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Photo: Dan Saelinger
Just as it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, it's better to have squeezed in a quick evening workout than—well, you get the idea. But what if we told you that it's best to work out first thing in the morning and that other healthy activities are likewise most beneficial at specific times? Here's our daily plan for staying in tip-top shape.

7 a.m.

Rise and Run on Empty

Yet another reason to get your exercise out of the way early: A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that working out before breakfast burns nearly 20 percent more fat than waiting until after your first meal. The study was small and conducted on men, but as lead researcher Javier Gonzalez points out, "Women burn more fat during exercise, so it's possible they could see an even greater fat-burning benefit by working out before breakfast." When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body burns more stored fat than carbs to give you the energy you need. (Still, drink water to stay hydrated.) If you work out after you've eaten, your body relies more on carbs, potentially making it harder to lose weight.

12:30 p.m.

Load Up on Lunch

Making lunch your biggest meal could help you shed pounds. A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity followed 420 overweight or obese men and women on a Mediterranean diet for 20 weeks and found that those who ate approximately 40 percent of their total daily calories—from carbs and protein like legumes or fish, with a side of salad or cooked vegetables—before 3 P.M. dropped an average of 11 percent of their body weight, compared with 9 percent among those who ate their biggest meal later. "Your metabolism runs on its own internal clock," explains study coauthor Marta Garaulet Aza, PhD. "If you eat your biggest meal too late, you can disrupt the body's natural cycle and it may think it's time to store fat instead of burning it for energy."

Next: Remember to do this before bed

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