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Fat Loss Facts: The Best Time of Day to Run For Weight Loss

Taren Gesell

Have you ever wondered if your body fat knows how to tell the time? It turns out there may be a best time of day to run for weight loss. In this guide, we'll explain the best time to run to lose weight. Whether you're an early riser or night owl, working out at the right time of day can help whether you want to lose weight or you want to optimize your workout routine for running race performance.

Key Takeaways You'll Learn in This Article

  • When is the best time of day to run to lose weight?
  • Should you run before or after a strength workout for weight loss?
  • What are the benefits of running in the morning vs the evening?
  • What are the benefits of running in the evening vs the morning?
MOTTIV app user Joshua Lusk says he may have a "dad bod" but that doesn't mean he couldn't become an endurance athlete! He says exercise not only helped him trim down, but it has also helped him manage symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, and he couldn't be happier.

When Is the Best Time to Run to Lose Weight?

The true answer for when is the best time to run for weight loss is whenever is most convenient for you; you can perform aerobic exercise or strength training at any time of day. However, if you want to optimize your weight loss, strength, and performance adaptations, the time of the day you exercise does make a difference. Let's dive into the science and lifestyle aspects that determine your ideal running time.

Run in the Morning to Help You Lose Weight

A study from the National Institute of Health found out that morning exercise might be the time of day to work on shedding pounds. Why? Our bodies are primed to burn fat more efficiently in the morning. Plus, getting your workout done early can influence your food choices for the rest of the day, steering you towards healthier options.

Should You Run Before or After a Workout for Weight Loss

Are you mixing running with strength training? Which exercise you do first might impact your fat loss. While the research to answer this question is limited, a slightly related study by the American Council on Exercise shows that doing cardio after strength training led to a heart rate that was 12 beats per minute higher at the same intensity level, potentially leading to a higher calorie burn from doing cardio after strength training.

Also, strength training before cardio uses up muscle glycogen, meaning a post-lift run might tap into fat stores more.

Benefits of Running in the Morning

There are more benefits when you work out in the morning that go beyond just weight loss.

Motivation Is Often Higher with Morning Exercise

According to an NIH study, morning exercisers are likely to be more consistent. Scientists believe that our willpower is at its peak in the morning and gradually gets used up throughout the day, so if you have a tough time getting motivated to exercise, it might be best to get the workout done first thing in the morning.

Exercising in the Morning Can Help Improve Mood Throughout the Day

A morning run is a natural mood booster and a nice win to start your day. It's not just about calorie burning; it's about starting your day with a sense of accomplishment. This positive start can reduce stress and stress-related eating, a common hurdle in weight management.

Incorporate Fat Burning Runs as Part of Your Routine

The 'sleep low, train low' method means running when your body's glycogen levels are low. This NIH study finds that training in a low glycogen state is an effective method of burning fat and increasing endurance. However, we do not recommend ever exercising in a fasted state without having eaten before because this opens up the door for a lot of potential health issues.

To perform the "sleep low training method," eat a low glycemic index breakfast before your morning run. Eggs, meats, cheeses, vegetables, unripe bananas, and berries are all good options.

Running in the Morning Simulates Race Day

For night owl athletes training for a race, morning training could be your secret weapon. Many night owls find that they have a tough time performing on race day because their body just isn't ready for the effort of the race.

This study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that night owls were able to improve their morning race performances by sucking it up and training more often in the morning.

Morning Exercise Is Easier on the Stomach

Running with a belly full of food: not so comfy. Morning runs often mean you're lighter on your feet and your stomach, reducing discomfort and making your workout more enjoyable.

Benefits of Running in the Afternoon or Evening

While the morning may be the best time to exercise to lower your weight and body mass index, midday or evening exercise also has a lot of benefits for your overall health and fitness. If you're not an early bird, don't worry; night owls have some advantages, too.

Run in the Afternoon or Evening for Speed and Strength

If you're planning on doing HIIT training, fast intervals, or hill running reps, afternoons and evenings might be your prime time. Research shows that our physical capabilities, like strength and endurance, tend to peak later in the day. This could make your evening runs more effective and maybe even more enjoyable.

Takes Less Time to Warm Up

Less time warming up, more time running! Thanks to our natural body rhythms, warming up for an evening workout can be quicker and safer.

Evening Exercise May Be Better for Sleep

A lot of people find that if they exercise in the evening that it disturbs their sleep. This can certainly be true from person to person, particularly if you're doing an intense workout immediately before bed. However, one large study actually found that evening exercise might not disrupt sleep as much as we originally thought.

Getting enough shut-eye is crucial for effective weight management, as it keeps those hunger-regulating hormones in check. If you're always forcing yourself to get up early in the morning and sacrificing sleep to get in your workouts, you might actually be undoing all your hard work.

FAQ About The Best Time to Run for Weight Loss

Q: How does running in the morning affect cortisol levels?

A: Cortisol, our stress hormone, is high when we first wake up. Eating breakfast and running in the morning can help lower cortisol levels, leading to reduced abdominal fat and promoting overall weight loss. However, the opposite may be true if you're exercising in the morning without eating beforehand.

Q: What is the significance of running in a fasted state for weight loss?

A: Running in a fasted state can enhance fat-burning and increase fat oxidation, thereby contributing to weight loss. However, exercising in a fasted state can lead to overeating later in the day, hormone issues, bone density problems, and poor immune function. You can get just a good fat-burning effect, without the risks, by eating a low glycemic index meal before morning workouts.

Q: Can running in the morning help reduce abdominal fat?

A: Yes, running in the morning can contribute to reducing abdominal fat due to its impact on cortisol levels and fat oxidation. It can be an effective strategy for targeting stubborn belly fat.

Q: How does running in the morning compare to intense exercise for weight loss?

A: While running in the morning is good if you're looking to lose weight, high-intensity HIIT workouts are the best type of running workout for losing weight, and they're much easier to do in midday and evening. Which one is better? Again, run whenever is most convenient for you, but if you really want to optimize your fat loss goals and your performance, you can do your low-intensity easy runs and long runs in the morning, and your interval runs in the afternoon or evening.

Q: What if I'm not a morning person? Can I still use running for weight loss?

A: If you're not a morning person, don't worry. While running in the morning has its benefits, the most important factor is consistency. You can still achieve weight loss through running at other times of the day as long as it fits into your schedule and you remain consistent with your workouts.


The best time to run for weight loss? While the science does support running in the morning when it comes to weight loss, consistency is your real friend in this journey.

Combine regular exercise, a balanced diet, strength training, and good sleep, and you're on the right path to hitting your weight loss goals. Remember, the best workout is the one that happens. So, lace up those shoes and hit the track, treadmill, or trail whenever it feels right for you!

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Taren Gesell

| Author

"Triathlon Taren" Gesell is founder of MOTTIV and one of the world's top experts on helping adults become endurance athletes later in life. Best known for his YouTube channel and podcast, Taren is the author of the Triathlon Foundations series of books and has been published featured in endurance publications around the world.

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