For most of us working out is such a chore that if we succeed in making it to the gym or out for a run at all, it is an accomplishment. However, if we want to make the most of our exercise, simply turning up is not enough. A key question that many of us never ask is if there is a better time to exercise. While some of us may find it easier to wake up earlier than others, should we let that impact our decision on when to work out? What does science have to say about it?
According to the most recent research the ideal time to workout is in the morning. A number of studies have shown that the morning is beneficial from a physical and psychological perspective. Physically speaking, exercise in the morning makes sense. If you exercise in the morning you will burn the most fat. This is because your body is primed to do it. Depending on the type of exercise, exercising on an empty stomach or only a small snack may be a good idea.
In the morning your body is tuned to a different metabolism that takes a higher proportion of your energy from fat reserves. This means that when you exercise in the morning it takes more energy from your fat than it would in the evening. This clearly benefits people who want to lose weight. It has also been shown that if you exercise in the morning you tend to have a lower appetite throughout the day, another plus for those trying to lose weight. I have to say whenever I exercise in the morning it makes me hungry all day but I won’t let one piece of anecdotal evidence go against the scientific results.
Exercising in the morning also appears to be good for your mental health and work performance. It is a great way to wake the mind up and start the day in the right way. If you are not a morning person it is worth trying for a period of time. It has been shown that exercising in the morning can actually move your body clock earlier so that even if it feels tough to start with it should get easier.
Of course, some people really just hate the mornings. If that sounds like you, there is probably no point in pushing it. The reality is that if you hate doing anything in the morning and force yourself to exercise, you may go to the gym but you won’t work hard. Turning up doesn’t result in fat loss, working hard does. For those people who are still half asleep in the gym in the mornings, it would be better to workout at a time when you have some energy.
Working out in the afternoon and evenings has also been shown to have some benefits too so there is no real bad time. Night workouts may also be good for weight loss as they tend to reduce the hormone ghrelin which can make you hungry. If you go for a low intensity workout like yoga it can also put you in a great position to go to sleep a few hours later.
Despite that science still says mornings are best. However, while we love some science here at Highly Healthy we also respect that everyone has their own needs and preferences. If working out at night suits your schedule and feels right, then it probably is. Don’t force it too much. The most important thing is that you are getting enough exercise. After that everything is a bonus.