Creating a small caloric deficit through diet is your best bet for creating sustainable weight loss. That said, adding regular exercise, such as running, to your weight-loss efforts can help speed things along. After all, a 155-pound person can expect to burn nearly 300 calories from a 30-minute run at a pace of 5 miles per hour.
Not to mention, aerobic activities like running confer a host of other health benefits, such as improvements to mood and sleep quality, and a healthier heart. In fact, runners have a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than non-runners, according to a long-term study in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Assuming you’ve decided to add running to your weight loss bag of tricks, you may be wondering if running during a certain time of the day (i.e., morning vs. evening) will optimize your results. In general, the best time to run for weight loss is the time that works best for your schedule and preferences. After all, if you want to see benefits from any exercise routine, you need to stay consistent.
That said, research suggests that running in the morning may offer unique health and weight loss benefits.
Boosting Fat Loss
According to a 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, men who performed a treadmill workout in the morning on an empty stomach burned almost 20 percent more fat on average than those who ate breakfast prior. Additionally, research in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that performing fasted aerobic exercise four days per week for six weeks was sufficient to alter muscle fibers in such a way as to increase fat metabolism. Researchers suggest that exercising with low carb availability encourages the body to tap into fat stores for fuel instead.
Lower Blood Pressure
Getting your exercise done first thing in the morning may lower blood pressure, according to research by Scott Collier, PhD, professor in the department of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University. After tracking the blood pressure and sleep patterns of adults who exercised at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., Collier and his colleagues discovered that the early morning exercise led to a 10 percent reduction in blood pressure, a longer nights’ sleep and a healthier sleep cycle than exercising at other times of the day.
On Sacrificing Sleep
Keep in mind that if you find you’re regularly skimping on sleep for the sake of an early morning run, you may want to rethink your current routine, as sleep deprivation won’t do your weight loss efforts any good. Case in point: A small study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that people who slept only four hours per night for five nights ate 300 calories more per day than people who slept nine hours a night. Most of those extra calories came in the form of saturated fat. If you’re sacrificing any of the seven to nine hours of sleep you need per night, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, consider running later in the day.