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What is the Best Time to Do Cardio to Burn Fat?

author image Aurora Harklute
Aurora Harklute has been writing since 2009. She works with people with depression and other mental illnesses and specializes in physical and mental health issues in aging. Harklute holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and physiology from Marquette University and a Master of Arts in cognitive psychology from the University of Chicago.
What is the Best Time to Do Cardio to Burn Fat?
Morning exercise may promote faster fat loss. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

Frequent cardiovascular exercise promotes fat loss and helps your body maintain a healthy weight. In addition to creating a regular exercise routine, improve your diet and perform strength training exercises to slim your physique. While individuals differ in their exercise preferences, picking the right time of day to be active may maximize the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. Speak with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program to ensure that it is safe.


Cardiovascular exercise burns calories, helping your body drop extra pounds. Use a calorie calculator such as the one at MayoClinic.com to determine your estimated daily caloric needs. Subtract 1,000 calories per day from this estimate to lose 2 lb. per week. This 1,000 calorie restriction can come from dietary changes or physical activity, or a combination of the two. In addition to promoting weight loss, aerobic exercise decreases cardiovascular risk, lowers cholesterol levels and decreases risk of certain chronic diseases.


The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults engage in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five days per week. Moderate exercise includes dancing, brisk walking, gardening or biking. Alternatively, you can perform 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three days per week. Consider swimming, running, heavy yard work or playing basketball to boost your heart rate for vigorous exercise. Breaking your daily activity into 10-minute segments is an acceptable way to work physical exercise into your routine.

Time of Day

The time of day when you perform aerobic exercise may impact the rate at which you burn fat. According to the website Building Bodies, your metabolism increases for several hours following cardiovascular activity. Exercising in the morning maximizes this metabolic change by making your body burn calories at a higher rate post-workout. Because your metabolism drops rapidly in the evening, working out at night lessens the fat-burning benefit you receive from cardiovascular exercise. Consider going for a morning run or gardening before work to increase fat-burning processes throughout the day.

Physiological Effects

Early-morning cardiovascular activity increases fat-burning processes because of physiological balances of specific nutrients. Your levels of glycogen, a carbohydrate, steadily decrease overnight to fuel basic metabolic processes. Because your glycogen levels are very low in the morning, cardiovascular activity at that time burns fat instead of carbohydrates. Your glycogen levels are higher at other times of the day, meaning that your body will burn extra carbohydrates before utilizing fat. Make use of your low morning glycogen levels by doing 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity before eating breakfast.


In addition to burning fat more efficiently, morning cardiovascular activity confers other benefits. Aerobic exercise boosts your mood and increases relaxation. Exercising in the morning prepares you for the rest of the day by reducing fatigue and increasing your energy levels. According to MayoClinic.com, a morning workout is a good option for people who have trouble sleeping. Performing aerobic exercise in the evening may leave your body too energized to sleep soundly.


Exercising on an empty stomach may leave you feeling weak or fatigued. Always listen to your body during a workout and stop immediately if you feel dizzy or faint. Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated throughout your workout. While pre-breakfast workouts may boost efficiency of fat burning, cardiovascular exercise is beneficial at any time of day. Exercise in the afternoon or evening if it is better for your schedule or if you feel more energetic and motivated at those times of day.

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