You know you need to work out, but what is the best time of day to exercise?
If you’ve been part of a regular workout routine, you may even forget the health benefits that come from it. Among many other things, exercise can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase muscle mass
- Decrease body fat
- Strengthen bones
- Improve hormonal profiles
- Enhance cognitive function
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Combat depression
These are just a few of the things exercise helps with. But with this in mind, the next question is when should you work out? Are certain times better than others? This podcast episode is devoted to finding out the answer for the best time of day to workout.
Best Time to Work out
There’s no surprise that you need to be working out and that it’s good for your health. But besides looking good and feeling good, a life devoted to fitness and exercise can help combat many diseases and conditions and helps to prevent premature aging, among a lot of other things.
Looking good is going to be at the top of most people’s list, as reasons for working out and that’s still a valid reason, but as a quick refresher here, some of the health benefits that comes from keeping your body active are, improve lean muscle mass, the decreased body fat that comes with it, the ability to strengthen your bones, improving your cognitive function, along with memory and creativity, you have better insulin sensitivity, which is your body’s ability to handle sugar and glucose, you got natural hormone production such as testosterone and human growth hormone.
You may think of those as attributed to body builders and athletes cheating or whatever, but these are natural hormones that everyone needs, male and female, and they contribute to things like anti-aging, especially human growth hormone. It’s seen as sort of like the fountain of youth, as far as hormones goes. You’ve got the benefit of stress relief from exercise, you have better sleep each night, with that cognitive improvement. Exercise can combat depression and helps you control anxiety.
Best Time of The Day to Work out
The first question is, “is it best to work out in the morning or night?” If you’re a morning person this can be an easy decision as you are probably already working out first thing. If you are not a morning person you may want to start considering it.
Working Out in the Morning
Working out in the morning is not just a good way to get you up and running for the day, but it can have some benefits for the very end of the day. When you become active first thing, your circadian rhythm becomes better engaged. Your circadian rhythm is your biological clock. And this thing can be thrown off pretty easily. If you stay up too late at night, you don’t give it a chance to run properly.
Working out in the morning helps to set things in motion which means it will wind down when you are needing to go to sleep. This is beneficial because it will improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Falling asleep will be easier as well as staying asleep through the night. Research from Johns Hopkins found that morning workouts improved for wave sleep, which is that deep restorative sleep you need to recover and rejuvenate your body. The morning workout also raises your body temperature which is a signal to the body that it’s time to wake up. The rise in core temperature that comes from exercise will not only help wake you up but increases alertness.
If you can only work out at night, you may want to keep things less intense. Whereas, working out first thing can wake you up and jumpstart your energy, the same thing happens at night, and that will make falling asleep a lot more difficult.
Best time of the day
If you’re looking for weight loss, calorie burning energy sort of thing, the research really shows that there is no best time of day to workout. If you’re looking to feel better as far as increased energy and alertness, the morning is still going to be the best. You are also going to get that calorie burning aspect that comes along with it.
You also need to look at what type of exercise you’re doing to find the ideal time. If it’s regular cardio such as any form of running, walking, mobility, you should be good to go first thing when you wake up. If you’re engaging in more high intensity exercises such as a heavy strength training, high intensity interval training, circuit training, boot camp, you may want to wait a bit after you wake up. Depending on your schedule, this might not be possible. If it is, you can wait an hour or two after light breakfast to participate in the more engaging workout. You may also want to do some low intensity cardio, first thing in the morning and then maybe save the high stuff for lunchtime or after work, depending on your schedule.
So the best time of the day to work out will depend on your goals. If you want to lose body fat, earlier in the morning will be best and it’s going to keep your metabolism burning throughout the day. If your goals are primarily strengthen muscle based you could wait until the later afternoon, this is the time of day when your hormone levels are higher, specifically, and testosterone and this is when strength levels can peak. Whichever time you commit to it’s important to stay consistent with it as a research shows this will lead to better performance, improved oxygen consumption and lower exhaustion rates.
What to be taken Before and After Working out
What’s the deal then with exercising on an empty stomach?You may not be a big breakfast eater or even feel like eating that much before workouts. If your morning workout is less intense, you should be fine working out on an empty stomach. You need to remember that you still would have muscle energy in the form of glycogen stored in your liver and muscles from carbohydrates you ate the night before or the last meal.
You should still not go longer than 20 to 30 minutes, and then, make sure you have your breakfast or your replenishing meal within 30 to 60 minutes once you’re done.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be ate at 8 o ‘clock or 7 o ‘clock. They call that abstract timing, which is when we do things depending on what the clock says as opposed to listening to our bodies. It doesn’t matter if you have breakfast at 7:30 or if you have it at 9:30 or 10, the first time you eat is essentially breaking your fast and that’s breakfast.
You can even take it a step further by going with like a cup of green tea or something and then waiting 10 to 20 minutes and then going out, if you do your walk or your cardio or whatever like that. Green tea also has some links to body fat burning. That’s a sort of thermo genic drink, it’s a good antioxidants source. So that’s a good combination in the morning. Have your cup of tea or whatever then do your 20 to 30 minutes cardio, come back, and then wait another 20 to 30 minutes. There is what they call a pulse to set your body burning fat and your body is continuing to do that after the work out. So you don’t necessarily want to interrupt by eating. If you are really hungry obviously, but if the second you finish, you start eating, you can kind of blunt that pulse effect.
If your work outs are more intense, if you are engaged in something more exerting early in the morning, you want to have something light and easily digestible, maybe 30 to 60 minutes before hand. This can be something like a banana and a protein shake, either eaten or drunk or blended together. Remember to drink around 80 ounces of water about 15 minutes before you exercise and then continue to sip water throughout the duration of your workout, not only to keep you hydrated with that water beforehand, but it also will help, you know, performance in the actual exercise itself. The main thing that is important is a focus on the post-workout nutrition to replenishing and repair the body, whether you’re doing a lighter intensive workout or the more strenuous type thing.
Again, you don’t need to eat the minute you finish a workout but you want to take advantage of the post workout window to restore your muscle glycogen, which I mentioned before, which is your store muscle energy. So this is all part of recovery and what you do at the end of one workout helps to prepare you for the next.
Breakfast is whenever you get to eat and especially when it’s related to exercise. They actually looks like there’s a longer period of time where your body is able to absorb the nutrients. There is always this idea and you might see this more push by supplement companies that you’ve got to have protein within 20 minutes or 10 minute. A lot of the research shows you can go a lot longer and still get the benefits of the protein.
Essentially, your post workout meal is whenever you eat after your work out. Whether it is 8 hours after. It still makes sense to get it in within that hour or two but the whole idea is that you don’t have to panic and get this food right away because your body’s going to start wasting away. The one thing that does look important though is combining protein and carbohydrates with that post workout meal and that’s a real ideal way to jumpstart that recovery process, again promoting the repair and rebuilding of the muscle, replenishing glycogen, just restoring energy. A good rule of thumb is eating around 30 grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams of protein for every hour of intense exercise.
If you’re working out more than 2 hours you are probably going too long, unless you are training for something specific, or it’s a longer bike ride or it’s a marathon, or whatever. But if you are in the gym for two hours you either have way overdone it or you are wasting your time and not using it effectively. Honestly 45 to an hour, if you are doing things right, should be good, and keeping that in mind, again depending on your goals, your size, if you are male or female. But the rule of thumb, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of protein for every hour of intense exercise.
Exercising Before Bed Time
Is this bad? This will depend on the type of the exercise. If it’s a lower intensity there shouldn’t be a problem, and this may help in getting you to sleep actually. Some good forms of this low intensity exercise before bed would include, walking, cycling, yoga is really good.
If the work out is too intense, close to bedtime, your body will have trouble winding down, your endorphin levels will be completely spiked and this makes your body awake and alert. Remember talking about the Circadian rhythm and your biological clock to your body. And this is almost like you’ve just woken up and it’s like 9 in the morning and your body is alert and ready to go. That’s the benefit of working out earlier, if you can, because it engages everything properly and lets the whole cycle work and wind its way down. But if you are working out at 10 o’clock at night, it’s going to be really tough to let your body settle because it’s basically up and atom and ready to go.
Again, depending on your conditioning and your consistency with workouts, keep in mind, it can take an hour or two until these endorphins are washed out. Any intense exercise needs to be within a few hours before you normally would sleep or you just erase the difficulty. Actually, you might fall asleep relatively okay, not always, but staying asleep will be a little more troublesome and getting that deep restorative sleep.
A good way to wind down the day with things like if you’re keeping it low intense, like the walking or the yoga, also involve some stretching to help in muscle recovery. And it also relaxes the body and improve sleep quality. Stretching is really something you should do every day.
If you do any foam rolling, that’s a good time to do it. You might treat any deep tissue problem that you might have, and again, promoting healing, that’s the whole idea. And if you can kind of kick start this as you go into the sleep period, it can help with results, the health benefits, we mentioned before and just so you know the overall improvement in health and wellness.
When you’re looking at when is the best time to work out, you have to look at a few factors.
Your goals will be the first thing you want to consider. And then what your schedule is going to allow. For general fitness and cardiovascular exercise, it does look like earlier in the day is going to be more beneficial. Anywhere from like 8 am to 11 am seems to be when the body really responds well to exercise. If you’re somebody who works out at like 5 am in the morning, that’s still good. The sweet spot seems to be around 8 am to 11 am, as far as beneficial levels of hormones like testosterone in your body is more alert.
If you can get workouts in, before work or possibly even at lunch, if that’s doable, you are going to get that ideal sweet spots.
When you work out early in the morning, it allows you not to worry about things like eating first, because you’re going to get that work out and you know you’re going to eat after. And then it’s potentially going to lead to more body fat burning if you get that morning workout in as well as kick starting the day and those things like improving creativity and memory and problem solving is one of the big things which is probably going to come up in most people’s jobs.
A bad approach is to trying to get it out of the way, because it should be something you enjoy and want to do. You know, again, it’s about consistency and discipline. It’s not as much about getting it out of the way but getting it done and accomplishing that for the day.
If your goals are more strength and muscle gaining based, waiting until later in the afternoon may serve you better. Again, not written in stone but the most important thing is to find a day that you are most likely more able to commit and stay consistent with it. And really its consistency and its adherence is what really drives success and results when it comes to fitness.
So, hopefully, you enjoyed this episode and learned some things regarding the best time of day to exercise. As I mentioned in the show, consistency is going to be the main driver of results. So as long as you stick with it, you’re half of the way there.