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A Study Shows Exercising Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. is Most Effective for Weight Loss

Are you feeling like the pounds simply refuse to drop, despite your best efforts? Maybe you feel as though you’ve tried everything under the sun—the grueling 16-hour fasting periods, the newest and greatest dieting plan, the exhausting workout regime. Yet, the scale remains the same, and you’re left feeling discouraged and confused. 

Don’t lose hope. The solution to a slim waist might be simpler than you think. 

The optimal time of day for physical activity has long been a controversial topic amongst the fitness community, but according to a new study, early morning exercise, specifically between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., produces significantly greater results than midday or evening exercise. 

The study included 5,285 participants, broken into three groups, who participated in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. The first group would perform their physical activity strictly in the morning, the second in the afternoon, and the third in the evening. At the end of the study, each individual’s body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were recorded. 

Interestingly enough, the morning group spent more time sitting or lying down throughout the day than the midday or evening groups. The morning group also reported a healthier diet and fewer calories consumed throughout the rest of the day, following their early workout, and had smaller waists and lower BMIs by the end of the controlled study. 

Why would the time of day play a role in keeping weight in check? 

It’s actually quite simple. When you’re asleep at night, your body uses up all of the carbohydrates that are stored in your liver. If you exercise first thing in the morning, before you’ve had a chance to give your body more carbohydrates, your body will be forced to use the stored fat as its fuel source. 

While waist circumference and BMI may decrease, there are some cons associated with working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. When the carbohydrates in your liver are low, it can trigger the release of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can actually cause your body to burn muscle for energy during an early morning workout. For those trying to increase muscle, this is obviously an adverse effect. 

The release of cortisol in your body can also suppress your metabolism, causing short-term effects like less energy during workouts, and long-term effects like making you less hungry throughout the day. This might explain why the morning group from the controlled study reported less consumed calories.

It’s important to remember that your health and well-being are more than just the number on the scale. Having a healthy metabolism and building strong muscles are vital to your overall health.

Firstly, a healthy metabolism provides your body with the necessary energy to perform basic bodily functions such as digestion, blood flow, hormone regulation, and even breathing. If you’re not consuming enough calories each day, these functions become more and more difficult for your body to perform. If you’re continually skipping meals, your metabolism will start to break down muscle for energy. Muscle loss can lead to a slower metabolism, which actually results in weight gain—the opposite of what you were likely trying to accomplish from skipping those meals. 

Secondly, according to Dr. Wendy Kohrt, aging expert at the University of Colorado, maintaining your muscle mass and function, at any stage of life, is vital for your quality of life. Building muscle keeps your bones healthy, can help your body process food in a way that fights off diseases like diabetes, and can help you function better at an advanced age while preventing injuries from things like falling. 

So, before you commit to waking up tomorrow morning to work out on an empty stomach and, hopefully, shed those lingering pounds, take time to consider the entire picture. Health should be viewed holistically, looking at every area rather than just zoning in on one aspect. 

If you lose weight but have an energy deficiency throughout your day, what advantage is that to you? Or maybe you skip meals more and more frequently, yet your weight is actually increasing because the loss of muscle results in a slower metabolism. 

Considering the results of this controlled study, here’s a modified holistic method to employ:

Commit to still waking up early to workout, just not on an entirely empty stomach. Include a small amount of carbs and proteins to give your body the fuel necessary to complete the workout, without depleting your muscle mass or offsetting your metabolism. 

Here are some examples of food to eat before starting your early morning workout: 

  • A slice of multigrain toast with almond butter and/or avocado spread

  • A cup of greek yogurt with granola and fruit 

  • A green protein-enriched smoothie

  • A bowl of protein-enriched oatmeal

  • A whole banana 

Working out in the morning can improve memory and cognitive function throughout the day, allowing you to perform better in your daily tasks and responsibilities. Working out can also boost your overall mood as well as reduce stress, so starting off with a workout first thing can allow you to begin your day with a healthy mental state. 

In addition to the mental health benefits, working out in the morning can also improve sleep and, potentially, help you make better food choices throughout the day. 

So, if you’re tired of trying the countless fitness fads out there, and you’re ready to try a plan that is backed by research and approved by doctors, consider setting your alarm just a tad earlier tomorrow morning so you can fuel your body with nutrients before jumping into your workout. Your overall health will thank you. 



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