Do morning workouts burn more fat than evening workouts?

Q & A: I saw on the news that exercising in the morning will burn more fat than evening exercise.  Is this true?  What do I do if I can only exercise in the evening?

A:  Lets tackle these questions in reverse.  For question #2, if you can only exercise in the evening, and this headline has you seeing your evening exercise as no longer optimal, then it probably makes sense to quit… I mean, in general, if you can’t do something perfectly, then it’s probably not worth doing at all.  Like when I was trying to teach my kids to read during lockdown, I couldn’t do it well, so I quit.  I turned the closed caption on for Netflix and told them to read the TV.

Also, I broke my pinky toe being clumsy.  Bones take 4-6 weeks to heal, and since I couldn’t do every single exercise that I should be doing, I did no exercise… I mean, what kind of sense does it make to train your upper body, core, other leg, and most of the broken toe leg?  My wife has informed that I am being too sarcastic, so I will move on the question #1.

For question #1: It’s true that you burn more fat during exercise first thing in the morning, but this is very misleading.  Burning slightly more fat during exercise ≠ losing more body fat overall. 

You burn slightly more fat during early exercise because you haven’t eaten yet, or your food hasn’t been digested, so your body has to get more of it’s fuel from fat.  The increase in morning fat burning will be offset by reduced fat burning later in the day.  However, the fat you lose today will be based on your calorie deficit for the day.  The whole day. 

If you wanted to lose more body fat without being in a bigger calorie deficit the only thing you can do is reduce your fat intake.  Very, very low fat diets work better for fat-loss.

Bottom Lines
·     Information can be toxic:

o   Food is essential for life, and, also toxic in excess.  Same with water.  Just as calories in quantities large enough to ruin one’s health are new, so is excess information. 

o   While looking at articles on exercise it can seem like we’re making progress towards our goals of increased health and fitness, but this is an illusion.  What we’re really doing is sitting on our butts, motionless, and consuming time that could be spent exercising or walking.

o   I turn off all news updates on my phone and computer because I am easy to rattle.  I can check PubMed or google scholar for specific questions such as (a) “what’s the daily upper limit of de novo lipogenesis?” [how much new fat can your body make in a day from excess carbohydrates?]; or (b) “is the advice to ‘rest when your back hurts’ based on any evidence at all?”

o   Here are the answers to (a) and (b):

§ (a) it is just 10 grams per day.  Our liver is only able to make 10 grams of new fat from the excess carbohydrates in your diet.  However, there is essentially no upper limit to how much dietary fat can be stored as body fat in a day.  So much for “carbs making you fat.”

§ (b) No.  The advice to “rest your back when it hurts” is based on superstition and tradition not evidence.  What evidence we do have says the opposite.  In other words resting tends to lead to more back pain, and worse outcomes overall… and, also, if back pain was caused by overuse or repetitive stress, then we should have nearly eliminated back pain from places like the USA. Instead we have the same or more back pain than we did 100 years ago, but 100 years ago we humans had to use our backs to do household chores and work.

·     Optimizing makes things worse:

o   Optimizing is seeking out the best or most perfect “solution.”  Optimal only exists in fantasy.  In reality we have to choose from the choices we actually have vs wish we had.  (If wishes had wings we’d all have nice things, and I’d be able to sing.)

o   Even if AM exercise was slightly better and you can only workout at night perfection is still the enemy of progress.  Consistent nighttime workouts will be infinitely more effective than waiting until you can make the mornings work… as a matter of fact, all of the time spent waiting will wreak havoc on your health and fitness.  We lose cardiovascular and metabolic health in days and weeks not years.

o   Perfect can kiss your ass.  Show up when you can show up.  Even if, or especially if, this means working out when you are tiredNobody is getting any younger and you can’t afford to wait until the stars align

We look forward to seeing you at your next session – morning, noon, or night!

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PPS- We have a 10 Day Trial that is a perfect way to make sure we are the right fit for each other. We know that one size does not fit all when it comes to your health and fitness. So whether you want to tone your arms, burn more fat, gain muscle, or maintain your fitness levels, we can help.

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