If you do cardio in the morning on an empty stomach, you are putting your muscle gains at risk!

Current theory suggests that, if you want to do cardio exercise to burn fat, first thing in the morning might be best. That is true. However, you definitely don’t want to do it on an empty stomach! Cardio is most effective at burning fat when your body is already depleted of glycogen, because your body has no choice but to use fat for fuel. This is why doing it straight after you wake up is very effective. However, the early morning is also the period when your cortisol levels are at its highest, and cortisol is a catabolic hormone that causes the breakdown of muscle. If you do your exercise on an empty stomach, there is a danger that you will end up burning your muscle proteins rather than fat. The solution is to have a branched chain amino acid drink right after waking up, before your cardio.

First thing in the morning is generally not a good period for your muscles. At this time your cortisol levels are at their peak. Cortisol is the stress hormone. One of its functions is to increase blood sugar levels and it does that by breaking down muscle protein so the free amino acids can be turned into glucose in the liver through a process known as gluconeogenesis. Cortisol also directly inhibits protein synthesis. You would think that if energy were needed cortisol would also help burn fat. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather than oxidizing fat for energy cortisol seems to be just shifting it around the body, so it accumulates in the central area and around organs.

Although cortisol is released in response to stress, its level, like that of many other hormones, is also controlled by the circadian cycle, and are highest in the morning. Assuming your day lacks any unusual stresses first thing after you wake up is probably the time when your body is at its most catabolic state and your muscles are in the greatest danger of getting wasted away. On the other hand, this is the time when your glycogen stores are also low, because you’ve not taken up any food when you were sleeping, so from that point of view it is a good time to do cardio exercise to burn up fat. You just need to not exercise on an empty stop, but instead consume something that will stop cortisol from breaking up your proteins.

The branched chain amino acid (BCAA) group consists of three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine. They have two very important functions that protect your muscles from the breakdown by cortisol. First of all they stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit protein breakdown. In addition they actually inhibit cortisol release. So they might decrease the amount of cortisol in your system first thing in the morning, and they will blunt its muscle degrading actions.

If you are going to take a BCAA supplement before your fat-burning workout in the morning, you might take one that not only has BCAA, but also other amino acids and supplements that will help you burn fat and preserve muscle. Xbrain’s AminoCharged is a unique blend of amino acids and other biochemical that will do exactly that. Apart from functional amounts of high quality BCAAs it contains L-carnitine tartrate. This is very significant if you need to burn fat, since carnitine is essential for lipid metabolism. When you exercise during a time of no glycogen you force your body to use fats for energy. First, your fats get broken down releasing triglycerides. Triglycerides in turn release free fatty acids. Energy can be obtained from fatty acids but first they have to enter the mitochondria. Carnitine acts as a transport system carrying fatty acids across the mitochondrial membranes where they can undergo beta-oxidation for energy. Without carnitine the body cannot use fats for fuel and is forced to break down muscle and use the free amino acids for energy. By taking AminoCharged you are not only protecting your muscle from degradation, but also ensuring that you will lose the maximum amount of fat during your cardio.

Xbrain’s AminoCharged also contains nucleotides. Nucleotides are of great interest to sports nutritionists since they have many benefits that are particularly important for athletes and bodybuilders. In two independent clinical studies conducted by researchers in the University of Hull nucleotides were shown to be able to decrease the level of cortisol. The nucleotides will therefore act synergistically with BCAAs to blunt the catabolic effect of high levels of cortisol in the morning. Since one of the functions of cortisol is to block the release of testosterone, the combination of BCAAs and nucleotides should also result in higher testosterone levels. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which inhibits protein degradation and stimulates protein synthesis, and should protect your muscles from being degraded to provide fuel for the cardio exercise. Nucleotides of course also have other general health benefits, including boosting the immune system and ensuring a healthy gastro intestinal tract. Nucleotide supplements will protect you from upper respiratory tract infections and other opportunistic pathogens and ensure that you absorb nutrients properly from your diet.

Another hormone that play an important part in controlling the rate of protein synthesis and the balance between muscle gain and breakdown is the growth hormone (GH) released from the anterior pituitary. Like cortisol GH release is dependent on the circadian cycle, but unlike cortisol the highest level of GH are released at night during the first stage of sleep. GH is an anabolic hormone, it stimulates protein synthesis, prevents protein breakdown, and causes muscle gain. By the early morning GH levels are falling, and, under normal circumstances, it might not play a significant role in blocking the catabolic actions of cortisol. However, AminoCharged also contains the amino acid L-glutamine, and glutamine stimulates the release of growth hormone. Glutamine is also the most common amino acid found in our proteins and raises the body’s positive nitrogen balance, so there is no need to breakdown muscle proteins to release amino acids for energy.

Early morning is the perfect time to do cardio exercise if your aim is to burn fat. After a night’s fast your glycogen stores are depleted so the body cannot use carbohydrates as a source of energy. However, your aim here is to force your body to burn fats, rather than breakdown your muscle and use the free amino acids as fuel. You definitely don’t want to consume carbohydrates before your cardio workout, because that would stop your body burning fat for energy. The best strategy is to take a branched chain amino acids drink. BCAAs inhibit protein breakdown and block the release of cortisol while also stimulating the release of testosterone. They will therefore protect your muscles and force your body to burn fat. If you take a supplement like Xbrain’s AminoCharged, you will get, in addition to the BCAAs, carnitine, which is necessary for the beta-oxidation of lipids, glutamine, which raises GH levels, and nucleotides, which also inhibit cortisol, as well as a multivitamin and mineral complex to maintain your general health. The AminoCharged supplement is perfectly formulated to protect your muscle proteins from degradation early in the morning and force your body to burn fat during cardio exercise.

Further Reading:

Branched chain amino acids stimulate protein synthesis and block protein degradation:


Nucleotides inhibit cortisol release:



Glutamine stimulates growth hormone release: