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The Timing of Your Workout Can Affect Fat Burning Potential

exercise, weight loss, motivation for weight loss

Although exercise provides a multitude of health benefits, the most likely reason for beginning a regular workout routine is to lose weight or to prevent gaining weight. To this end, when is the best time for exercising in order to burn the most fat? Scientists at Northumbria University think they have found the answer.

Researchers Dr. Emma Stevenson, a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Nutrition, and PhD student Javier Gonzalez had twelve physically active males perform a treadmill exercise at 10am, either after they had eaten breakfast or had fasted since the night before. Following the exercise, the men were given a chocolate recovery drink. Later that day, they were provided a pasta lunch and instructed to eat until they were “comfortably full.”

Those who exercised in the morning on an empty stomach burned up to 20% more body fat compared to those who ate breakfast before their workout.

Worried that a morning workout might make you hungrier for the rest of the day? The study found that those who exercised in the a.m. did not consume additional calories or experience increased hunger to compensate for the extra activity.

It should be noted that this was a short term study, involving only physically fit men, and may not be true for everyone. In fact, most exercise experts say that it doesn’t really matter when you exercise, as long as you do it. However, the time of day can influence how you feel when exercise.

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Are you a morning person or a night owl? Your body’s circadian rhythm influences body functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, and heart rate – all of which play a role in your readiness for exercise. So instead of forcing yourself to workout at a certain time just because of fat-burning potential, use your own personal body clock to determine the time that is best for you, and when you are most likely to stick to it. Ultimately, that will be the key to weight maintenance.

The Benefits of Morning Exercise

Per WebMD, if you have trouble with consistency, morning may be your best time to exercise. "Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do better," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer with the American Council on Exercise in San Diego.

"The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere," Bryant says. "I usually exercise at 6 a.m., because no matter how well-intentioned I am, if I don't exercise in the morning, other things will squeeze it out."
He recommends that if you exercise in the morning, when body temperature is lower, you should allow more time to warm up than you would later in the day.

When Later Might Be Better

For some, fighting with the alarm clock each morning may be a workout in itself. You may feel more like exercising during lunch (eat after your workout, not before) or after work in the evening when you’ve had time to get the blood flowing.

Just Do It
Whether you choose morning, afternoon, or evening to exercise, just make it a part of your daily routine. "Most of all, find a time that helps you make your exercise a regular, consistent part of your life," says Dr. Steven Aldana PhD, a professor of lifestyle medicine in the department of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. "This is more important than the time of day."

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. So get moving — at the time that’s right for you!

Journal References:
Javier T. Gonzalez, Rachel C. Veasey, Penny L. S. Rumbold, Emma J. Stevenson. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. British Journal of Nutrition, 2013; : 1 DOI:10.1017/S0007114512005582
Schroeder AM, Truong D, Loh DH, Jordan MC, Roos KP, Colwell CS. Voluntary scheduled exercise alters diurnal rhythms of behaviour, physiology and gene expression in wild-type and vasoactive intestinal peptide-deficient mice. J Physiol. 2012 Dec 1;590(Pt 23):6213-26. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.233676. Epub 2012 Sep 17.