If You Want to Maximize Your Fat Burn, Start by Working Out When You Have the Most Energy

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POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Kelly
POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Kelly

Nowadays it seems like you can biohack everything. People are reaching for MCT oil coffee with the hopes of sustained energy and improved brain health, following intermittent fasting to burn fat, and many others hacks in quest of optimizing their health. If you're not quite ready to change your way of eating, you may be looking for simple lifestyle tweaks you can implement, like changing the time you work out to burn more fat. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that. There isn't a specific time of day that will maximize the amount of fat you burn.

"No time of day is necessarily better [to burn fat]," Heather Milton, MS, RCEP, CSCS, an exercise physiologist clinical specialist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center told POPSUGAR. This is good news for all the people who refuse to step foot in the gym before 7 a.m. to exercise. "What you want to do is find the time where you have the most energy," she continued. "Let's say, for instance, you have a job where you work 12 hours a day, and then you go to the gym afterwards. You may feel like it's a difficult workout because you're already tired from the day, so you can't put as much in to that workout," Heather said. You need energy to get through your day, and you really need it to get through your workouts!

The type of training you do will impact how your body burns fat but first and foremost, Heather recommends finding the time where you have the max amount of energy to exercise. If you've ever tried to work out when you've had minimal sleep or not enough to eat during the day, you know exactly how lethargic and sluggish you can feel. The first step to burning fat is to exercise when you have energy so that you can work at a high intensity.

You've also got to do the right workouts. If your goal is to burn fat, workouts like strength training and HIIT can help, but there's a caveat: it also comes down to your body. Some people burn fat more efficiently with high-intensity workouts like HIIT, while others burn more fat with steady-state exercise like a 45-minute run. To find out which is better for you, you'll have to go to a specialized clinic to determine how well your body burns fat with a resting metabolic rate test (around $250, but prices may vary) or the FatMax Protocol test (around $550, but prices may vary). With these tests, you'll learn the intensity level you should train at to maximize your fat burn.

If you don't want to invest in either test, experts recommend doing workouts such as strength training with an emphasis on compound exercises, multijoint movements that work groups of large muscle like squats and pull-ups. Because these moves require more energy to perform, you'll burn more calories and fat.

Although cardio, specifically steady-state cardio that lasts longer than 30 minutes, has the potential to be catabolic (burning both muscle and fat mass), doing cardio-centric workouts such as rowing and HIIT can help you burn fat and preserve your muscle mass.

These are all general recommendations, and to figure out what works best for your body, abilities, and needs, we recommend working with fitness experts like personal trainers and exercise physiologists to create an individualized program.