I enjoy exercising and promoting exercise within the community, but a day never passes when I am not asked when the best time to work out is.
Is morning better than the evening, does the early bird get the worm? Despite this popular mantra, most fitness enthusiasts swear by, the best time to work out is an age-old debate because of the physiological effects working out can have over the body at different times.
Trying to devise a solid workout regime at a particular time of the day can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you aren’t sure how your body reacts to morning and evening exercises. A morning workout may be the best way to burn fat, but your energy levels could be at peak in the evening, giving you a more advantageous training. There are pros and cons for morning and evening, but it comes down to what works best for your day to day routine. I wanted to put together the good and bad for both morning and evening to help in deciding what works best for you.
• Higher fat burning potential — Working out in the morning can give your metabolism a massive boost, helping your body burn more calories throughout the day, compared to an equally intense evening workout.
• Recovered and repaired in the morning — eight to 12 hours before waking up, your body was in sleep mode and ready to start regenerating. Oxidation takes place every day in our bodies on a cellular level and your body draws energy stored in the muscle fibers to recuperate.
• Less stress during workout — Research has shown that people who work out regularly in the morning, feel far less stressed and more empowered during work hours.
• Better Nutritional Choices — Since you’ve already started your day on a great foot, you’ll not want to waste all that effort by eating unhealthy junk. Vegetables and high protein meals will begin to look more appealing to you and you’ll be able to manage your cravings more effectively.
• Sleeping better at night — Health researchers have found that exercising in the morning could help you have better sleep in the night. This is contrary to common belief that exercising in the night will tire you out and help you fall asleep faster. Researchers found that people who workout in the daytime experience a 25 percent drop in blood pressure in the night, helping them feel calmer and fall into deeper sleep faster.
• You have to WAKE UP EARLY — This one is pretty obvious. If you’re not a fan of waking up early, getting out of bed in the morning can feel like a huge challenge — especially if you must do it on a regular basis. If you’re not used to morning workouts and you end up forcing yourself to get up and exercise, chances are you won’t put in maximum effort into it as you would in the evening. Moreover, if not planned properly, waking up earlier could also disrupt your sleep pattern, causing sleep deprivation.
• Injury risk — Your muscles and joints are stiffer in the morning, so to reduce your risk of injury, you’ll have to spend more time on your warm-up for a morning workout. One study showed that your muscles and joints are as much as 20 percent more flexible during evening hours.
• Nutrition/energy deficiency — Fasted cardio might work for some people, however, most people will have to plan ahead, saving time for a snack prior to their morning workout. It may take some time to figure out the foods and portion sizes that will suit your body during exercise.
• Blowing off steam — If you had a rough day, sweating it out at the gym can be incredibly beneficial. Pumping some iron in the evening can help clear your mind from the past events of the day, as you will focus mainly on your workout. If you’re working out after work, it can serve as a nice transition that will help de-stress your mind before you join your loved ones at home.
• Longer workouts — Since you don’t have to think about work anymore, you can spend more quality time in the gym. This means that you’ll spend more time warming up and doing the workout you originally planned to do.
• Preparedness of your body — For most of us, our hormone levels and body temperature are at their peak at 6 pm. In addition, your body is more flexible during this time and less susceptible to injuries.
• Calmer mornings —You’ll get some extra time to sleep and you don’t have to wake up worrying about packing a change of clothes, showering super-fast in the gym or grabbing a post-workout meal after training. This can make mornings much less stressful for most people.
• Distraction — A last minute dinner plan, meeting with friends, or something comes up with the kids are common distractions that typically occur in the evening. This may cause you to take gym time right off the schedule. Additionally, after a long day, you may not feel as pumped to work out and it may be more tempting to spend the rest of the day on the couch or bed.
• Gym crowds — Gyms are usually more crowded in the evening, which means getting the machine or spot you want may not be as easy. This can make your workout less efficient, longer lasting, or not even worth it.
• Sleep disruptions — Working out 2-3 hours before bedtime can affect the overall quality of your sleep. Depending on the intensity of your workout, you’re in a more energetic state post workout, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
The time you choose for exercise should be what works best for you and one that suits your schedule. For morning risers, exercising in the morning can be a pleasurable, exciting feat, however, for others it can be quite stressful. On the other hand, exercising in the evening may help de-stress you, but at the same time, doing it too close to bedtime may affect your sleep cycle.
In the grand scheme of things, making time for physical activity and making sure that it is something you can stick with on a consistent basis is what matters in the end. Remember that finding something you enjoy doing is what keeps you going back, so if you find your exercise or exercise time as stressful or unpleasurable it will not and should not continue.
John Mark Tyler is a chiropractor at Rehabilitation & Performance Institute, PSC, 412 E. Second St., 270-926-8145.