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The Best Time to Exercise to Lose Weight, According to Certified Trainers
author:Adam Meyersource:EatingWell 2024-04-24 [Health]
Fitness experts reveal how exercise timing can impact your metabolism and support healthy weight loss goals.

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, it’s crucial to understand how exercise timing can affect your weight loss goals. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for good overall health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.1 Some research suggests that exercising between 7 and 9 A.M. is best for helping with weight management.2

Ma T, Bennett T, Lee CD, Wicklow M. The diurnal pattern of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and obesity: a cross-sectional analysisObesity. 2023;31(10):2638-2647. doi:10.1002/oby.23851

 But what about those with busy schedules or obligations where morning exercise isn’t an option?  Can you still maintain a healthy weight if you work out in the afternoon? When is the best time to exercise for weight loss?

To answer these questions and more, we dove into the latest research and consulted certified personal trainers who share their expert insights on the best time to exercise to lose weight. Keep reading to learn more.


The Science Behind Exercise Timing and Weight Loss


Exercise timing can significantly impact your metabolism, which plays a crucial role in weight loss.34 Your metabolism is the process by which your body transforms food into energy. Morning exercise has been shown to help kickstart your metabolism and keep it elevated throughout the day.5 This can lead to more calories burned during and after workouts. However, the most critical factor in your exercising timing is keeping it consistent.

“The time of day that’s best for weight loss is the one you can stick to over the long term,” says TJ Mentus, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews. One essential factor in achieving your weight loss goals is a healthy caloric deficit, which means eating fewer daily calories than your body burns. “Working out helps to create this deficit by burning more calories than you consume,” adds Mentus. 



The Benefits of Morning Exercise


Might Help Your Body Burn More Fat 

One small study with only male participants found that those who exercised in the morning before breakfast burned twice as much fat as those who worked out after breakfast.6

Edinburgh RM, Bradley HE, Nurul-Fadhilah Abdullah NF, et al. Lipid metabolism links nutrient-exercise timing to insulin sensitivity in men classified as overweight or obeseJCEM. 2020;105(3):660-676. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgz104

 That’s because when you exercise while fasting, you have lower insulin levels, which helps your body to burn more fat. These findings suggest that morning exercise before breakfast can help your body use fat as an energy source and support healthy weight loss.

May Help You Be More Consistent

Many people find that morning workouts are easier to stick to because they’re less likely to be interrupted by other commitments or distractions that can arise later in the day. Data has found that regular morning exercise can lead to more frequent exercise and better support weight loss than exercising later in the day.5

Mike Masi, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews, says, “Morning exercise makes it easier to stick with your routine when you start your day with it. When waiting until later in the day, other obligations can come up that can get in the way of working out, or you may feel too tired from the day. You can plan to work out in the morning before you need to do anything else.”

May Improve Your Mood and Energy Levels

Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that help alleviate stress and anxiety.7 Additionally, exposure to natural light during morning exercise can regulate your circadian rhythm, leading to better sleep quality and overall mood.8 Doing your morning exercise outdoors or using bright indoor lighting to simulate natural light when possible helps you reap these benefits even more.

May Support Your Weight Loss Goals

One small study found that morning exercise improved cardiometabolic health by reducing abdominal fat and blood pressure in women, while men experienced these benefits when exercising in the afternoon.9 Since this study was made in a small sample, more research is needed to confirm these results. 

That said, the timing of exercise alone isn’t a guaranteed solution for weight loss. Maintaining a balanced diet and consistent exercise routine are crucial for achieving your weight loss goals.



The Benefits of Afternoon/Evening Exercise


May Improve Your Athletic Performance

Research suggests that physical performance peaks in the late afternoon or early evening.310 This is because your core body temperature is higher later in the day, your muscles are more flexible, and your handgrip strength is higher. As a result, afternoon or evening exercise may allow you to perform better during workouts, helping you burn more calories and lose weight.

“In the afternoon or early evening, your body is more fully awake and flexible. This can lead to more calories being burned either through a higher intensity or being able to work longer,” says Mentus.

May Increase Your Muscular Strength

While morning exercise may help reduce abdominal fat, afternoon exercise may improve muscular performance in women, per a small study.9 Other studies have observed that participants who exercised in the late afternoon experienced more significant improvements in muscle strength and power compared to those who exercised in the morning.3



What Factors to Consider


Everyone’s schedule, preferences and body respond differently to exercise timing. For some, early morning workouts are energizing and can set a positive tone for the day. Others may find that exercising later in the day helps them unwind and de-stress after a long day. That’s why it’s essential to experiment with exercising at different times of the day to see what works best for you and your lifestyle.

Here are other personal factors to consider, according to Masi:

  • Schedule: Your daily schedule and obligations can dictate when you have time for exercise.
  • Personal Preferences: Some people prefer morning exercise to start their day, while others find evening workouts more enjoyable. If you’re unsure which you prefer, try both and see what feels better for you.
  • Energy Levels: Pay attention to when you typically have the most energy during the day, as this can significantly impact your workout performance.
  • Sleep Chronotype: Your natural sleep patterns, or chronotype, can affect when you have the most energy and impact your workout performance.11

    Liu H, Liang J, Wang K, et al. Mood status response to physical activity and its influence on performance: are chronotype and exercise timing affect? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023;20(4):2822. doi:10.3390/ijerph20042822



The Bottom Line


The best time to exercise for weight loss depends on your preferences, schedule and energy levels. While morning exercise may help improve metabolism and mood, afternoon or early evening workouts can enhance athletic performance and muscle strength. Ultimately, find a time to exercise that you can stick to consistently. Pay attention to how you feel during and after workouts at different times and choose the best time for you.