Morning Moves or Nighttime Grooves: Best Workout Times
The hour you choose can make a real difference!
-Allison Ford, DivineCaroline.com
I work in an office of pretty healthy people. Some of my coworkers add flaxseed to their oatmeal, others take nutritional supplements and do organ cleanses, and we even have a few anti-smoking and pro-sunscreen crusaders. Of all my health-conscious colleagues, though, the people I’m most in awe of are the ones who manage to hit the gym before they arrive at work in the morning.
I go to the gym every day, but I simply cannot imagine getting up at dawn and slugging it out on the treadmill or the elliptical machine before I’ve even had a chance to grab breakfast and read the day’s headlines. But when I describe my own routine of working out on my lunch break or right after work, these people admire my resolve, because to them it seems much harder to fit in a workout during the day. Trainers and exercise physiologists are divided over the best time of day to work out—morning, afternoon, or evening—because each has its advantages and its disadvantages.
Rise and Climb
The arguments for exercising first thing in the morning are as much mental as they are physical. When you begin your day with a workout, you eliminate the distractions and excuses that can pop up throughout the day that prevent you from hitting the gym. By getting it over with early, you never have the chance to talk yourself out of it or get sidetracked by work projects or other commitments. Many people like working out early because it makes them feel energized for the rest of the day.
That energy can last a long time. Some experts argue that when we work out early, our metabolism gets revved up and then we spend the rest of the day burning more fat than we would if we worked out midday or in the evening. Morning exercise usually requires an empty stomach, since trying to work out after a big meal can cause cramps, heartburn, or sluggishness, but that also works in our favor. Before breakfast, our muscles are depleted of glycogen, their main fuel. Working out before filling up forces the body to use stored fat for energy, not the calories we’ve consumed most recently.
Morning workouts may require much more discipline, but the main problem is that we’re not likely to be at our physical or mental peak. Our brains are tired and groggy and our muscles are stiff and cold. It’s important to spend a few extra minutes warming up or stretching before early-morning workouts to lessen the chance of injury.