For the last couple of months, I’ve been in a very good paddock! My silly season extended well beyond December all the way through January. Now that the kids have gone back to school and we’re back in our normal routine, I’ve been eating better and exercising again. I’ve also been looking at how I can do things differently in 2018 to be my healthiest and strongest.
Since I’m a creature of habit, I’ve always worked out first thing in the morning. But recently I started wondering – what is the best time of day to exercise? Have I been getting it right, or is there a better time to work up a sweat?
After lots of reading, I found that like most things in life…there isn’t a one size, fits all answer! It really depends on your goals. To hep you decide on the best time of day to exercise, I’ve put together a simple guide that’s based on scientific research.
What is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?
Exercise in the morning to:
Lose weight. Working out before breakfast has been found to burn 20 per cent more fat than later, post-food workouts. The reason for this is that after an 8-10 hour overnight fast, your body’s blood sugar levels are low. Since you need blood sugar to fuel exercise, your body will use the fat stored in your tissues to supply the energy required. Working out before brekkie, also gives your metabolism a flying start. It raises your metabolism from it’s lowest point and keeps it elevated for some time after your finish exercising. If you work out in the evening, you still burn calories during the session but you won’t get the same benefits from the ‘afterburn’ effect because your metabolic rate drops dramatically when you go to sleep.
Build Strength. Our testosterone levels are highest in the morning and decline slowly throughout the day. Testosterone helps build muscle mass, so if you’re focused on weight training, morning is the optimal time to schedule your workout.
Feel good. Cardio workouts release endorphins, that improve your mood and energy levels, an effect that can last well into the afternoon. If you wait until the evening to exercise, you’ll end up sleeping through some of those good feelings – the extra energy boost can also make it harder to wind down and sleep.
Be Consistent. Leaving your workout until later in the day, means things like, er, work, can get in the way of your workout! When you make exercise part of your morning, studies have found you’re more likely to stick to your workout routine and less likely to skip it for other obligations.
Exercise in the late afternoon or evening to:
Avoid injury. Research shows that strength and flexibility are greatest later in the day when our muscles are warm and more elastic. This is because our circadian rhythm, the body’s 24-hour clock, causes body temperature to rise slightly throughout the day and peak in late afternoon.
Achieve optimal performance. Lung function is highest later in the day, so your circulation system can distribute more oxygen and nutrients. This is also when strength and endurance peak, reaction times quicken and your heart rate and blood pressure are lowest, all of which combine to improve performance.
Enjoy it more! Interestingly, research has found that perceived exertion (meaning how hard you feel that your body is working) is lowest in the afternoon – even you’re doing exactly the same exercise routine as in the morning. So, working out in the afternoon may mean you feel like there is less pain, more gain!
The bottom line:
When it comes down to it, it’s most important to find a realistic, consistent workout schedule, no matter what the time. If working out in the morning is best for your schedule, just make sure you warm up your muscles properly. And to keep afternoon workouts consistent, treat them as unbreakable appointments, find a workout buddy to make you accountable or keep a packed gym bag in your car or office to minimise excuses.