Timing Your Day For Optimal Fat Burning

One of the overlooked methods for weight loss is simply changing when you do something. Changing the timing of certain tasks you perform everyday can have a big impact on your waistline.

Fat burning clock

Let’s look at some of the ways you can increase your fat burning:


Should you eat breakfast or not is the biggest question people have about their morning meal. A better question is when you should eat your breakfast.

Before we get to that, lets look at your body’s energy sources.

You have two main sources of energy in your body. The first (that everyone knows) is glucose (or sugar) and the second is ketone bodies (or breakdown products of fats).

Here is the problem: If you want to optimize fat burning,  you need to first burn through your sugar and that means using your sugar storage (called glycogen) first. When you wake in the morning, most people have been burning through that glycogen and scientists say you are at a mildly ketotoic state (you are burning some fat and some sugar) – at that is exactly what you want.

The longer you wait to eat, the longer you are burning fat (that is: until you start to eat something with sugar in it).

This means two things. the first is that you want to wait as long as you can before you eat any sugar (this will continue the fat burning). Another good strategy is to eat foods that will only produce ketones (fats and proteins) this will extend your fat burning even longer. Your breakfast consists of mostly proteins and good fats (think: eggs, meats, nuts… and low-sugar veggies like greens).


What do you think might happen if you start exercising when you are in that mildly ketotic state? If you are thinking that you’ll burn more fat, then you are right.

When you exercise late in the day (after you had a typical meal) your sugar/glycogen stores are replenished then sugar is the fuel that your body is going to use. But if you exercise in the morning when you are already burning fat, you are likely to use up all your sugar/glycogen quickly and then your body will be forced to burn more fat.

How Fast to Exercise

This is really not a timing issue, but I’m going to include it anyway.

You have probably heard of a fat burning zone where the slower you exercise, the more (as a percentage) of fat you are burning.

Even though you burn more calories of fat when you exercise slow, the total number of calories is less. Take a look at 30 minutes of exercise with low intensity versus high intensity:

30 Minutes of Exercise Fat Calories Burned Glycogen Calories Burned Total Calories Burned
Low Intensity Group (50%) 120 80 200
High Intensity Group (75%) 140 260 400

When you exercise, you want to exercise as hard as you can, because ultimately you will burn more fat.

Eating Carbs

If you have read this blog enough, you know that I believe in a mostly paleo style of eating. This means that there are times when you eat lots of protein, but I think vegetables are super important. So if you can stay in the fat-burning mode for as long as possible means both breakfast and lunch are primary protein and fat (and low-sugar veggies). If you are going to eat carbs and replenish your glycogen, it is best to eat them later in the day and then see if you can burn them off before going to sleep.


You should eat dinner as early as possible. Why? Because eating early means two things. The first is that you have shrunk the time that you have available to eat (with a late breakfast and early dinner). This generally means less calories consumed. The second thing is that you are now up and moving around after you eat early and you are starting to burn off that glycogen again (even before you go to bed).

By changing a few things, you can improve your timing for fat burning.

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About the Author

I'm Dr. Scott Olson ND. I'm a Naturopathic doctor who specializes in diet, health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. I've written numerous books and articles on health, medicine, and alternative medicine I want to help you get healthy! Take a look at my blog and make sure you join in the conversation!

3 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Andy November 9, 2015 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I meant early before breakfast EXERCISE, so if you could change that within my comment, that is good. I would rather it make sense.

  2. Andy November 9, 2015 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    I have been trying to convince my weight loss group of this concept of early before breakfast eating. They just don’t believe me, but ask why I am able to lose 2 lbs weekly. I did give them your link. IDK if they will take the time to read it or not. Most, don’t want to think beyond the box. Having a BSN, I totally get this, and maintained my weight for over 55 years, and still do. +/- 2 pounds.
    Thank you, for this article!

  3. mark February 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    I agree totally, i’ve been telling my client’s exactly the same for ages!

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