Best Time to Exercise
Should we be exercising in the morning, afternoon or at night if we want to lose weight and maximize fat loss?
This article examines the pros and cons of exercising at various times throughout the day in order to help you plan your workouts to ensure you burn the maximum number of calories or kilojoules and in doing so move you closer to achieving your weight loss goal and becoming a happier, healthier you.
Some of us are "morning people" and some of us aren't.
Those of us who are swear by morning exercise. For the rest of us, the thought of getting up an hour earlier than we absolutely have to sends shivers of panic down our spines!
Assuming those non-morning people among us can drag ourselves out of bed at an ungodly hour (especially in the middle of winter); there is another hurdle to be overcome - the thought of exercising on a totally empty stomach!
Putting this aside for a moment, there are some good reasons to exercise in the morning and also some very good reasons why it might not be a great idea.
Let's have a look at each of these under the headings of pros and cons.
Morning exercise pros
Exercising in the morning can:
- Get our metabolisms off to a flying start helping us burn more calories throughout the day
- Promote more fat burning because our depleted glycogen stores force our bodies to turn to fat
- Produce endorphins that stimulates us and helps us get off to a positive start to the day
- Act like a cup of coffee and wake us up
- Help us exercise more consistently by minimizing distractions
- Can create time for exercise by forcing us to get up a bit earlier
- Improve energy levels for the rest of the day ahead
- Improve our mental sharpness for hours after
- Allow us to exercise unaffected by summer heat
- Minimize our exposure to air pollution exercising outside
- Make it easier to get on machines in the gym without waiting and when time limits don't apply
Morning exercise cons
As well as having many positives, morning exercise also has some negatives.
Included in these are the facts that morning exercise can:
- Force us to workout with less than optimal energy levels
- Promote injuries by forcing us to workout with cold, stiff muscles
- If exercising before eating, muscle (as well as fat) can be used as a fuel source
- Make it difficult for us to form a habit for exercise (if we are not "morning people")
- Put some of us at higher risk for heart attack (research suggests a generalized increased risk)
Contrary to the popular belief that exercising in the morning is best, some research shows that the ideal time to exercise from a physiological perspective is actually in the afternoon.
Let's have a look at the pros and cons of working out in the afternoon.
Afternoon exercise pros
Exercising in the afternoon can:
- Increase exercise performance - our body temperature is ideal & muscles at peak strength
- Prevent injuries - our muscles are sufficiently warm and most of us are alert in the late afternoon
- Improve performance - the circadian rhythms in our brains are in an ideal state
- Expel our bodies of stress that has accumulated during the day
- Give us something to look forward to before relaxing in the evening
- Make exercise seem easier - studies show perceived exertion of exercise is lower late in the day
- Make exercise convenient - exercising during our lunch break for example
- Make it easier to "partner up" or find a workout partner
- Can help lower the amount of food we eat - by helping us to avoid large lunches for example
- Can help reduce the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
- Help us maximize our fitness and muscle size and strength - research shows 3-7 pm is best
Afternoon exercise cons
As well as having many positives, afternoon exercise does have some potential negatives.
Among them, afternoon exercise can:
- Impose time limits which may not allow us to get in a full workout
- Conflict with distractions and other commitments that prevent us from exercising at all
- Research suggests lung function is worst at noon which could affect our aerobic performance
- Gyms are usually at their busiest around 5 to 6pm making it hard to get on equipment
- Gyms sometimes have 20 minute time limits on aerobics equipment during the afternoon
For some of us the evening is the ideal time to exercise.
According to some research studies on lung function, body rhythms, temperature and hormone levels, the best time to exercise is around 6 pm.
Here are some pros and cons of working out in the evening.
- For most people, body temperature and hormone levels peak at 6 pm
- Muscles are warm and flexible
- Some of us are able to workout harder late in the day because the perceived exertion is lower
- Can help regulate the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
- Late evenings don't typically have the level of disruptions or distractions as other times of the day
- Exercising at the gym is often easier later in the evening when other members have gone home
- Late evening workouts can de-stress us and help us turn off our brain after a day of stimulation
- Exercising at night can make us more relaxed and tired facilitating a better night's sleep
- Distractions and conflicting commitments are more likely in the evening than in the mornings
- Exercising late at night may energize some of us making it difficult to get off to sleep
- Exercising outside at night is obviously more dangerous than during the morning or afternoon
- During summer, evenings are the hottest part of the day making it uncomfortable to exercise
- Night exercise doesn't enjoy the "afterburn" effect - our metabolism drops when we fall asleep
The bottom line
When it comes to exercise, the bottom line is that it is more important that we workout than when we workout.
If we can't workout in the morning, or don't want to but can workout in the afternoon or evening, we should do it.
Consistency is one of the most important considerations when it comes to when we work out.
If we consistently exercise at the same time each day, our 'internal clock' will adjust in time so that we have the energy and become mentally and physical ready to workout.
This point is particularly important if we are training for a specific event.
If we are training for a fun run that is going to start at 7.30 in the morning, it is a good idea to do most of our training at this time too.
If it isn't broke, don't fix it. If you currently have an exercise time and routine that is working for you, stick with it.
The time of day may make a difference for intense exercise, but for something like an easy walk, the difference between working out in the morning, afternoon or evening is likely to be negligible at best.
Do you know what the best time to exercise is in order to maximize fat and weight loss?
This article examined the pros and cons of exercising at various times throughout the day in order to help us all get more from our workouts and move that much closer to achieving our weight loss goals.
Regardless of what the research says, every individual is unique, and as such, each person's body chemistry and inner clock is different. What works best for another person may not work for us. In fact, what works best for us today may change in a couple of months or years.
The most important thing about exercise is that we do some. It's far less important what we do and when we do it.
The best time for all of us to exercise is the time that is free of interruptions, when we have sufficient energy and body temperature, and that can allow us to exercise as consistently as possible over the long term.
Good luck with your exercise and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.
© Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.
This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.