When you're exercising for weight loss, you want to maximize your efforts in every way possible. One topic of debate is what time of day is the best for working out to lose weight. Some professionals claim that certain times of day will maximize fat utilization, while others believe it makes no difference. Before you rearrange your schedule to train at a specific hour, check out the research to see if it's worth the hassle.
If improving your sleep is an additional benefit you seek from exercise, morning workouts may be best. The more rested you are before a workout, the harder you will be able to train and the more calories you may burn. Additionally, a 2010 study in the "Journal of Physiology" found that when participants worked out in the morning before eating, they were able to utilize a greater percentage of fat to fuel their exercise than those who trained later in the day. This was due to the limited carbohydrates available from being in a fasted state while sleeping.
Your body is largely controlled by circadian rhythms, which help to regulate body temperature, blood pressure and metabolism. According to the American Council on Exercise, some studies have revealed that many people have the most productive exercise while training when body temperatures are the highest. The body temperatures of most people peak in the late afternoon or early evening, and are the lowest during early and midmorning hours. When your body is warmer, your perceived exertion rates are lower, muscles are warmer, strength peaks, and heart rate and blood pressure are lower. In turn, this allows you to sustain longer, more intense workouts -- burning more calories and aiding in weight loss.
Whenever You Can Commit
The differences between the fat-burning benefits of morning and afternoon workouts are debatable, so instead of basing your workout times on when you think you may burn more fat, exercise at a time that you can stay committed to. The biggest determinant of success in any weight-loss program is your ability to stick with it. If you're not a morning person, you may have trouble committing to a morning routine. Exercise at the time when you feel energized and have the fewest time constraints, and you will be most successful at losing weight in the long term.
Consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Although fasted-state cardio may be beneficial for weight loss, it isn't for everyone. Those with diabetes or hypoglycemia should not train on an empty stomach. If you feel faint or dizzy at any point during a workout, stop immediately. If you work out in the morning, make sure you hydrate adequately before bed so you aren't dehydrated during exercise.
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Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.