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What's the best workout and the best time for fat loss?

Are morning workouts on an empty stomach the best workout for fat loss? Not so fast……..

You've probably heard some people say that morning workouts on an empty stomach are one of the best ways to lose fat.  This can be a confusing topic...

  • Should you workout in the morning in a fasted state?

  • Should you workout in the morning after eating something to have more energy?

  • Or should you workout later in the day for the best results?

  • What about for different goals... fat loss vs muscle, for example?

Having worked with hundreds of clients, experimented on myself and studied this topic over the last 18 years – I’m am going to lay out he Natural Fitness solution here that's best for YOU, because everybody is different...

I have to say, this is one of the most frequently-asked questions that I get. And my approach is all about common sense and weighing the pros 
and cons.

While it IS true that it has been shown that training first thing in the morning
on an empty stomach does increase fat burning (the commonly quoted stat is
 300% greater), the problem is, you also increase the potential for burning up 
muscle at the same time. 

The reason fat loss is increased at that time of day is due to blood sugar.
 Because your blood sugar is at it's very lowest (after fasting all night), the
 theory is training at this time will force your body to rely more on bodyfat
than on blood sugar to fuel activity.

This is true, but the problem is protein (as is found in muscles) can be
converted into glucose to fuel activity as well. So the question then becomes,
is the extra fat burning you get worth the potential loss of muscle protein?

Loss of muscle protein potentially means loss in muscle mass / firmness and reduction in metabolic rate.

Think you've got it figured out? There's even more to consider...

Another thing we have to consider is Growth Hormone (GH). When you train
in low-blood sugar conditions, your body releases increased amounts of
GH. It sees these conditions as an emergency and responds with GH.
This hormone has protective effects on muscle and improves the use of
fat for energy. GH is not secreted in response to low-intensity activity – such as walking/gentle cardio work - 
it's only significantly released by high intensity activity.

So, in theory, training with high intensity on an empty stomach first thing
in the morning can result in increased GH secretion, which means greater
fat loss and reduced loss of muscle mass. This directly contradicts the
theory of training burning up your muscle tissue if you don't eat.

Confused yet? There's two further problems…. 

Cortisol (a steroidal hormone associated with our stress response) levels are generally higher in the morning, simply because you’ve been fasting during the whole time you've been sleeping. Cortisol
burns up muscle tissue and promotes fat storage.

And one last one, it can be tough to train with intensity first thing in the morning! For best fat loss results, I always encourage high intensity interval training. If you're not a morning person, it'll be tough to train with enough intensity to take full advantage of the GH release.

The Natural Fitness solution

Common Sense ... basically, if your primary goal is fat loss and you aren't too worried about losing a little
muscle, go with empty stomach, moderate-to-high-intensity cardio training
first thing in the morning. You will probably see increased fat loss, though
you may lose a little muscle from it. Train with weights, and it probably
won't be much muscle loss at all.

If your goal is fat loss while preserving muscle as much as possible, take a
 small protein shake or snack right after you wake up (a low-carb shake so you 
don't increase blood sugar too much). THEN go do your cardio training. The protein will help spare your muscle tissue while not raising your blood
sugar significantly enough to cause a problem.

Last thing...if you can't do your cardio with intensity first thing in the
morning, do it later in the day. That's our solution.

The absolute best time to do high intensity cardio is when you're 
energetic enough and alert enough to give it your best effort. THAT 
is when you'll really see results. Doesn't really matter what time of day that is.

When you get right down to it, getting the most from your training, whether
it be cardio or weights, is not about to worry about the details that won't
make a difference in the long run. It's about digging in with intensity
and consistency.

How to do it yourself...

Now, if you're interested in a fat-loss program that has a primary goal of 
preserving muscle mass while dropping fat, I'd definitely recommend trying our Small Group Training on Monday mornings, Monday lunchtimes, Wednesday lunchtimes, and Thursday evenings. 

It's a great program that incorporates strategic combinations of weight training, and cardio to force your body into fat-burning and muscle-building states. 

Alternatively you might go for the gold standard and invest in 1:1 training to tailor the training and nutrition specifically for yourself at a time that’s convenient for you!

Good luck!

Marc Faupel