Does it matter what time of day you exercise to lose weight?

    Abdulaziz Sobh

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    The GYMS throughout the country are full of exercises that are determined to raise and loosen and squeeze in an early training to meet your weight loss goals.

    That's because experts have traditionally argued that when you exercise early in the morning, especially before breakfast, your body is more likely to burn fat. And when you try to lose weight, your main goal is to lose fat.

    Why exercise early in the morning helps you burn more fat? Because the body's fastest and most preferred source of energy is carbohydrates, which are found in the blood as glucose and stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, explains Hayden Steele, a personal trainer based in Oklahoma City and specialist in resistance and conditioning certified. This is how the theory works: in the morning, when glucose and glycogen levels are depleted, your body is forced to use your body fat to enhance your training.

    An example: a 2010 study published in the Journal of Physiology, which instructed men to increase their calorie and fat intakes, found that the 10 men who exercised before breakfast burned more fat than the other 10 who exercised before breakfast. They exercised midmorning after eating. "This study for the first time shows that fasting training is more potent than training [fat burning] and improves the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels," the researchers concluded.

    However, since then, researchers have learned that the fat burning strategy is not that simple. The most recent meta-analysis of fasting exercise on weight loss, published in 2017 in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, found that any effect was "trivial" after analyzing the available data.

    "I'm not citing a study as conclusive evidence," says Steele. "Surprisingly, there is a very small amount of studies on this subject, so we can only draw conclusions from what we have, but this study is significant because it is the first systematic review of fasting cardio versus fasting cardio.

    But even if the body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat versus carbohydrates during fasting exercise, it will probably burn fewer total calories, including fats, says Ryan Campbell, a training specialist at Anytime Fitness of Southern Wisconsin. And even if your perceived rate of exertion, or how hard you feel you are working, is intense, your body is not physiologically capable of performing so intensely in a state of fasting versus eating.

    But leaving all the fasting (or not) aside, there are some legitimate benefits to exercise in the morning.

    The levels of testosterone, a hormone that has been linked to fat loss, muscle gain and, therefore, increased metabolic rates, are high in the morning and decrease throughout the day, says Steele. And a 2014 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that intense morning strength training sessions can help maintain the highest levels throughout the day.

    Meanwhile, in a previous 2012 study also published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, when women walked briskly in the morning for 45 minutes, they were automatically less distracted by the images of food and also increased their activity levels during the rest of the day.

    "For many people, exercising in the morning prepares them to be successful the rest of the day," explains Steele. "It's the domino effect." By exercising in the morning, he says, you increase your levels of hormones to feel good and neurotransmitters that improve energy levels, self-esteem, and mood, all of which contribute to healthier decisions that lead to weight loss.

    In addition, "exercising before the start of a busy day will help ensure that it does not become a task that is overlooked in the daily agenda," says Campbell.

    Why you may want to train in the afternoon or in the afternoon

    "If you're someone who lacks energy in the mornings or exercises, it just does not 'fit' in the morning, that's fine," says Steele.

    After all, the body can be physically prepared to perform the best and most effective workouts later in the day, thanks to the body's natural circadian rhythms. For example, in a series of 2009 footballer studies published in Chronobiology International, both the body's internal temperature and athletic performance peaked between 4 and 8 p.m. They also noted that the energy was the highest and the fatigue the lowest at 8 p.m.

    "Each person has a circadian rhythm that typically reaches and decreases twice a day," says Campbell. The National Sleep Foundation explains that adults' greatest sleep impulses occur between 2 and 4 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m., although the circadian rhythms of each person are unique. "Working around those peaks is ideal because a person would have more successful training," he says. "Too many times, people go to the gym but end up doing very little to challenge their bodies to change." But when we work at times of the day when we have high energy levels and feel the best we can physically, we are more likely to challenge ourselves and get more meaningful exercise results, he says.

    Meanwhile, the post-dinner exercise has its own unique benefits. For example, a 2013 study by Diabetes Care links post-meal walks with improved blood sugar regulation. While it is possible to move around a little after each meal, most Americans tend to make dinner their biggest meal and stay sedentary (and snack) after dinner, says Campbell. Therefore, a post-dinner workout could, in theory, lead to greater changes in overall energy expenditure than a post-breakfast or after-lunch workout.

    However, it is important to pay attention to your individual circadian rhythms to ensure that your training is not too late to be tired of your day or that it does not prevent you from falling asleep before bedtime. Although exercising near bedtime could increase energy levels and impede sleep, there is no clear consensus, and a 2011 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that exercising 35 minutes before bedtime did not decrease the quality of the dream. In summary: the time of the body is individual.

    The best times of the day to exercise

    "If I had to summarize my answer for the general population regarding 'What is the best time to exercise?' My answer would be simply: 'When you can fit it into your agenda!' "Says Steele. "'If it's in the morning, great, if that's at lunch, great, and if you have time at night, incredible.' 'Adherence is everything."

    After all, the 2013 research published in the scientific journal Appetite concluded that the feeling of being able to exercise - despite barriers, such as time constraints - is a determining factor in the ability to successfully lose weight. And consistency is critical to the results of weight loss.

    "In the grand scheme of things, training time has little relevance to the success of most people's weight loss," says Campbell. "What is more important than trying to lose weight with minutiae strategies is to get efficient and effective training." In short, every time you can make the most of your training is the best time for you.