There has been much discussion about the best time of day to exercise for fat loss. Is exercising first thing in the morning more beneficial, or is afternoon exercise a better choice? In this article, we look at the study, “The efficacy of morning versus evening exercise for weight loss: A randomized controlled trial,” to glean insights into when we should exercise for optimal weight loss and fat loss.
The Role of Circadian Rhythm
The circadian system significantly regulates physiological processes that influence appetite, sleep/wake cycles, and exercise performance. Some studies have found that eating in the morning may have beneficial effects on weight loss compared to other times of the day. Eating early in alignment with the circadian peak in metabolism may be protective, while dining close to the biological night may promote weight gain. (Vidmar et al., 2022). Some have found that intermittent fasting, where meals are eaten first thing in the morning, results in greater weight loss than similar meals eaten in the afternoon. (Brikou et al., 2016; Eom et al., 2022) However, not all studies have found that eating in the morning is superior for weight loss. (Chamorro et al., 2023). Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that physiological responses to exercise could differ in the morning compared to the evening.
Best Time of Day to Exercise Studies
A recent study reported that most individuals (> 75%) would be willing to alter the time of day they exercised if evidence indicated they would gain better results. (Brooker et al., 2021) However, research investigating the influence of exercise timing on weight loss and components of energy balance report mixed findings.(Alizadeh et al., 2017; Di Blasio et al., 2010; Willis et al., 2020) The debate over whether morning exercise or evening exercise is better for weight loss continues. Some studies have found superior weight loss with exercise in the morning compared to exercise in the evening. But exercise, regardless of the time of day, is important in weight management. High volumes of exercise (> 250 min/week) are recommended for individuals to elicit clinically significant weight loss (> 5%). (Donnelly et al., 2009)
When Is the Best Time to Exercise
According to research, morning workouts have various benefits, including setting a healthy tone for the day, enhancing your mood by releasing endorphins, and potentially improving mental alertness. (Reed & Ones, 2006) Some morning exercisers might also find that early workouts boost their energy, helping them stay active throughout the day and burn more calories. (Wheeler et al., 2019)
On the other hand, evening exercise might align better with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Research shows that the body’s core body temperature and hormone levels peak in the late afternoon, leading to improved muscle function and strength gains. (Chtourou & Souissi, 2012) Some have found that evening exercise can help control appetite, reduce the urge for late-night snacking, and promote better sleep quality.
The differences in hormonal responses may lead to greater changes in body composition. For example, Di Blasio et al. found that evening exercisers reduced fat mass to a greater extent than morning exercisers (1.71 kg vs. 0.24 kg, respectively), despite similar adherence rates between groups (83% vs. 87% for morning and evening, respectively). (Di Blasio et al., 2010) Another study observed similar findings with greater weight loss in the self-selected “early-exercise” group (7.2%) compared with “late-exercisers” (2.1%) in their 10-month trial.(Willis et al., 2020)
Hormonal Changes During the Day
Hormonal changes play a significant role in determining the best time to exercise. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is highest in the morning. (Hackney & Walz, 2013) On the other hand, testosterone levels are highest in the afternoon. (Vingren et al., 2010) Additionally, melatonin levels are lowest in the morning and highest at night, making evening workouts more relaxing and promoting better sleep. (Buxton et al., 1997)
While these hormonal changes may indicate that one time of day is better than others for exercise, it is important to remember that individual preferences and schedules should also be considered. Most studies have found no difference in muscle mass between morning and evening workouts. (Seo et al., 2013)Ultimately, consistency is key, regardless of the time of day you choose to work out. By selecting a workout time that aligns with your personal preferences and schedule, you can ensure adherence to a regular exercise routine and enjoy the benefits of working out at any time.
Morning Exercise vs. Afternoon Exercise to Lose Weight
A new study in Obesity re-examined whether exercising in the morning or evening impacts weight loss and fat loss. The subjects were studied over 6 months. Participants were divided into morning exercisers and evening exercisers. They were prescribed 250 min/week of self-paced aerobic exercise for 12 weeks, the dose of exercise recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to elicit clinically significant weight loss. Participants exercised between 06:00 and 09:00 am (Morning Exercise) or 4 pm and 7 pm (evening exercise). Participants in the study wore a heart rate monitor during supervised training sessions to measure exercise intensity.
At the end of the study, there was no difference in fat loss, weight loss, or muscle gain between the morning and afternoon groups. These findings demonstrate that morning and evening exercises can aid in weight and fat loss. However, the best time to exercise may vary based on individual preferences and lifestyle. (Brooker et al., 2023)
Best Time to Exercise: An Individualized Approach
As per Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, the ‘do something’ message is far more important than the ‘do something at a specific time of the day message. This reinforces that the best time to exercise can vary greatly depending on personal schedules, lifestyle, and fitness goals.
The key is consistency, from yoga in the morning to high-intensity workouts in the afternoon or a cycling session in the evening. As a personal trainer would advise, it’s important to pick a time that you can stick to in the long run. Complementing physical activity with proper nutrition is important to fuel your workouts and recovery.
In conclusion, the best time to exercise for weight loss might not be a one-size-fits-all answer. Whether you’re an early bird who enjoys stretching first thing in the morning, or a night owl who prefers evening exercise, what matters most is that you’re moving. Find a routine that works for you, and remember, every bit of movement contributes to your overall health benefits.
Remember, as long as you are staying active; you are contributing to your heart health, mental health, and overall well-being. So let’s get moving! Whether it’s morning, midday, or evening, it’s always a great way to improve your health.
Best Time to Exercise Conclusion
In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the best time to exercise. It largely depends on factors such as the body clock and hormonal changes. However, understanding the science behind it can help you make informed decisions and optimize your workouts for maximum benefits. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, the key is to find a time that works for you and stick to it consistently. So next time you hit the gym or go for a run, keep in mind the timing that suits your body’s needs and goals. Want to learn more about how to optimize your workout routine? Check out our blog on fitness tips and tricks.
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