If you want to burn calories and lose fat faster without even breaking a sweat, then you’ve come to the right place.
You’re not going to need any special equipment, gadgets, or skills.
You’re not going to need to track your heart rate, time your intervals, or log your miles.
All you’re going to do is something that you’ve been doing every day since you were a toddler, and that you’ll do for the rest of your life.
It’s walking, of course, and while it’s no high-intensity interval training, it deserves more attention than it gets.
So in this article, you’re going to learn why walking is an “unsung hero” of cardio workouts and how to use it to burn more fat without burning yourself out.
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Table of Contents
Walking doesn’t seem to qualify as a bonafide “cardio workout” because, well, it’s easy. And when it comes to exercise, “easy” is usually equated with “worthless.”
It shouldn’t be, though.
Case in point:
A study conducted by scientists at California State University with college-aged men and women found that subjects that ran a 10-minute mile burned about 190 calories.
Subjects that walked a 19-minute mile burned fewer calories, of course, but it’s not as few as you might think–about 111 calories.
Again, this isn’t going to move the needle like high-intensity interval training will, but if you do that several times per week, it can add up.
Other research shows that walking just a few miles per week is enough to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality (death from any cause).
Walking has other benefits too…
You keep stress at bay primarily by managing how much you eat and exercise. And this is where many people go astray.
Well, walking is great in this regard because, unlike more intense forms of exercise, it places very little stress on the body.
Thus, if walking is your only form of exercise while you’re dieting, you probably couldn’t do enough to risk overtraining.
It also means that you can safely add several hours of walking per week on top of an already rigorous exercise schedule.
Research shows that cardio workouts can directly impair strength and muscle hypertrophy gains.
This is why strength athletes dramatically reduce or eliminate cardiovascular work altogether leading up to a competition, and why many bodybuilders generally keep cardio to a minimum while “bulking.”
If you look closer at the science, though, you notice that not all forms of cardio are equally detrimental to weightlifters.
There are two likely reasons for this:
1. Cardio that mimics the biomechanical movement of muscle-building exercises (the squat and row in the case of cycling and rowing) involves and trains the same muscles.
Even when you’re doing a highly anaerobic activity like sprinting or weightlifting, your body’s aerobic system is still producing a significant percentage of the necessary energy.
Thus, if you improve a muscle’s aerobic capabilities through certain aerobic exercises like cycling, you will see an improvement in your anaerobic capabilities as well (like squatting, for example).
2. Cardio that is low-impact doesn’t require much recovery.
It causes very little soft tissue damage, adding little training stress for the body to cope with.
Now, walking doesn’t mimic a muscle-building movement and thus won’t likely improve your performance in the gym, but it’s as low-impact as you can get.
And that means you can use it to burn calories and without getting in the way of your progress in the weight room.
Walking may not burn many calories, but the calories it does burn come primarily from fat stores.
This is why a very low-intensity activity like walking taps mainly into fat stores for energy, whereas high-intensity exercise pull much more heavily from carbohydrate (glycogen) stores.
And this is also why some people think low-intensity steady-state cardio is best for losing weight.
Well, it’s not (research clearly shows that high-intensity training burns more fat over time), but it’s certainly the easiest and least stressful way to augment weight loss..
The biggest downside to walking as a cardio workout is it doesn’t burn all that much energy (about 300 to 350 calories per hour).
That means that even when your diet is right, you’d need to do quite a bit of walking (several hours per week) to see any noticeable changes in your body composition.
That said, when it comes to losing fat, every calorie burned helps, so even relatively small amounts of walking will help you reach your goals faster.
This is especially true if you do other exercise as well.
For example, if you add weightlifting to the mix, you can dramatically increase fat loss.
The common layout is like this:
- 3 to 5 1-hour weightlifting sessions per week
- 2 to 3 25-minute HIIT sessions per week
- 2 to 3 30 to 45-minute walks per week
If you do that and follow a proper meal plan, you will lose fat (and not muscle!) faster than you ever have before.
If you’ve ever looked for advice on how to lose fat faster–and especially hip, belly, and thigh fat–you’ve probably read about exercising on an empty stomach.
Well, exercising when your stomach feels “empty” won’t necessarily help you lose fat faster, but exercising in a “fasted” state will.
This distinction is important because your stomach is empty when your body is in a fasted state, but your stomach feeling empty doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a fasted state.
What exactly is a fasted state, then?
Well, it has to do with how your body processes and absorbs the food you eat.
When you eat a meal, it gets broken down into various molecules that your cells can use, and these molecules are released into your blood. Insulin is released as well, and its job is to shuttle these molecules into cells.
Depending on how much food you eat, your insulin levels can remain elevated for several hours (anywhere from 3 to 6+).
When your body is digesting and absorbing what you’ve eaten, your body is in a “fed” or “postprandial” state (prandial means “having to do with a meal”). During this period, insulin levels remain elevated.
Once the meal has been fully processed and absorbed, insulin levels drop to a “minimum” (or “baseline”) level, and your body enters a “fasted” or “postabsorptive” state.
Every day your body moves between “fed” and “fasted’ (or “postprandial” and “postabsorptive”) states.
So, to recap:
- Exercise done when insulin levels are elevated and food is still being processed and absorbed is “fed” training.
- Exercise done when insulin levels are at baseline and food is no longer being processed and absorbed is “fasted” training.
Now, research shows that fasted training offers several unique fat loss benefits, including an increase in both lipolysis and fat oxidation rates and improved blood flow to the notoriously “stubborn” abdominal region.
(Go here to get the whole rundown on how this works and why.)
These fat burning benefits can be amplified with the following supplements as well.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I want you to know that the supplements I recommend in this article are not just what I personally use but they are from my supplement line, LEGION.
As you probably know, the supplement industry is notorious for its lies and shenanigans. The truth is the majority of the supplements you see in the magazines and on the shelves aren’t going to help you reach your goals faster.
That’s why I decided to create the products I myself have always wanted: science-based formulations, clinically effective dosages of all ingredients, no fillers or unnecessary junk, and natural sweetening and flavoring.
And if you like what you see and decide to support my work…you’re awesome. 🙂 It’s because of people like you that I get to spend my time writing articles like this that help others get into the best shape of their lives.
β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (HMB)
There is a downside to fasted training that you should know about: muscle breakdown is dramatically increased.
This is bad simply because too much muscle breakdown impairs total muscle growth over time. Preventing this is simple, though.
β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (also known as HMB) is a substance formed when your body metabolizes the amino acid leucine, which is an amino acid that directly stimulates protein synthesis.
HMB is often sold as a muscle-building aid but the research purported to demonstrate these benefits is shaky at best, hindered most by design flaws. Thus, I’m not comfortable making any claims about muscle growth.
There is one benefit of HMB that’s well established, however: it’s an extremely effective anti-catabolic agent.
That is, it’s very good at preventing muscle breakdown, which means you will recover faster from your workouts and experience less muscle soreness (and the free acid form shows the most promise in this regard).
It also has no effect whatsoever on insulin levels, which means it can’t break your fasted state.
This makes HMB perfect for use with fasted training. Its powerful anti-catabolic effects and non-existent insulin effects means you reap all the fat loss benefits of training fasted without any of the problems relating to muscle loss or insulin secretion.
It’s also worth noting that HMB is superior to leucine in suppressing muscle breakdown because it’s more anti-catabolic than its “parent” amino acid.
In terms of which specific HMB supplement I recommend, I’ve included a clinically effective dosage in every serving of my pre-workout fat burner FORGE.
FORGE is a fat burner made specifically for use with fasted training and it contains clinically effective dosages of…
- HMB. As you now know, HMB is very good at preventing muscle breakdown, and this means you will recover faster from your workouts and experience less muscle soreness.
- Yohimbine. Research shows that yohimbine enables your body to reduce fat stores faster, and it’s particularly useful as you get leaner and are battling with stubborn fat holdouts.
- Citicoline. CDP-choline (also known as citicoline) is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain that increases levels of another chemical called phosphatidylcholine, which is vital for brain function.
Research shows that supplementation with CDP-choline improves attentional focus, and I included this in FORGE because most people find fasted training more mentally draining than fed training and CDP-choline can help counteract this.
The bottom line is FORGE helps you lose fat–and “stubborn” fat in particular–faster, preserve muscle, and maintain training intensity and mental sharpness.
As weight loss boils down to energy consumed vs. energy expended, caffeine helps you lose fat by increasing your body’s daily energy expenditure.
Part of maximizing the fat loss benefits of caffeine is preventing your body from building up too much of a tolerance, however. The best way to do this is to limit intake, of course.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Before training, supplement with 3 – 6 mg caffeine per kg of body weight. If you’re not sure of your caffeine sensitivity, start with 3 mg/kg and work up from there.
- Keep your daily. intake at or below 6 mg per kg of body weight. Don’t have 6 mg/kg before training and then drink a couple of coffees throughout the day.
- Do 1 – 2 low-caffeine days per week, and 1 no-caffeine day per week. A low day should be half your normal intake, and a no day means less than 50 mg of caffeine (you can have a cup or two of tea, but no coffee, caffeine pills, etc.).
Personally I get my caffeine from my pre-workout PULSE, which contains a dehydrated and concentrated form of caffeine (caffeine anhydrous) shown to be more effective for improving performance than what is naturally found in beverages like coffee.
PULSE also contains clinically effective dosages of 4 other ingredients scientifically proven to improve workout performance:
- Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and can accelerate muscle growth.
- Citrulline Malate. Citrulline is an amino acid that improves muscle endurance, relieves muscle soreness, and improves aerobic performance.
- Betaine. Betaine is a compound found in plants like beets that improves muscle endurance, increases strength, and increases human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 production in response to acute exercise.
- Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea that reduces the effects of mental and physical stress, increases the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow, and improves alertness, focus, attention, memory, mental task performance, and mood.
The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.
Yohimbine is made from the Pausinystalia yohimbe plant, and it helps the body “tap into” fat stores.
(Not a very technical explanation, I know–if you want to know exactly how it works, check out this article of mine on how to lose stubborn fat.)
I’ve cut both with and without fasted training and yohimbine and I can say with absolutely certainty that with is noticeably faster. So much so that I think the biggest benefits of fasted training are that it lets you use yohimbine and it makes the other supplements discussed in this article more effective.
By itself, fasted training will make a slight difference in how quickly you lose fat. Combined with these supplements, however, it’s quite dramatic.
In terms of dosages, research has shown that .2 mg/kg of body weight is sufficient for fat loss purposes, and that ingesting it prior to exercise is particularly effective.
Some people get overly jittery from yohimbine, so I recommend you start with .1 mg/kg of body weight to assess tolerance. If you feel fine, then increase to the clinically effective dosage of .2 mg/kg.
Furthermore, yohimbine can raise blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, I don’t recommend you use it.
In terms of which specific yohimbine supplement I recommend, you’re probably not surprised that I’ve included a clinically effective dosage in every serving of my pre-workout fat burner FORGE.
PHOENIX Fat Burner
PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is quite a bit different than FORGE’s and is actually made to be “stacked” with it (taken together).
PHOENIX helps you burn fat in three different ways:
- It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
- It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
- It increases the feeling of fullness from food.
It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…
- Synephrine. This increases both basal metabolic rate and lipolysis, inhibits the activity of certain fat cell receptors that prevent fat mobilization, and increases the thermic effect of food (the “energy cost” of metabolizing food).
- Naringin. This stimulates the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in the breakdown of fat cells, and that it activates a type of receptor in fat cells that regulates fat mobilization (the PPARα receptor).
Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.
- Hesperidin. Like naringin, this also stimulates the production of adiponectin and activates the PPARa receptor. It also improves blood flow and reduces the inflammation of blood vessels.
- Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This inhibits the activity of a different enzyme also responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters that induce lipolysis. It has also been shown to reduce abdominal fat in particular.
- Forskolin. This increases blood plasma and intracellular levels of a molecule known as cAMP. When cAMP is high, it signifies a lack of ATP (the most basic form of cellular energy in the body) and thus initiates a process to make more ATP by burning through energy reserves (body fat).
- And more…
Here’s what I take before my fasted training sessions:
(NOTE: Taking green tea extract, which is in PHOENIX, on an empty stomach can make some people nauseous. If that happens to you, take it with food and you’ll be fine.)
When I’m dieting for fat loss, I lift weights in a fasted state 5 days per week and do 25 to 30 minutes of HIIT cardio in a fasted state 3 to 4 times per week. I also walk my dogs for about 15 to 20 minutes per day.
On the days where I’m doing both weightlifting and cardio, I take the above before both training sessions and have no issues.
Many people hate cardio workouts because they think anything but all-out, “run for your life” intensity is basically a waste of time.
Well, they’re wrong.
When you know what you’re doing with your diet, even the easiest form of cardio–walking–can improve your health and help you lose weight faster.
This is even true for people that already have a rigorous exercise routine of intense weightlifting and cardio workouts.
So, if you want to start doing cardio and want to start slow, start with walking. And when you’re ready to ratchet up the difficulty (and benefits), add high-intensity interval training.