Over the last week I’ve realised a lot of my friends have never seen “the dramatic chipmunk” video. I’m a little shocked. The dramatic chipmunk is an internet meme that’s been around for quite a few years now. It’s been viewed over 30 million times and never fails to make me laugh for the sheer silliness of it. If somehow you’ve missed out on the pleasure of dramatic chipmunk, you’ll meet him in a couple of minutes. He’s agreed to star in this post.
Now back to the more serious topic at hand: when’s the best time to workout for weight loss?
First, I’ll give you a run-down of what the research says.
Then I’m going to tell you to do the opposite.
The short version of the story is this: in terms of effectiveness, working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is best for fat loss.
The theory is, when your stomach is empty you’ll burn through more of your calorie stores (like that fat sitting all too comfortably on your thighs) than simply burning through the calories of your last meal.
The other thing is, there is a lot less distraction in the morning. Consider how many last minute meetings care called at 6:30am. Or Whatsapp messages and Facebook alerts. Generally not a lot. In the absence of distraction, it’s more likely you’ll workout regularly. Anything you do regularly will eventually become a habit and habits are relatively automatic.
Sounds great right?
Here’s where I’m going to get controversial.
While the research results are of course useful, the problem is we don’t live in a bubble, nor a research lab. We live in real life where we all have different schedules, habits, and preferences.
This research also ignores the very important question of which is the best type of workout to burn fat, but that’s another topic completely.
In my opinion, claiming that morning exercise is THE BEST for weight loss, for all of us, is just completely wrong.
Enter dramatic chipmunk:
Thanks dramatic chipmunk.
Whenever you can it consistently.
I know I know. It sounds like common sense and everyone hates hearing common sense but I can’t count how many people I’ve met over the years who get caught up in details and fail to realise that consistent imperfect action gets better results than inconsistent perfection.
Let me say that again:
Consistent imperfect action gets better results than inconsistent perfection.
While one or two workouts each week are better than nothing they probably aren’t enough to give you fast and impressive results, even if these workouts are done in the morning.
I have loads of clients who love their early morning workouts. In part I envy them. But personally, I just can’t do it. At least not consistently.
For me, my energy and motivation is highest in the afternoon, when I finish work. I just love putting on some energising music, powering though a workout and sweating away any tensions form the day. Once I’m done I feel like a total super-star.
If I’m forced to do early morning workouts, instead of feeling like a super-star, I feel like this:
With this in mind, I make late afternoons work for me. My routine is generally to finish work, do a workout, then cook dinner. It flows nicely. If I have social commitments or have nutrition coaching clients scheduled that evening, I just plan ahead. I start work earlier so I can finish up earlier and fit in the workout.
Now over to you.
If you can workout first thing in the morning, consistently, then kudos to you. Go for it.
But if you’d prefer to poke your eyes out with blunt pencils than get up for early morning workouts, then forget perfection and go with awesome. By awesome I mean doing something that pushes you towards your goal on a consist bases. So if working out before lunch, or in the evening feels more doable to you, then do that.
My only suggestion is to try to make a habit out of it so it becomes automatic and addictive. To make working out an addictive habit, schedule your workouts for roughly the same time each day, and avoid taking two days off in a row. You’ll need to prioritise your workouts and mould the rest of your schedule around this sacred time.
If you do this consistently, 4-5 times a week and do the right kind of workout for fat loss, you will start burning belly fat and toning those limbs in no time at all. And even better, your energy will skyrocket, you’ll feel like a superstar, and dramatic chipmunk will be very proud indeed.
Bennard P, Doucet E (2006). Acute effects of exercise timing and breakfast meal glycemic index on exercise-induced fat oxidation. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 5:502-11.
Van Proeyen K, Szlufcik K, et al (2010). Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet. J Physiol. 21:4289-4302.
Who's Behind FYAM?
I’m Melanie Stephens a qualified nutritionist, chef and workout enthusiast who’s wildly passionate about helping people get healthy, lean and energised so they can lead truly exceptional lives of their own design.
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