Is it all in the timing?
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Is it all in the timing?

So we all know that we need to find an exercise program that works for us in order to maximize weight loss. Whether it's running, swimming, boot camp or pole dancing, there have never been more exercise programs available to health conscious people who are looking to drop a few pounds and improve their overall well-being. Once my clients have made the decision to lead a healthy, more active life, there's one question they're eager to ask:

What time of day should I exercise in order to lose the most weight?

Morning or afternoon sweat sessions each have their own, distinctive benefits. As we've mentioned before, our bodies are governed by our internal circadian rhythm. You've probably heard the circadian rhythm mentioned in regards to getting a decent night's sleep, but it governs so much more than that. Your circadian rhythm affects your heart rate, body temperature and hormone levels, all of which are absolutely essential to a successful exercise program.

While medical professionals are split on whether there's an ideal time of day to exercise, morning and afternoon sweat sessions each have distinctive benefits.

Morning Workouts: Researchers have found that people who work out in the morning are more likely to stick with their exercise program over the long haul. Anyone with a full time job and a family at home knows how quickly responsibilities and tasks pile up as the day goes on. If you leave your workout until later in the day, there's a better chance that you'll push it back or skip it entirely in favor of other, more pressing or "important" concerns.

One BIG positive to an a.m. exercise program that's often cited is the fact that you'll burn more calories working out on an empty stomach. While there isn't enough definitive evidence to support this claim, we do know that working out raises your metabolic rate for hours after your workout. Plus, people who work out first thing in the morning may be less likely to cheat on their diets throughout the day.

Afternoon Workouts: Some people just can't make it out of bed in the morning one second earlier than absolutely necessary. If you fall into this category, afternoon workouts are definitely the way to go, since your heart won't really be on the treadmill when you're still wishing for your pillows. To get the most out of any exercise program, you need to be all in, physically and mentally.

There's also some evidence that working out in the afternoon gives you an added performance boost. While everyone's circadian rhythm is different, our bodies tend to be warmest in the afternoon, increasing blood flow and flexibility. If you prefer complicated, difficult exercise programs - cycling or Zumba, for example - it may be best to do them in the afternoon, when your muscles are warmest and your risk of injury is lowest.

There's clearly no consensus as to when you should workout for maximum results, and there are considerations a.m. and p.m. exercisers need to keep in mind. If you work out in the a.m., make sure you warm-up, since your muscles will be cold and stiff after sleeping. Likewise, p.m. exercisers need to be diligent about not skipping their workouts. Researchers, dietitians and scientists are unanimous in their belief that, more important than exercising at a particular time of day is finding an exercise program that you stick to, religiously.