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Rush hour at the gym is 5 to 7 p.m., with the majority of people working out during this time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, only 31 percent of people are morning exercisers, logging their sweat sessions before noon.
Aside from avoiding crowds, though, you may have wondered if there’s a best time to work out. Can you supercharge your weight loss more in the morning or at night?
Some small studies suggest there might be a slight weight-loss advantage when working out in the morning, especially if you hit the gym before you eat breakfast. The other advantages of morning workouts, according to the research, is lower blood pressure and better sleep.
But personal trainers and registered dietitians are mostly in agreement here: Just go to the gym, and don’t sweat the small stuff, like time of day. Afterall, only one in five Americans are getting enough aerobic and strength training exercise every week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s what weight-loss experts and research have to say about syncing your weight-loss goals with your workout schedule.
Get To The Gym When You Can
If you can pop out of bed at 6 a.m. and get to the gym for an hour before work, great. If you don’t get to the gym until after dinner time, though, that’s also great, the experts say.
“I always tell my patients the best time to exercise is the time they will actually go,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian, certified yoga teacher and author of “The Small Change Diet.” “It’s as simple as that.”
To really get this right, you can pencil in your workout class or session like you would any other important appointment on your calendar. Of course, one argument for working out in the morning is that it’s more likely things will come up later in the day that can derail your schedule.
Frank Benedetto, a certified strength and conditioning specialist trainer, says exercising in the morning instead of the evening will not trigger the body to burn more calories or fat in a significant way.
“The only reason to choose a morning workout versus a night workout, in my opinion, is if you subjectively feel better exercising in the morning or night,” says Benedetto, the co-founder and CEO of ProVere Health.
Small Studies Show Advantages Of Working Out Before Breakfast
You already know a couple of the advantages of working out in the morning: The lap lanes in the pool are more open, or you don’t have to wait in line for a popular piece of equipment because fewer people are at the gym. Plus, chugging from your water bottle while working out in the evening can mean waking up to go to the bathroom throughout the night.
But, as it turns out, a lot of research falls on the side of earlier workouts, suggesting morning exercisers are reaping some more benefits.
Working out in the morning on an empty stomach can burn up to 20 percent more body fat, according to a 2013 study involving 12 men that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The researchers explained that exercise increases the total amount of energy we expend, and a greater proportion of this energy comes from existing fat if the exercise is performed after an overnight fast — in other words, on an empty stomach before breakfast. Also, the researchers concluded that working out in the morning doesn’t increase your appetite, hunger or food consumption later in the day.
In another small study, involving 10 men, researchers in Japan found that fat oxidation happens when you work out before breakfast. Fat oxidation is great for weight loss because it’s what breaks down free fatty acids in the blood as well as the triglycerides stored in fat cells — a process that can lead to not just weight loss but also can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
But Robert Herbst — a personal trainer, weight loss and wellness coach and powerlifter — says you’re overthinking it if you exercise in the morning to take advantage of being in a fasting state.
What really matters, he says, is including high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, in your workout regimen. HIIT workouts alternate intense bursts of heart-pumping exercise with short rest periods, ultimately helping you burn more calories.
In fact, for those who want to do a rigorous strength workout with heavy lifting, Herbst says it makes more sense to go later in the day, when your core temperature is higher and connective tissues and muscles are warmed up.
“What I tell people is that any time they can exercise is the best time, because you don’t want them to have an excuse,” he says.
So, do you prefer to work out in the morning or evening?