Hey Angels & Alphas!
What time of day do you hit the gym?
To be honest, I’ve heard every possible answer to this question, but I still keep asking it. There’s something about it that lets us learn more about the person – I believe the perfect time for you to exercise is as much about personal preference as it is about your physiology.
For some people, finding time to work out is challenging enough, so they tend to focus on working out whenever they can fit it in their schedule.
But for those of us who freely choose when we can go to the gym, how do we make sure our physiology actively supports our fitness goal at that time of day?
Exercise has to feel good to be productive. If your muscles are too stressed at the end of the day, or too tight in the early morning, your workout efforts can fall behind.
Today, I want to take a more in-depth look into what science has to say about this – so you know what to expect, and you can make the right choice regarding when to go hit that gym session!
Let’s discover the benefits of each of the three individual choices – morning, evening, and night workouts.
Science says morning workouts are the best…
Well, sort of.
Let me just say – I love morning workouts. There’s just something about the luxury and tranquility of the early hours that allows you to focus on that deep, intimate connection with yourself and set the boundaries of your focus for that day.
However, I know very well that most people aren’t morning people… and that’s completely okay.
Anthony Hackney, a professor of Exercise and Sports Science at UNC, believes that morning workouts are the single best way to burn off stored fat. Your hormonal composition right after you get out of bed will be one that fully supports the goal of losing weight.
Mr. Hackney states that in the early hours of the morning, your hormones predispose you to better metabolism of fat.
In the morning, we naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone (both involved in your metabolism). Therefore, the professor says that your body tends to draw its energy from your fat reserves. What happens next? Fat burning and weight loss!
Some research even concludes that early-morning exercise leads to appetite suppression throughout the day, another significant factor in weight loss. Not to mention, breaking a sweat before lunch has been shown to lead to better mental health, awareness, and productivity throughout the day.
A study in the Journal of Physiology found out that working out is a great way to shift your body’s circadian rhythm. Exercisers who started working out at 7 a.m. every morning quickly got used to doing it consistently. They got tired earlier in the evening, and this lead to them getting enough rest at night, waking up the next morning, and doing their next 7 a.m. workout. Another similar study also found out something similar – people who worked out at 7 a.m. every day reported having better and more soundly sleep.
And to top that off, check out this research that concludes that healthy habits are easier to develop in the early hours of the day!
It’s somehow more comfortable for us to keep our morning routine consistent. If you work out in the afternoon or evening, you might have all the responsibilities of the current day still on your mind. And if you’re hitting the gym after work, being present and paying full attention could be even more challenging.
So if you’re a morning person who’s all about the productive, get-it-done mindset, early workouts are probably your thing!
But for all the loyal fans of the “Snooze” button, we have other alternatives!
Afternoon workouts don’t fall behind!
Believe it or not, a lot of people hit the gym in the early hours of the day because of the countless CEOs and entrepreneurs who promote “squeezed early-morning workouts”, naturally associating it with their lifestyle of success.
It all sounds great, but for most people, those 5 a.m. workouts are just not going to cut it.
Back to the words of Mr. Hackney – he says that lunchtime training is the best choice for long, rigorous exercise routines.
Because you’ll have eaten a meal (or two) by the time you get to the gym, you’ll naturally give your performance a boost. While training in the morning is ideal for burning fat, working out later in the day will help you (supposedly) perform better.
Every time you eat, your blood sugar levels rise. Of course, if you’re going to be working out at a higher intensity, you need sugar in the form of blood glucose.
Check out this research – it suggests that your body adapts to your regular workout times. This means that if you hit the gym every day at 2 p.m., you’ll start performing at your best at 2 p.m. The idea that sticking to a particular workout window results in better performance isn’t new – but scheduling your workouts is way more complicated than just picking a time and heading for the gym.
The same study that talked about 7 a.m. workouts states that working out between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. can also shift your body clock toward performing better in that time window – if you keep your goal in mind, that is.
An essential factor in the quality of your exercise is your body’s core temperature. Imagine someone who is shivering cold! Their muscles are likely stiff and inefficient, and they’re way more susceptible to injuries and sprains.
Your body temperature usually increases as the day goes on. This leads a lot of experts to believe that endurance and strength peak in the afternoon (when your body temperature is the highest) and your muscles become more flexible, your reaction time improves, and your blood pressure is kept low.
But probably the most critical factors in determining your optimal workout time are your hormone levels. If your goal is to build strength and muscle, you need testosterone, and your body will produce more testosterone during a late-afternoon workout than it will during an early-morning one.
Do you follow me so far?
Morning workouts are better for burning fat; afternoon workouts are better in terms of muscle performance.
All that’s left is…
Evening/night workouts have benefits too!
Convenience. For most people who work all day, this is the only practical way of squeezing a workout.
However, it can cause some problems.
The Journal of Physiology study I shared with you earlier found that 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. workouts delay your body clock! This means you’re not going to be going to bed anytime soon after a gym session.
But remember Mr Hackney? He’s not convinced!
He says that evening training shouldn’t interfere with your sleep patterns as long as you don’t immediately go to bed when you come home. He even suggests stress-relieving activities such as yoga to help you sleep better if you work out at night.
To top it all off, a few pieces of research out there suggest that nighttime workouts also set you up for weight loss by reducing the levels of hunger-stimulating hormones in the body.
Where does that leave us?
If you had to pick the best time to exercise, which would it be?
In the end, I feel like it’s essential that we create a realistic, consistent exercise schedule. And in order for it to be consistent, it has to be enjoyable.
Most people won’t enjoy getting up early for a workout, even though it has substantial weight-loss benefits. And the majority of people who are used to early-morning gym sessions just won’t feel right going to the gym at 8 p.m., even though they might have no other choice.
So the bottom line is; if working out in the morning is the best for your schedule, do it. If you’re goal is to lose weight, all the better! If working out in the afternoon/evening is more convenient, do it. An added bonus there could be slightly better performance.
Whether you choose to head for the gym as soon as your alarm goes off, or you wind-down with a workout after a long day at work, one indisputable fact remains true;
There’s no wrong time to exercise!