When Is The Best Time To Workout For Weight Loss

There is no best time to workout for weight loss. The best time to exercise is the time that you WILL actually exercise!

But there are some other things you can do to help ensure that you’ll get in a good workout.

First, find a workout buddy – it’s much easier to skip out on a workout if you don’t have someone counting on you. If your friend doesn’t live close by, consider using an app like Couch To 5K or Runkeeper to find a virtual running partner.

Second, set aside time in your schedule every week to work out – even if it’s just 30 minutes. If possible, do this at the same time each day so it becomes part of your routine and increases the likelihood that you’ll follow through with it.

Finally, think about what motivates you most when it comes to exercising – maybe it’s listening to music or watching TV while working out so that you’re not just staring at the wall or floor!

When Is The Best Time To Workout For Weight Loss

photo of man lifting weights

What’s the Best Time of Day to Exercise? It Depends on Your Goals

Maybe that’s before or after work. Or when the gym offers free daycare. Or when our favorite instructor teaches our favorite class.

That’s why we call it a “routine.” And if the results are the same, it’s hard to imagine changing it up.

But what if the results aren’t the same?

They may not be, according to a new study from a research team at Skidmore College. The results of a 12-week exercise program were different for morning vs. evening workouts.

Women who worked out in the morning lost more fat, while those who trained in the evening gained more upper-body strength and power. As for men, the performance improvements were similar no matter when they exercised. But those who did so in the evening had a significant drop in blood pressure, among other benefits.

The study is part of a growing body of research showing different results for different times of day among different populations. As it turns out, when you exercise can ultimately have a big effect. And we’re not just talking strength and fat loss, but also heart health, mood, and quality of sleep.

An Accidental Discovery

The original goal of the Skidmore study was to test a unique fitness program with a group of healthy, fit, and extremely active adults in early middle age.

The program includes four workouts a week, each with a different focus: strength, steady-pace endurance, high-intensity intervals, and flexibility (traditional stretching combined with yoga and Pilates exercises).

But because the group was so large – 27 women and 20 men completed the 3-month program – they had to split them into morning and evening workout groups.Slideshow

Man working out

It wasn’t until researchers looked at the results that they saw the differences between morning and evening exercise, says lead author Paul Arciero, PhD.

Arciero stresses that participants in every group got leaner and stronger. But the women who worked out in the morning got much bigger reductions in body fat and body-fat percentage than the evening group. Meanwhile, women in the evening group got much bigger gains in upper-body strength, power, and muscular endurance than their morning counterparts.

Among the men, the evening group had significantly larger improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the percentage of fat they burned for energy, along with a bigger drop in feelings of fatigue.

Strategic Timing for Powerful Results

Some of these findings are consistent with previous research. For example, a study published in 2021 showed that the ability to exert high effort and express strength and power peaks in the late afternoon, about the same time that your core body temperature is at its highest point.

On the other hand, you’ll probably perform better in the morning when the activity requires a lot of skill and coordination or depends on strategic decision-making.

The findings apply to both men and women.

Performance aside, exercise timing might offer strong health benefits for men with type 2 diabetes, or at high risk for it.

A 2020 study showed that men who exercised between 3 and 6 p.m. saw dramatic improvements in blood sugar management and insulin sensitivity, compared to a group that worked out between 8 and 10 a.m.

They also lost more fat during the 12-week program, even though they were doing the exact same workouts.

Train Consistently, Sleep Well

When you exercise can affect your sleep quality in many ways, says McMaster University neuroscientist Jennifer Heisz, PhD, author of Move the Body, Heal the Mind: Overcome Anxiety, Depression, and Dementia and Improve Focus, Creativity, and Sleep.

First, she says, “exercise helps you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper at night.” (The only exception is if you exercise so intensely or so close to bedtime that your heart rate is still elevated.)

Second, “exercising at a consistent time every day helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.” It doesn’t matter if the exercise is in the morning, evening, or anywhere in between. As long as it’s predictable, it will help you fall asleep and wake up at the same times.

Outdoor exercise is even better, she says. The sun is the most powerful regulator of the circadian clock and works in tandem with physical activity.

Third, exercising at specific times can help you overcome jet lag or adjust to an earlier or later shift at work.

“Exercising at 7 a.m. or between 1 and 4 p.m. helps your circadian clock to ‘fall back’ in time, making it easier to wake up earlier,” Heisz says. If you need to train your body to wake up later in the morning, try working out between 7 and 10 p.m.

All Exercise Is Good, But the Right Timing Can Make It Even Better

“The best time to exercise is when you can fit it in,” Arciero says. “You’ve got to choose the time that fits your lifestyle best.”

But context matters, he notes.

“For someone needing to achieve an improvement in their risk for cardiometabolic disease,” his study shows an advantage to working out later in the day, especially for men.

If you’re more focused on building upper-body strength and power, you’ll probably get better results from training in the afternoon or evening.

And for fat loss, the Skidmore study shows better results for women who did morning workouts.

And if you’re still not sure? Try sleeping on it – preferably after your workout.

Best Time to Exercise

Should we be exercising in the morning, afternoon or at night if we want to lose weight and maximize fat loss?

This article examines the pros and cons of exercising at various times throughout the day in order to help you plan your workouts to ensure you burn the maximum number of calories or kilojoules and in doing so move you closer to achieving your weight loss goal and becoming a happier, healthier you.

Morning Exercise

Some of us are “morning people” and some of us aren’t.

Those of us who are swear by morning exercise. For the rest of us, the thought of getting up an hour earlier than we absolutely have to sends shivers of panic down our spines!

Assuming those non-morning people among us can drag ourselves out of bed at an ungodly hour (especially in the middle of winter); there is another hurdle to be overcome – the thought of exercising on a totally empty stomach!

Putting this aside for a moment, there are some good reasons to exercise in the morning and also some very good reasons why it might not be a great idea.

Let’s have a look at each of these under the headings of pros and cons.

Morning exercise pros

Exercising in the morning can:

  • Get our metabolisms off to a flying start helping us burn more calories throughout the day
  • Promote more fat burning because our depleted glycogen stores force our bodies to turn to fat
  • Produce endorphins that stimulates us and helps us get off to a positive start to the day
  • Act like a cup of coffee and wake us up
  • Help us exercise more consistently by minimizing distractions
  • Can create time for exercise by forcing us to get up a bit earlier
  • Improve energy levels for the rest of the day ahead
  • Improve our mental sharpness for hours after
  • Allow us to exercise unaffected by summer heat
  • Minimize our exposure to air pollution exercising outside
  • Make it easier to get on machines in the gym without waiting and when time limits don’t apply

Morning exercise cons

As well as having many positives, morning exercise also has some negatives.

Included in these are the facts that morning exercise can:

  • Force us to workout with less than optimal energy levels
  • Promote injuries by forcing us to workout with cold, stiff muscles
  • If exercising before eating, muscle (as well as fat) can be used as a fuel source
  • Make it difficult for us to form a habit for exercise (if we are not “morning people”)
  • Put some of us at higher risk for heart attack (research suggests a generalized increased risk)

Afternoon Exercise

Contrary to the popular belief that exercising in the morning is best, some research shows that the ideal time to exercise from a physiological perspective is actually in the afternoon.

Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of working out in the afternoon.

Afternoon exercise pros

Exercising in the afternoon can:

  • Increase exercise performance – our body temperature is ideal & muscles at peak strength
  • Prevent injuries – our muscles are sufficiently warm and most of us are alert in the late afternoon
  • Improve performance – the circadian rhythms in our brains are in an ideal state
  • Expel our bodies of stress that has accumulated during the day
  • Give us something to look forward to before relaxing in the evening
  • Make exercise seem easier – studies show perceived exertion of exercise is lower late in the day
  • Make exercise convenient – exercising during our lunch break for example
  • Make it easier to “partner up” or find a workout partner
  • Can help lower the amount of food we eat – by helping us to avoid large lunches for example
  • Can help reduce the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
  • Help us maximize our fitness and muscle size and strength – research shows 3-7 pm is best

Afternoon exercise cons

As well as having many positives, afternoon exercise does have some potential negatives.

Among them, afternoon exercise can:

  • Impose time limits which may not allow us to get in a full workout
  • Conflict with distractions and other commitments that prevent us from exercising at all
  • Research suggests lung function is worst at noon which could affect our aerobic performance
  • Gyms are usually at their busiest around 5 to 6pm making it hard to get on equipment
  • Gyms sometimes have 20 minute time limits on aerobics equipment during the afternoon

Evening Exercise

For some of us the evening is the ideal time to exercise.

According to some research studies on lung function, body rhythms, temperature and hormone levels, the best time to exercise is around 6 pm.

Here are some pros and cons of working out in the evening.

Pros:

  • For most people, body temperature and hormone levels peak at 6 pm
  • Muscles are warm and flexible
  • Some of us are able to workout harder late in the day because the perceived exertion is lower
  • Can help regulate the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
  • Late evenings don’t typically have the level of disruptions or distractions as other times of the day
  • Exercising at the gym is often easier later in the evening when other members have gone home
  • Late evening workouts can de-stress us and help us turn off our brain after a day of stimulation
  • Exercising at night can make us more relaxed and tired facilitating a better night’s sleep

Cons:

  • Distractions and conflicting commitments are more likely in the evening than in the mornings
  • Exercising late at night may energize some of us making it difficult to get off to sleep
  • Exercising outside at night is obviously more dangerous than during the morning or afternoon
  • During summer, evenings are the hottest part of the day making it uncomfortable to exercise
  • Night exercise doesn’t enjoy the “afterburn” effect – our metabolism drops when we fall asleep

The bottom line

When it comes to exercise, the bottom line is that it is more important that we workout than when we workout.

If we can’t workout in the morning, or don’t want to but can workout in the afternoon or evening, we should do it.

Consistency is one of the most important considerations when it comes to when we work out.

If we consistently exercise at the same time each day, our ‘internal clock’ will adjust in time so that we have the energy and become mentally and physical ready to workout.

This point is particularly important if we are training for a specific event.

If we are training for a fun run that is going to start at 7.30 in the morning, it is a good idea to do most of our training at this time too.

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If you currently have an exercise time and routine that is working for you, stick with it.

The time of day may make a difference for intense exercise, but for something like an easy walk, the difference between working out in the morning, afternoon or evening is likely to be negligible at best.

Conclusion

Do you know what the best time to exercise is in order to maximize fat and weight loss?

This article examined the pros and cons of exercising at various times throughout the day in order to help us all get more from our workouts and move that much closer to achieving our weight loss goals.

Regardless of what the research says, every individual is unique, and as such, each person’s body chemistry and inner clock is different. What works best for another person may not work for us. In fact, what works best for us today may change in a couple of months or years.

The most important thing about exercise is that we do some. It’s far less important what we do and when we do it.

The best time for all of us to exercise is the time that is free of interruptions, when we have sufficient energy and body temperature, and that can allow us to exercise as consistently as possible over the long term.

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