Should you exercise morning or night? Experts weigh in on the best time to workout for fat loss

woman checking her heartbeat

Morning workouts may give individuals a slight advantage

Solen Le Net

By Solen Le Net

Published: 11/04/2024

- 14:51

Updated: 15/04/2024

- 11:50

The jury is still out on the benefits of working out earlier versus later in the day

The benefits of exercise for the body can’t be overstated, but big questions surround the advantages of timing workouts to maximise their effect on weight loss.

In 2023, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that exercising in the morning “increases fat burn compared to working out in the evening”. The findings in mice may not mean much for humans, however.

“Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter when you exercise. It is all personal preference,” said Jess Hillard, Warrior’sleading nutritionist.

“The only effect of timing exercise will have on the body is mental clarity for the day ahead. If you get out on a run in the morning you’re likely to feel more awake and can concentrate better/be more productive after getting some fresh air.

Doctor measuring a patient's stomach with tapeThe eating plan was also shown to reduce belly fat Getty Images

“The same goes for getting out during your lunch breaks, which is proven to have positive effects on concentration for the afternoon in comparison to staying inside at the desk all day."

According to Jess, “not one is better than the other - it is down to when you feel best”.

She continued: “Perhaps you have more energy in the morning before work and therefore you’ll have a better workout, in turn, being more productive and helping aid weight loss. Or perhaps you feel best in lunch breaks or after work.”

Ben Jenkins, an NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness expert, and senior editor of Powerlifting Technique said that while research shows that morning exercise gives a slight advantage, the overall difference may not be significant.

“Research shows that exercising in the morning can give you a slight metabolic edge,” he explained. “You’re tapping into your overnight fasted state, which helps your body more readily burn fat stores for fuel during moderate-intensity cardio sessions.

“Plus, that blast of feel-good endorphins first thing can set you up for a more positive, productive day.”

According to the expert, evening exercise has other compelling benefits, because body temperature and hormone levels peak later in the day.

This “lends itself better to high-intensity strength training and power movements when you want to be firing on all cylinders. Just be mindful not to work out too close to bedtime, as it can disrupt your sleep”.

In 2016, researchers at Surrey’s Faculty of Health and Medical Science revealed that timing when the body exercises and eats can boost weight loss.

Doctor Adam Collins, programme director of BSc and MSc nutrition at the University of Surrey said the findings appeared to suggest that untrained females may benefit from consuming food prior to exercise and avoiding food during recovery.


Belly fatBelly fat can become more prominent in women over 50GETTY

The expert said: “Most people are using exercise to get healthier, lose weight, or burn fat, rather than maximise performance like athletes do. Hence the strategies for eating and exercise are different for competitive athletes.”

For women, the findings showed that eating 90 minutes before exercise is better than eating after if they want to burn fat.

Results suggested that for men, eating 90 minutes after working out could lead to greater weight loss.

While the science highlights differences in weight loss results relative to timing, experts discourage getting too caught up in these details, as the discrepancies are only minor.

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