The best time to workout to lose weight depends on your chronotype, which is biologically wired into your DNA.
- Individuals can be lions (early risers), bears, dolphins, or wolves (night owls).
- Here you will get specific recommendations on when to workout based on your unique chronotype.
- It’s important to listen to your body and find the workout time that fits into your schedule, even if it deviates from the ideal suggestion based on your chronotype.
I’m going to be sharing with you my experience as a Certified Personal Trainer.
As well as my experience as just a human being on this planet trying to be my fittest healthiest self.
When is the best time to work out to lose weight?
The answer is very simple.
If you are a morning person, the best time for you to work out to lose weight is immediately you wake up in the morning.
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I would recommend
✅ brushing your teeth
✅ getting something to drink
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✅ grabbing a light snack
➡ and going straight to your workout.
If you are a night owl, the best time for you to work out to lose weight is right before dinner.
So, if you’re having dinner at 7 p.m., do your workout around 6:30 p.m.
What is the best time to work out if you’re somewhere inbetween?
Most of us are somewhere in between. That is, neither a morning person nor a night owl.
If that’s you, the best time for you to work out to lose weight is 1:30 p.m.
Now, you might be wondering what does being a morning person, night person, etc have to do with the time you work out to lose weight?
To cut a long story short, your tendency towards being a morning person, night person or somewhere in between is biologically wired into your DNA.
Scientists like to call this your chronotype.
To our knowledge (and based on my experience), this is not something you can permanently change.
You’re literally born with it – like the color of your eyes.
Here are some animals to help you remember the best time to workout to lose weight
This is the chronotype of the early riser.
You’re that person that loves your 5 a.m. workout.
You’re up between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. and you’re ready to go.
This is the chronotype of your average adult.
At least 50% of people fall into this category.
You’re up when the sun is up (which makes sense).
You do well with completing your workouts before lunch time.
This is the chronotype of your typical genius.
Only 10% of people have this pattern in their DNA.
Though – many of us might mistake ourselves for dolphins because of our stressful lives.
A real dolphin has no set time when they wake up or sleep.
They quite literally go with the flow.
You’ll do well to workout whenever you can. And when in doubt, aim for 1:30pm.
This is the chronotype of the student that writes their best essay at midnight.
Typically, you feel like you’re just getting into your grove at 2pm.
When your Lion roommate wants to sleep, you are literally buzzing around.
Struggling to constrain yourself to the typical 9-5 lifestyle.
My dear Wolf, free yourself.
There is nothing wrong with you.
You know you’re a wolf if your ideal bedtime is around 1am – 2am.
Aim to do your workouts right before dinner time.
The best time to workout to lose weight is in your DNA
As with anything related to weight loss, there are many ways to make this complicated.
You can read up on double blind studies, for example.
Or you can look on Instagram to see what the latest model is doing.
Personally, I am grateful that this is one area of weight loss where we don’t have to be confused.
Your chronotype is the single most useful signal for deciding when you should workout.
This is because it is a permanently consistent biomarker that tells you
1️⃣ When you have the highest willpower to complete tasks (willpower is a finite resource – it runs out)
2️⃣ When you have the highest energy available in your cells to do work (yes, as you already suspected, exercise is a form of work).
When you exercise at the ideal time for your chronotype, you are optimizing yourself to burn the most calories in your workout.
Imagine being a Wolf and trying to do a belly fat workout at 5am.
You will do worse than a Lion doing the same workout. Why?
Your will power will be lower than that of the Lion. And you will have less energy available in your cells to do the workout.
One way people get around this is to barbeque their nervous systems with pre-workout.
I don’t recommend this if you are losing weight to be healthy.
We all have a chronotype and we will be wise to follow it.
The Next Best Time to Workout to Lose Weight
All that being said, I realize we don’t live in a perfect world.
There might be a lion reading this feeling discouraged.
Because they have a baby to take care of all morning.
They simply can’t workout in the morning – because of competing priorities.
In that situation, my suggestion is as follows:
- workout during a time that is closest to your ideal time to workout based on your chronotype
Alternatively, make a conscious choice that you are choosing not to workout for a certain period.
I know – a Personal Trainer is telling you to choose not to workout.
What in tarnation!?? 😂
Hear me out.
When you intend to workout – and you don’t do it (regardless of the reason), you are hurting yourself.
Whether you realize it or not.
Benefits: Best Time to Workout to Lose Weight Using Your Chronotype
It gives specific recommendations for the best time to work out based on individual differences.
This is infiniely more useful (in my opinion), than the standard answer of “it depends”.
With this method, you have a solid definite starting point.
It acknowledges that different people have different optimal workout times.
When it comes to workouts, we don’t all perform the same under the same circumstances.
Following your chronotype allows you to control for two of the most important factors that influence your performance.
Willpower, and available energy.
It helps in optimizing the weight loss process by ensuring that the body is at its peak performance during the exercise routine.
Basically, you’re working out at the time that your body is cooperating best with you.
You are not fighting yourself and your body.
You’re working alongside your body to achieve your goal of weight loss.
It makes the whole thing (slightly) easier.
Problems: Best Time to Workout to Lose Weight Using Your Chronotype
As great as this method is, it is not without it’s failings and weak points. I’m happy to share them here.
There are many other important factors to consider that have nothing to do with the timing of workouts.
For example, if a Bear is doing their workout religiously everyday at 8am.
But also eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every day as a post workout meal, weight loss might be slow.
My point is – diet is also important.
Adequate sleep is non-negotiable.
Consistency is king, queen, and everything in between. It is required to see results.
And stress management is needed.
All these factors are important to think about (in addition to figuring out the best time to exercise).
It may oversimplify the complexity of the needs of certain individuals
For example, if you’re an elite athlete, you’re going to need to know more detail than your Chronotype to do well.
You may need extensive (and expensive) testing of your muscle tissue.
So, for people that are trying to lose weight for athletic performance reasons (gymnasts, olympians, professional bodybuilders), simply following their chronotype may not be enough.
Such individuals should definitely dig deeper to fine tune their performance.
There may be some exceptions to the rule
For every rule, there is an exception.
So – it is possible that you’re a night owl that prefers to exercise at 6am in the morning.
If this is the case, please continue to do what works best for you!
Although the Chronotype method works for the vast majority of people, there might be a few exceptions to the rule here and there.
Those individual’s experiences are just as valid.
The best time to workout to lose weight: what to avoid
There is no double blind scientific study that is going to override your natural biorhythm.
So when you’re trying to decide what time of day to work out, it’s not a good idea to be looking at the average.
You should also avoid what’s “popular” or what your favorite YouTuber or TikToker or Instagram influencer is doing.
What’s important is to look at yourself and to look at your own chronotype.
What time are you most alive?
What time are you the most energetic?
What time do you naturally wake up?
These are the clues to tell you what your chronotype is – and therefore the best time for you to workout.
You might think you don’t have a chronotype – but this is just the result of stress.
We all have a chronotype.
Best Time to Workout to Lose Weight (Personal Experience)
For me, I am a morning person (Lion), and I am married to a night person (Wolf).
And I have family members that are somewhere in between.
We don’t all work out at the same time because we know that we have to optimize our workouts to our personal chronotypes.
Of course, this isn’t something that’s set in stone.
In the ideal world, I (a morning person) will work out in the morning, my partner (the night owl) will work out before dinner, and everybody else will work out around 1:30 p.m.
But we do not live in an ideal world.
Sometimes, things happen and we have to temporarily workout at less than ideal times.
For me, though, this is always temporary.
It is just not sustainable for me to try to workout in the afternoons or evenings.
It’s the opposite for my partner.
So if you’re unable to stick to the time guidelines I’ve provided, don’t stress about that.
Just look for the time that works best in your schedule.
Because here’s the thing: the only workout that can ever work is the workout you actually do.
And the workout you will do is the one that fits into your schedule.
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The video below shows me explaining the best time to workout to lose weight.