Last issue we spoke scientifically trying to identify which hours of the day were best to squeeze in a workout. The body science, specifically hormonal levels and muscle malleability clocked late afternoon to early evening as the optimum slot to get in some ‘gains’. There are some that rise from sleep and full of energy aka Early Birds. Another type of person, the “owl,” wakes later and more slowly than most, taking a few hours to get functioning and feel alert. Generally speaking, the owl will perform better in the late afternoon, while the lark will perform better in the morning. But life, presently, doesn’t run solely on body science nor personality any longer…
For the early bird there are several plus points to sweating with the sunrise. Morning exercise whirrs and revs the body metabolism and keeps you in the calorie-torching mode for the rest of the day. A 2012 BYU study published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise further showed that women who exercsies in the morning were far more active during the rest of the day in comparison to the control group. A major advantage to working out in the morning time allows for consistency. Generally speaking, it is easier for an individual to stay on track with a fitness regime first thing in the morning because there is less time for family, evening plans, commuting, late nights in the office, and other distractions to get in the way. Fatigue from a long day can also lead to skipped evening workouts. Plus training in the morning frees up evenings for a social life.
One is less likely to face crowds as well in the place of exercise and if there is an influx of gym-goers between 6 and 8 a.m., these patrons tend to get in and get out within a fixed amount of time, leaving no room for socialization and clogging up the gym floor. Perfect to get in some “me time”.
My favorite feature of morning workouts is that one can basically go to bed in workout attire (sneakers excluded), wake up and hit the ground running LITERALLY! Throw in some AM caffeine as a pre-workout stimulant. Drinking a cup of coffee before exercising can help you burn more calories when your workout is done.
More pros to dawn time workouts include improved night sleep and a reduction of sleep levels evidenced by a 2011 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Morning workouts helped volunteers sleep longer and go through deeper sleep cycles when compared to exercising at other times of the day. These early birds not only increased their cardiovascular health, but also decreased their stress and anxiety thanks to a good night’s sleep. Basically, the more deep sleep the body gets, the more time the body has to recuperate. The healthy cycle that occurs is a positive mindset the next morning, which fuels a good workout, ergo more optimism injected. Not forgetting the bragging rights when you state to co-workers, “I saw the funniest thing in the gym this morning” and of course, that adrenaline-endorphine facial glow.
The downside to morning workouts is that it definitely isn’t for everyone. Some just aren’t wired to be early birds much less perspiring ones. And while morning workouts, especially in a fasted state (pre-breakfast) is optimum for fat burning it has to be titrated carefully to ensure muscle loss doesn’t occur instead. This means that one must keep the intensity of training low and ensure proper warm-up to prevent injury when core body temperature is low.
Afternoons, though body physiology wise are better suited for training sessions aren’t usually an option for most. Work/school/domestic commitments reign supreme for almost everyone making these hours almost impossible to exercise in. For those who can however by stealing an hour at lunch or however, it is important to keep afternoon workouts consistent! Treat them as unbreakable appointments, find a workout buddy and keep a gym bag in the car or office to minimize excuses. Just be sure to eat after the workout and not before as the blood supply that is required for muscular movements in the gym shouldn’t be directed to the digestive tract.
Pros to mid-day workouts include being more mindful of what you’re eating for lunch and later on, a fantastic pick-me-up to beat the afternoon slump and boost productivity and of course, keeping those evenings free for social gatherings.
Which brings us to dusk — An individual who works out later in the day has the opportunity to eat and fuel his/her body for a tough and intense workout in the evening time. Evening workouts are a fabulous way to blow off steam and bust that work stress. Just relieve yourself through those sweat pores – a far better option than hitting a happy hour, if you ask me! It also tends to be easier to find a gym buddy who is willing to meet you for an evening workout than one who’s up for a 5 a.m.-cardio session, which helps in keeping consistency. Gyms too themselves offer a greater variety of classes during these hours so more options to choose from.
Exercising in the evening is the best time to gain strength as muscles have warmed up by the afternoon or evening and the body’s hormone profile is suitable for muscle-resistance and building. Evening exercise might also help you to regulate the amount of food you feel like eating for dinner, which is beneficial if you tend to eat big meals at night. But of course there are cons to working out after sunset as well. Too high intensity training close to bedtime prevents proper deep sleep and can result in fatigue and lethargy long term. The biggest downfall for working out late in the day is that the longer you put it off, the more likely it is that you keep putting it off. Life gets hectic and it takes discipline to stick to your resolution of exercise with looming to-do lists and endless obligations.
So WHEN does one work out? I personally advise people to find what fits best for their fitness. Figure out based on your personality and commitments whether you’re the owl or the early bird. Once you do, stick to it and gradually build up your fitness, endurance and performance. The most important thing is to fit in some time to SWEAT in a day!
Juggling many roles from physician to writer to pilates instructor to Marketing-PR executive, Dr. Daamini is constantly pushed and inspired to get creative on how to encompass a Retreat into her daily life.