When is the best time to workout for weight loss?

by Alex Chris on April 18, 2012 · 2 comments

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People who exercise want to utilize their time efficiently and get the most out of their exercise sessions. Knowing the best time to work out for weight loss can help you get faster results in less time. This is not just for athletes but for the average person who wants to use exercise to lose pounds or get in better shape.

Time is just one of the factors that affect your workout performance

As you will read below, there are studies that show when is the best time of the day to exercise for better fat burning results and for muscle building but time is just one of the factors that can affect your workout performance. Many other factors like the intensity and duration of the exercise play a very important role and these should not be neglected.

Best time to work out for fat burning is the morning

When you exercise in the morning your body tends to burn more fat. The main reasons why this is happening are:

  1. Low blood sugar levels force the body to look for other energy sources so it starts converting fat from the reserves to fuel.
  2. Some hormones that accelerate fad burning (like cortisol) are at high levels in the morning.

Benefits of exercising in the morning

  • People who participated in a study about the effects of morning exercise were more likely to stick to a workout after doing their morning exercise. In other words people who can exercise in the morning are more likely to build a routine and follow that for a long time.
  • For some people it is easier to exercise in the morning since in the afternoon they get tired and lose their desire to workout.
  • It can be a stressful task for the body. This does not apply to everyone but depending on your hormone levels you may find it very stressful to exercise in the morning.
  • Intense morning exercise may lead to muscle loss instead of fat loss. If you exercise on an empty stomach and do a very intense workout your body may end up utilizing muscle mass for energy. That’s why it is important to have a good protein breakfast especially if you plan to exercise hard in the morning.
  • If you exercise before breakfast, you may not be able to keep the intensity high since your energy levels are low.

Disadvantages of morning exercise

  • It can be a stressful task for the body. This does not apply to everyone but depending on your hormone levels you may find it very stressful to exercise in the morning.
  • Intense morning exercise may lead to muscle loss instead of fat loss. If you exercise on an empty stomach and do a very intense workout your body may end up utilizing muscle mass for energy. That’s why it is important to have a good protein breakfast especially if you plan to exercise hard in the morning.
  • If you exercise before breakfast, you may not be able to keep the intensity high since your energy levels are low.

Best time to workout for performance is the afternoon

Exercising in the afternoon can give you better performance than exercising in the morning. Several studies analyzed the performance of a group of people exercising in the morning and in the afternoon. The afternoon sessions produced better results in terms of performance, strength and power. Participants reported that their bodies’ response was better and that they were able to push more and achieve more repetitions than in the morning.

What is the best time to workout for weight loss for you?

The different studies and theories are useful and can be used for educating yourself about best practices but when it comes to when is the best time to workout it’s up to you to decide. Some tips to help you out:

  1. Try to do some cardio exercises in the morning (e.g. walking for about 10 minutes) and see how it feels. If you think this is something you can do for a long time try to add jogging as well (for 3-5 minutes) in your schedule.
  2. If you exercise on an empty stomach and feel tired or weak try to eat breakfast first and then do your workout. Learn more about GI and how to control your blood sugar levels through food.
  3. You can always combine your morning and afternoon workouts for better results. For example you can do a quick 10 minute cardio session in the morning and then a 20 minute intense session in the afternoon. This will also have a positive effect in EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) that will help you burn more calories after exercise.
  4. Don’t do very intense exercise in the morning without having a good breakfast, as explained above this may lead to muscle loss which is not recommended.
  5. Have in mind that too intense exercise late in the afternoon may negatively affect your sleep. It is better to exercise at least 4 hours before going to bed.
  6. Read our fitness tips for more ideas on how to make your workouts more efficient.

Exercise is important for health and weight loss and you should allocate some of your time per day to exercise either in the morning or afternoon. I personally like to exercise in the morning and this helps me to wake up and feel energetic throughout the day but this does not work for all people. Find what works best for you and stick to it for a number of weeks if you want to see results. (You can also read: how to get motivated to start working out again). Finally, have in mind that according to the US department of Health the recommended time you should spend on moderate aerobic physical activity for adults is 150 minutes per week or 75 minutes per week for vigorous intensity exercise.

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Alex Chris
About the author

Alex is editor-in-chief of Calorie Secrets. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also contact Alex for any comments or suggestions about the web site.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dani September 15, 2013 at 7:09 am

I love that you go into when is the best time to exercise. I have been testing this theory for years! I have found either early morning or at night are best. If you have trouble sleeping then night time exercise may not work. My favorite website that keeps me motivated while recording my weigh ins daily is WeightLossTournaments.com Check it out most of it is completely free of charge. Love the subject matter, keep it up!

Dani

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Dani September 17, 2013 at 5:38 am

I have found that not exercising 4 hours before going to bed from the above article is right on the money! It took me awhile to realize that I sleep much better if exercise earlier in the day. I got bad advice from a friend who said you sleep better if exercise a couple hours before bed, but that is just not the case!

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