Are Morning Workouts Better For Weight Loss? 2 Experts and a New Study Said Yes — Here's Why
Whether you love or loathe morning workouts, you have to admit they have some advantages. But is one of them weight loss? Yes, according to a new study, which found that people who worked out in the morning lost significantly more weight than those who exercised after noon. Were they just working out more often? Consistency is one reason many people opt for morning exercise, but it wasn't the case here. Both groups of people not only worked out the same amount per week, but also did the same workouts, burning similar amounts of calories each time. Intrigued? We were too. Keep reading to see what researchers found out.
Research Showed That Morning Workouts Equaled Greater Weight Loss
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity in July, involved 88 participants: a mix of men and women between the ages of 18 and 40, all considered inactive and either overweight or obese. Over the course of 10 months, the study's control group maintained their usual exercise habits while the exercise group began working out for five days a week, supervised to ensure identical workouts and similar calorie burn. Meanwhile, the researchers tracked other factors, like the participants' calorie intake and non-exercise activity (the amount they moved throughout the day outside of their workout).
Interestingly, the researchers didn't set out to look at weight loss and the timing of workouts. But as they puzzled over why some participants lost more weight than others, they decided to try categorizing by time of day, the New York Times reported. The pattern they found held steady across the study: people who exercised between 7 a.m. and noon lost significantly more weight than those who worked out between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Why Do Morning Workouts Help You Lose Weight?
A couple of small but crucial differences in the morning and late exercisers could explain the results. After completing their workouts, the morning exercisers were more active throughout the rest of the day than the later group, and they ate slightly fewer calories as well. Neither of those differences were huge. But as anyone who has set a fitness goal knows, small changes can make a big difference over time.
What else could be going on? Larry Weilland, MS, an exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Health & Fitness Center told POPSUGAR that hormones may potentially play a role. According to research, an intense workout generally lowers your appetite for at least a while afterwards, thanks to two factors: a decrease in the hunger hormone ghrelin, and an increase in peptides that make you feel full.
"That decrease in appetite may set a pattern for the rest of the day," Larry explained, hence the slight difference in calories consumed between early and late exercisers, though he added, "this is not by any means settled science." But in the grand scheme of things, "if weight loss is paramount for you and you're comfortable and able to exercise in the morning, exercising early would likely give you an edge," Larry said.
In the study, everyone in the exercise group was working out for the same amount of time and intensity. But outside of that context, morning workouts might still be the way to go, said Shayna Schmidt, NASM-certified personal trainer and cofounder of Livekick. That's for a pretty simple reason: "If you get your exercise done in the morning, you can simply roll with whatever comes up later in the day," Shayna explained. "You're far more likely to be consistent with your training if you get it done early in the day rather than delaying."
Still, it's important to remember that this study wasn't designed to test for weight loss in terms of workout timing; the different results could have been caused by individual schedules and routines, not necessarily because of the morning vs. afternoon factor. Plus, both the morning and late groups lost weight compared to the control group. "Ultimately, movement is movement," Shayna said. "If someone is just getting started making fitness a part of his or her life, fitting in any kind of movement at any time of day is certainly a win."
How Do You Make Morning Workouts Happen?
If you're thinking of giving morning workouts a try, whether for weight loss or just because they work in your schedule, the transition can be tough. "Dip your toe in first," Larry said. "Start easy and find out if it's tolerable for you." If you find that evening or afternoon workouts just work better for you, don't force it.
If you are giving morning workouts a try, though, Shayna offered three key tips:
- Start with at-home workouts. "If all you have to do is roll out of bed and open your computer or an app, you're far more likely to get it done," she told POPSUGAR. It's one less obstacle in the way of you and your workout, which can sometimes make all the difference. Try this at-home bodyweight workout and see how you like it.
- Set out your workout clothes and gear the night before. The less you have to do in the morning before your workout, the better chance you have of making it happen. Put your socks in your shoes, lay out your leggings and sports bra, fill up your water bottle. "No matter how half-asleep I am, everything is there and ready for me and I don't have to wander around, bumping into lamps as I find a sports bra," Shayna said.
- Remember that it's worth the struggle. "Every time you listen to the voice that says, 'Get out of bed,' instead of the one that says, 'Five more minutes,' you're more likely to create a lifestyle change," Shayna told POPSUGAR. Little tricks can help, but at the end of the day, it's repetition and consistency that make a habit. As much as you can, remind yourself how good you'll feel after the workout. "You'll be so glad that you did it," Shayna said. "Fight through that one sticky moment."
Everyone who works out in the morning has their own strategies for making it happen, including waiting to watch favorite TV shows until you're on the treadmill. If it's something you want to try, experiment and see what makes it worth it for you.