There are so many ways to optimize your fitness. You can take supplements that boost your performance, get your body limber with a stretching or warmup routine, or pick a diet that promotes your health goals.
But is there anything to the time of day when we exercise that could affect our fitness goals?
What role does workout time play in weight loss, for example? It may well be that morning birds or night owls have an advantage over their counterparts when it comes to where their exercise falls on the clock.
Let’s explore the effects that time of day has on our fitness goals and see what the science has to say about how we can best schedule our exercise during our day. Understanding the role our circadian rhythm plays in our overall health is a helpful place to start.
In short, it’s your internal biological clock.
Your circadian rhythm describes how the time of day affects your body, your behavior, your mental sharpness, and your physical performance.
Thanks to genetics, our circadian rhythm is pre-preprogrammed and determines how our body changes according to the 24-hour cycle. From the melatonin hormones your body releases when it gets dark to the midday fatigue you might experience, your body is actively responding to the day/night cycle.
It stands to reason, then, that these changes could have an effect on our exercise success.
Among the many physiological functions impacted by our circadian rhythm is our metabolism. The role our metabolism plays in both the quality of our exercise and the potential to address our weight loss goals is significant.
Metabolism describes the physiological process in which the body turns what we’ve consumed into the energy that’s responsible for everything from basic functions like body temperature to body weight.
Our metabolism can play an important role in the quality of, and results we get from, our workout. After all, in order to exert yourself, you need the fuel to do so.
For that reason, there’s a close relationship between our metabolism and our performance, amongst other aspects of our fitness.
Seeing how our metabolism — this crucial process fueling our bodies — is affected by our circadian rhythm, it makes sense that our body’s exercise and weight loss abilities are also impacted by the time of day.
The connection between our quality of exercise, our metabolism, and our circadian rhythm has led researchers to examine how the time of day affects the results of our exercise.
If we exercise earlier in the day, do we jumpstart our metabolism?
If we exercise later in the evening, are we equipped to have a more fulfilling workout?
The research into this relationship between circadian rhythm and quality of exercise is still new, but there have been some encouraging findings that might better inform how you approach your fitness routine, especially if you’re pursuing a weight loss goal.
The short answer? Both times of day have their benefits. Depending on your lifestyle, either one could help you achieve your weight loss goals, but in different ways.
If you’re a morning person, we have some good news: morning exercise may directly affect your weight loss goals.
Research in sports medicine indicates that physical activity in the morning can help wake up the cells in your muscles. This jumpstarts your heart rate and metabolism.
Aerobic exercise, in particular, may be beneficial to do in the early morning hours. Aerobics — cardio activities like walking, running, or cycling — are a reliable way to pursue weight loss to begin with. They fire up your metabolism for optimal fat burning for the rest of the day.
Researchers examined mice who exercised in the late morning. They found that fat and sugar were burned faster in these morning periods compared to later in the evening.
This is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, a morning sweat session appears to burn off more fat and sugar, which can help your body lose weight. However, given the faster rate at which this fat and sugar are burned in this late morning period, it’s likely you will face exhaustion sooner than you would later in the evening.
So, exercise in the morning is a great way to get a quick metabolic burst that could help you burn fat — but you won’t get as full an exercise session as you might later in the day.
As you’re waking up in the morning, your metabolism is just getting fired up. In usual circumstances, this fuel-burning function is operating at a stable level.
Compared to morning exercisers, evening exercisers were able to perform for longer periods of time without getting exhausted. They were able to put in more effort and perform at a higher level.
The research backs this up: exercise done in the evening tends to result in better performance and in higher endurance.
The prevailing theory to explain these results is that your metabolism is already fired up by the end of the day, making it easier for your body to burn energy at a more consistent and efficient rate.
This efficient burning of the body’s energy stores allows you to maximize your output when you exert yourself. You can work harder for longer periods of time because the furnace fueling your body is already sufficiently warmed up.
But while you may be able to exercise better and longer, this doesn’t necessarily mean that evening exercise is better for weight loss.
In one sense, the efficient kind of exercise the evening brings helps you build a more reliable fitness routine and workout schedule; you’re working out at your best so that your body is being trained better. However, when it comes to actually burning fat, the most recent research suggests that morning exercise is a more effective option. As always, more research is still needed.
There are advantages to working out at all times of the day: morning, evening, and even afternoon workouts can all provide important benefits. The bottom line is that it’s better to fit in your workout routine when you have time than not to exercise at all.
Your fitness is a personal endeavor, and there isn’t necessarily a universal “best time of day” to work out. You should choose a time to exercise that best fits your fitness goals and reflects your lifestyle needs.
Maybe you feel your best when you get a workout in at the crack of dawn, or maybe you enjoy a workout as a way to unwind at the end of a long day. Maybe you squeeze in exercise around your busy workday, or maybe you stick to a schedule with your personal trainer.
At Gainful, we’re committed to helping you to exercise your way.
That’s why we help you sustain your workout no matter the time of day with your Personalized Nutrition System that is tailored to your needs. Take our quiz to see how your personalized products can propel you forward on your fitness journey — whether you’re looking to build muscle mass, improve your exercise performance, increase your hydration levels, or simply support your overall wellbeing.
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