taste, you can add a bit of flavor…
*Just keep in mind that if you add above about 50 calories, then you’ll be kicked out of your fast
Coconut water (4 fluid ounces)
Coconut water is lower in carbohydrates, helping to keep you in a fasted state, and a good source of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. According to ACE Fitness, keeping electrolytes in proper concentrations is necessary for fluid balance, muscle contraction, and neural activity.
Related Article: 12 Natural Food Sources of Glutamine (And, How Much To Eat)
The Best Post-Workout for Fasted Cardio
Even if you’re supplementing with the perfect pre-workout, it’s very important to eat a well balanced, nutrient-rich meal or snack after you get your burn on.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends having a healthy source of protein and carbohydrates after a fasted workout. The only time this would not be the case is if you’re following a carb-restricted plan such as the keto diet.
The amount you eat varies, depending on factors such as your body composition and fitness goals. But as a general tip, here are a few meals and snack ideas that contain healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates:
Protein: fish, eggs, chicken, low-fat dairy, milk, yogurt, beans.
Carbohydrates: quinoa, whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread, fruit (banana, apple, berries), starchy vegetables (corn, potato).
So for instance, an excellent post workout snack could be yogurt with berries and a bit of oats.
Learn more about how to calculate your calories: Burn 500 Calories Working Out At-Home (30-Min Workouts)
When it comes to fasted cardio, the research is inconclusive when it comes to overall health and fitness benefits. The bottom line of whether fasted cardio will work for you, depends on you. As with anything, check in and see how you feel during and after your workout. If fasting makes you hit the pavement running and feel good the rest of the day, go for it! But if it leaves you feeling drained or craving sweets and treats later in the day, it may not be right for you.
When it comes to the best pre-workout for cardio, it’s best to make your own at home with some simple ingredients you can get at your local health market or trusted online distributor. Not sure where your ingredients are good? Check with your physician, dietitian, or fitness professional.
About The Author
Lisa is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with over 15 years of experience in nutrition, fitness, and mental health coaching and education. She studied Foods and Nutrition at San Diego State University and earned a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University.
Having certifications and experience in group exercise, intuitive eating, coaching and psychotherapy, and digestive wellness, she’s enthusiastic about the relationship between the body and mind.
She’s dedicated to helping people understand how to implement healthy habit change, while gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them feel their personal best.