I’ve been asked more than once about the best time to exercise for weight loss, and although it’s tempting to say “whenever you can” in response, that’s an oversimplification. There really is an ideal time to exercise to maximize weight loss, and that’s first thing in the morning, before you eat.
But wait, you say, haven’t you said that exercise isn’t a very effective way to lose weight?
Exercise Is Great, Although Not Primarily For Weight Loss
Well, if you’re talking about looking at a scale, it’s certainly not. Exercising has its place. It’s really good at several things:
Exercise excels in:
- Building muscle, which helps the body keep weight off by burning more calories
- Shaping the body into a more attractive and compact form
- Increasing strength and endurance
- Improving mood
- Boosting high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol”, and decreasing unhealthy triglycerides
- Helping you sleep better (which indirectly helps weight loss)
What’s the Best Time to Exercise for Weight Loss?
While it’s true that exercising isn’t an effective weight loss strategy on its own, we’re doing something more subtle than just exercising when we choose to do our workout first thing in the day.
You see, when you work out upon waking up, you are increasing fat burning efficiency for the entire day. This early workout boosts metabolism and it provides an increased fat-burning effect all day long.
The Key Is The Fuel Source
Imagine you wake up after 8 hours sleep. You didn’t eat for a couple of hours before bed, so you’ve gone at least 10 hours without eating. Ideally, if you stop eating after dinner, you may have gone as much as 12 or more hours without “adding fuel”. After 12 hours, your body is in fat-burning mode. It has run out of blood glucose and is burning fat – you’re in a ketogenic state. Performing your workout at this point liberates more calories from fat as your body reaches for fuel.
It can’t grab fuel from food, so when it fails to find carbs to burn, it switches to burning fat. We definitely want to burn fat! We’ll talk some more about the process of intermittent fasting and getting your body in a ketogenic state in an article soon, since it can be a powerful weight reduction tool.
Don’t Over Exercise
You’re not trying to burn calories by exercising hard at this point – you’re just giving your body a bit of activity to increase metabolism. Calories burnt by the exercise itself are probably limited, and that’s fine – it’s the metabolic boost for the rest of the day we’re after. Don’t strain so hard that your body is in a stressed state or ravenously hungry after your workout. Either of those outcomes would be counterproductive.
After your workout, you eat a healthy protein breakfast (like the egg breakfasts I often talk about here). This allows your body the materials it needs to rebuild muscle broken down in your workout.
Doing Fasting Exercise Right
When you wake up, drink a full glass of water so that you won’t be dehydrated. You may want to add a pinch of Himalayan salt or natural sea salt (containing good minerals) to the water, and/or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Then perform your workout. Go easy if you’re just starting. Whether you jog, swim, hop on a trampoline or exercise bike, or do floor exercises, a HIIT session, weight training, or even go for a walk, don’t overdo it, especially at first. Get your blood flowing and your heart rate up, of course, but don’t exhaust yourself.
According to the British Journal of Nutrition, men who ran before eating breakfast burned up to to 20 percent more fat than men who ate before running. That’s exciting news, but there is a downside. If you work out too hard, your body will start burning muscle too, so there’s a good reason why I tell you not to overdo exercise, particularly when you exercise before eating.
Also, if you’re prone to low blood sugar, exercise before breakfast might not be a good choice for you. Remember that everyone is different, and as you read my articles, choose the tips and techniques that are right for you in your current state of health. Better yet, if you’re in Hawaii, come in for a free consultation and learn how medical weight loss can be personalized just for you.