First thing in the morning. Post workout. Before you lift weights. After work.
Only on every third Saturday of months that end in “Y”…
Everyone has an opinion about when the optimal time to do cardio training is. My gut instinct is to tell you that anytime will work, as long as you do it consistently.
But if you think like I do, then you are probably always searching for the right programming to give you an edge.
In recent years, I have read many articles and studies (some positive, some negative) about what is known as “fasted cardio”.
Fasted cardio is exactly what it sounds like - doing cardio on an empty stomach, first thing when you wake up. There have been numerous studies that have shown that doing 20 minutes of cardio in a fasted state can burn up to 20% more fat than if you completed the cardio after a meal.
Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, in the name of research and development for you, my loyal Muscle & Strength readers, I decided to give fasted cardio try, and I have to admit, something just didn’t feel right.
Training on an empty stomach felt good, but I honestly didn’t have the juice to sprint or do bike intervals at my normal intensity.
Overall, I liked the concept, especially the part where your cardio is done and over with early in the day, so I wasn’t ready to give up on it quite yet.
How could I reap the benefits of doing the fasted cardio, and subsequently burn more calories for the duration of the day, but still train at the high level I had grown accustomed to?
Coconut Fasted Cardio
My solution was to put a twist on the typical fasted cardio and take in some healthy fats before hitting the gym to condition. I always drink black coffee first thing in the morning, so I started adding a tablespoon of coconut oil (usually splitting it between 2 cups of coffee) and immediately felt the difference.
I no longer went through that early cardio session like I was running on fumes. My body seemed to efficiently use the fats in coconut oil for energy. The metabolic benefits of coconut oil is more than just a convenient energy source.
Coconut oil is primarily comprised of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which have been shown to help the body burn calories and promote the actual break down of stored body fat. MCTs have been used for years in the bodybuilding community to shed fat and has also recently gained popularity amongst the Paleo crowd for its performance benefits.
I believe that by taking in nothing but the coconut oil and coffee before morning cardio, you are “priming the pump” so to speak. Caffeine and MCTs both speed up your metabolism, and as your body breaks down the healthy fats for energy it easily utilizes your own stored body fat.
Although there is probably plenty of benefit to traditional fasted cardio, my metabolism feels faster this way and my workout performance is better. Below is a sample day of my nutrition and training schedule.
The Coconut Cardio Meal Plan
5:00am - Coffee w/ 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil (contains 14gr Fat)
6:00am - 20 minutes Cardio
7:00am - Meal #1 - 6-8oz Chicken or Turkey, 1/2 Grapefruit
8:00am - Weight training
10:00am - Post workout 10g BCAA, 5g Glutamine
11:00am - Meal #2 - Chicken, 1/2 cup Quinoa or Brown Rice, 1/4 avocado
2:00pm - Meal #3 - Beef Jerky, 2oz Almonds
4:00pm - Meal #4 - Protein Shake
7:00pm - Meal #5 - Steak or Salmon, brussel sprouts
Above is just a sample diet and can be tweaked to meet your daily needs. For me, it is important to eat enough protein and carbs to fuel recovery. Typically, I like to keep carbs slightly lower, especially if I am trying to lean out.
The fat from this diet comes from the coconut oil, the avocado, almonds, and salmon. All are healthy fats that will boost the metabolism while also aiding in anti-inflammatory responses.
Diet is obviously an important factor in fat loss. You can have the perfect workout accompanied by the best cardio plan, but unless you have the diet to go along with it, you’ll never get the results you want.
This diet is a great starting point and will help you with the results you want. It’s still important that you build on your knowledge of nutrition so you can succeed long term. If you want to learn more, there are plenty of great articles right here on Muscle & Strength.
Coconut Cardio Tips & Training
One of the things you will notice is that the coconut oil will sit on top of the coffee and you will have to constantly stir it. The solution is to put your coco caffeine concoction in the blender for a quick pulse. This emulsifies the oil and gives the coffee a nice creamy, frothy texture. I use about 12oz coffee to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and then divide that into 2 servings.
If you don’t like the idea of running sprints with 2 cups of hot liquid sloshing around in your gut, try shots of espresso instead. Less liquid, same benefits.
For those of you who are not coffee drinkers at all, you can buy an actual MCT supplement or if you are super hard core, just eat a spoonful of coconut oil by itself.
My favorite form of conditioning is HIIT in the form of some type of sprint work. However, I have found that doing sprint work every day was hindering my performance in the weight room. I will typically alternate between high intensity interval days and medium intensity constant pace days. Here is what a typical week of morning conditioning looks like for me:
20 minutes bike or stairmaster at a constant pace
Air dyne or UBE
10 minutes - 20 seconds easy/10 seconds all out sprint
10 minutes - medium pace
|1a. Battle Ropes||3||1 min|
|1b. Med Ball Slams||3||1 min|
|1c. Sledgehammer Slings||3||1 min|
|1d. Bike Sprint||3||1 min|
|1e. Jump Rope||3||1 min|
Hill Sprints 10-15 (outside) or Treadmill Incline Sprints 10 seconds on/10 seconds off as many times as possible (10mph 15% incline)
20 minutes Bike avg 185 Watts
Boxing - 6 x 3 minute rounds Heavy Bag
3-4 mile jog at an easy pace
The above schedule is just an example, I love to change things up and keep my body guessing. I may switch things up depending on how I feel that day or if I am sore from a previous workout. One thing is certain - consistently utilizing Coconut Cardio has yielded great results for me and many of my clients.
I challenge you to follow the conditioning schedule (in addition to your normal weight routine) along with my meal plan for three weeks. I guarantee that by the time 21 days is up you will be so happy with the way you look and feel, you may never switch back to your old ways.