Should we be exercising in the morning, afternoon or at night if we want to lose weight and maximize fat loss? Here are the pros and cons of exercising at various times throughout the day in order to help you plan your workouts to ensure you burn the maximum number of calories or kilojoules and in doing so move you closer to achieving your weight loss goal and becoming a happier, healthier you.
Some of us are "morning people" and some of us aren't.
Those of us who are swear by morning exercise. For the rest of us, the thought of getting up an hour earlier than we absolutely have to sends shivers of panic down our spines!
Assuming those non-morning people among us can drag ourselves out of bed at an ungodly hour (especially in the middle of winter); there is another hurdle to be overcome - the thought of exercising on a totally empty stomach!
Putting this aside for a moment, there are some good reasons to exercise in the morning and also some very good reasons why it might not be a great idea.
Let's have a look at each of these under the headings of pros and cons.
Morning exercise pros
Exercising in the morning can:
•Get our metabolisms off to a flying start helping us burn more calories throughout the day
•Promote more fat burning because our depleted glycogen stores force our bodies to turn to fat
•Produce endorphins that stimulates us and helps us get off to a positive start to the day
•Act like a cup of coffee and wake us up
•Help us exercise more consistently by minimizing distractions
•Can create time for exercise by forcing us to get up a bit earlier
•Improve energy levels for the rest of the day ahead
•Improve our mental sharpness for hours after
•Allow us to exercise unaffected by summer heat
•Minimize our exposure to air pollution exercising outside
•Make it easier to get on machines in the gym without waiting and when time limits don't apply
Morning exercise cons
As well as having many positives, morning exercise also has some negatives.
Included in these are the facts that morning exercise can:
•Force us to workout with less than optimal energy levels
•Promote injuries by forcing us to workout with cold, stiff muscles
•If exercising before eating, muscle (as well as fat) can be used as a fuel source
•Make it difficult for us to form a habit for exercise (if we are not "morning people")
•Put some of us at higher risk for heart attack (research suggests a generalized increased risk)
Contrary to the popular belief that exercising in the morning is best, some research shows that the ideal time to exercise from a physiological perspective is actually in the afternoon.
Let's have a look at the pros and cons of working out in the afternoon.
Afternoon exercise pros
Exercising in the afternoon can:
•Increase exercise performance - our body temperature is ideal & muscles at peak strength
•Prevent injuries - our muscles are sufficiently warm and most of us are alert in the late afternoon
•Improve performance - the circadian rhythms in our brains are in an ideal state
•Expel our bodies of stress that has accumulated during the day
•Give us something to look forward to before relaxing in the evening
•Make exercise seem easier - studies show perceived exertion of exercise is lower late in the day
•Make exercise convenient - exercising during our lunch break for example
•Make it easier to "partner up" or find a workout partner
•Can help lower the amount of food we eat - by helping us to avoid large lunches for example
•Can help reduce the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
•Help us maximize our fitness and muscle size and strength - research shows 3-7 pm is best