There’s A Best Time To Exercise For Weight Loss

The best time to exercise for weight lossI’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.

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25 Responses to There’s A Best Time To Exercise For Weight Loss

  1. julabugg September 16, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    I have been doing moderate morning cardio several times a week for almost two years. Most of the time I do it before eating anything, not because anyone told me I should, but because it felt right for my body. I do, however, have a warm mug of green tea with lemon and apple cider vinegar beforehand to prime my system for the day. I had always wondered if doing cardio in this way would encourage the body to burn fat stores since no food fuel is present, and now I’ve found my answer! I also find that morning exercise leads to more energy throughout the day and increases my daily productivity (I can attest to better sleep too). This, in conjunction with a healthy, high plant diet, has helped me reverse insulin resistance syndrome and fatty liver disease – I’m lucky enough to not need medication anymore!

    • DrBruce September 20, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

      Sounds like you’ve got an excellent system going – congratulations. I’m happy to hear it’s working for you.

  2. nailah783 September 20, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    I never really knew that working out in the morning before you eat was the best plan. I would think it would be after you eat to work off the calories. I know now though, and I was work on doing this more.

  3. blessedhope September 27, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    This is great! I already work out in the morning after I wake up. However I do have hypoglycemia so I have to make sure I eat breakfast before I do a workout. Otherwise afterwards I’ll feel really weak.

    • DrBruce October 1, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

      Yes, for you, fasting exercise is not the best choice. You’ll still boost your metabolism with a morning workout, though.

  4. Jasmine October 3, 2015 at 4:27 am #

    I never thought about when it might be a good time to exercise. I always thought you should do it when you have time to. Although if you wake up early enough, you should be able to include some type of exercise routine in the morning.

    • DrBruce October 5, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

      Well, “when you have time to” is certainly better than never!

  5. Veronika Dalton October 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Thank you for the idea of adding himalayan or sea salt to water in the morning! I’ve never heard that before, but I think it’s a great idea. Now if only I was a morning person, perhaps I could actually stick to a morning running routine!

  6. Victoria October 27, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    I have always read that exercising first thing in the morning was the best time for fat burning, but it has always been something that I have struggled with. I have to admit that the periods of time when I did wake up early and got a good workout in before beginning my day, I could definitely tell a big increase in my energy level. That was a very big motivator in itself!

    After reading this article, I may have to start scheduling my workouts a little earlier. Its something that I’ve been contemplating for the past few weeks, but how can you argue with extra fat burning?

    • DrBruce October 28, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

      Burning extra fat is good motivation!

    • EVL Nutrition ENGN November 3, 2015 at 3:34 am #

      Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning.

      • DrBruce November 3, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

        You’re right – exercise has been proven to have almost immediate positive impact on mood and mental health.

  7. Scott Johnson November 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    I didn’t know that exercising in the morning had the potential to increase your fat burning efficiency throughout the day, that is very helpful. I’ve been trying to lose a little weight recently at my doctor’s recommendation and I’ve been looking for some of the best ways to do so. I’ll have to start joining my wife for her morning jog instead of going at night.

  8. Rachel Finn January 28, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    I didn’t know that early morning workouts were so much better for weight loss. I’ve always worked out in the afternoon or evenings, simply because I’m not really a morning person. I will have to change that to have more effective workouts, it seems. Thanks for the info!

  9. TracyCross February 23, 2016 at 2:14 am #

    Being bulky and overweight is really embarrassing and a big call for lots of health issues.

    Since the age of 15, I am trying to lose weight. I would like to know that if I take health supplements and physician guidance all together, will that work in getting fast results??

    If yes, kindly let me know, HOW???

  10. Laurel Larsen February 26, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    I am usually happy if I can get any exercise in at any point in the day, regardless of the time. However, if I was looking to lose weight, I would take your advice and try to make it a habit in the mornings. Plus, if I was exercising before eating breakfast, I would probably burn more fat. I would still try to probably drink a little bit of almond milk, though, so I had a little energy.

  11. Eleanore Carter July 7, 2016 at 4:05 am #

    I am planning to lose weight due to my health condition and I am glad to read this very informative article. I think these tips can help me reach my goal. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Brodie November 17, 2016 at 5:31 am #

    I couldn’t agree more about early morning workouts! I recently switched over from working out in the evenings after long day at work and felt super sluggish and unmotivated. When I started waking up early and hitting the gym, not only did my workouts improve buy also my mood and energy throughout the day.

    I’m thinking of trying more fasted cardio after reading this. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard good things about it.

    I have a similar post about it on my blog, hope you don’t mind me sharing through commentLuv.


    Keep up the great posts.
    Brodie recently posted…8 Benefits of Early Morning WorkoutsMy Profile

  13. Andy Cole January 22, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

    That’s great to know. I’ve been exercising in the evenings most of the time, thinking it will help me sleep better. Maybe I should try a morning workout then!

  14. Noline February 14, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    It sounds like a fine balance between getting a good workout, but not overdoing it. How many time a week will you suggest to do an HIIT training session?
    Noline recently posted…Ketogenic Diet for BodybuildingMy Profile

    • DrBruce July 18, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

      It’s a good question, Noline, but there’s no one answer that fits everyone. It will depend on your individual health issues and your level of physical fitness. Many people who enjoy the benefits of a HIIT workout and feel good afterwards aim for three to four times per week.

  15. Odessa February 27, 2017 at 2:27 am #

    I personally excersise more in the morning than in the evenings simply because I have more energy flowing into my system at that time. It’s always like my wake up call and it keeps me energyzed throut the day. I love how you have brought out the benefits of morning work outs and cardio excersises. Great article.
    Odessa recently posted…Best Weight Bench for the MoneyMy Profile

    • DrBruce July 18, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

      Thanks. Odessa. Our experience is that not everyone responds well to the same things, so we personalize our program, but I applaud you for figuring out what works for you and staying with it.

  16. Andrew Lynn June 5, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

    Very informative article. Especially I like this point” This early workout boosts metabolism and it provides an increased fat-burning effect all day long”

    Thanks for your nice post.

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