Is it Better to Work Out in the Morning or at Night to Lose Weight?

People are always trying to find the easiest, most surefire way to lose weight. They want a magic pill, a food, a piece of equipment--or even the right time of day--to give them the edge to finally lose the extra weight they’ve been carrying around.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has become a national health threat 1. In the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, the CDC found that more than one-third (35.7 percent) of adult Americans are obese. They attribute this to unhealthy food choices, lack of exercise and excessive portion sizes.

Weight Loss

To lose weight, physicians, dieticians, and fitness professionals all agree that you need to move more and eat less. Food equals calories going into your body, and exercise burns them. When these two factors are equal, your weight will be maintained. If you begin putting more calories in than you are putting out, you gain weight. And obviously, the opposite is true.

Basal Metabolic Rate

The beauty is that we burn calories everyday just to be alive. Your body uses energy to keep vital functions going while at rest, such as breathing, temperature regulation, and nourishing your organ systems. This is called your basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate plus calories burned during exercise is known as energy expenditure. The key to weight loss is to find how many calories your body needs to function, then make adjustments to the balance between the calories you consume and exercise. Energy expenditure that exceeds your caloric intake will result in weight loss.


There have been studies that look at body rhythms to see what time of day it's more “eager” to burn calories. Some have found that an early morning workout gives your metabolism a kick start, which leads to burning calories throughout the day. Others have found that the body’s best performance time is between 2 and 4 p.m. They attribute this to innate circadian rhythms. Typically at those hours, the body temperature is at it’s peak, which means muscles are more limber and possibly better primed for a workout. But what are the chances you can consistently quit what you’re doing between 2 and 4 in the afternoon to work out?


Most fitness professionals agree the difference in calorie burn between morning and afternoon workouts is minimal and want a client to pick a time to work out that is best for them to be consistent. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends cardiovascular exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity more than five days per week and 30 to 60 minutes a day, with no time of day is specified. If you are able to make exercise part of your daily routine, behavioral experts agree it will become habitual. Some feel great in the morning and are able to get up early and get that workout in before starting the rest of their day. Some hit their stride in the late afternoon to early evening. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. As long as you consistently incorporate exercise into your daily routine, and adhere to the ACSM’s guidelines, you will be successful in your weight loss efforts.