There are lots of things you need to factor in when exercising be it what type, what exercises, what duration and even what time of day. In general, the time of day shouldn’t be your most important factor. The fact that you’re making time to train frequently is great but there are some key things to note about how exercising at different times of the day may have an effect on your body.
Working out in the morning, especially fasted (on an empty stomach) has been shown to be the best way to burn stored fat so it is ideal for weight loss. That is mostly due to the fact that the body’s hormonal composition in the morning is set up to support that goal. In the early morning, the body has a hormonal profile that provides better metabolism of fat. We tend to have naturally elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning, both affect our metabolism, so we obtain most of our energy from fat reserves. This can provide great help with weight loss as research also suggests that early morning exercisers may have less of an appetite throughout the day, which could also help with the temptation of snacking and overeating.
You might be someone who hates the thought of early alarms going off and crack of dawn workouts but research has also shown that working out first thing in the morning can quickly become second nature. A study recently published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising at 7am may shift your body clock earlier, meaning you’ll feel more alert in the morning and get tired earlier in the evening. A morning workout can also lead to improved mental health and productivity throughout the day.
With that said, if you’re more of a night owl and really not keen on changing up your training time, don’t worry. You shouldn’t force it on yourself. Some people have experienced that when they exercise in the morning they have done so at such a low intensity level that they weren’t really expending a lot of energy.
Compared to morning workouts, afternoon workouts may give your performance a boost, since you’ll have eaten a meal or two by the time you get going. When you eat, your blood sugar levels rise, blood glucose is one of the key things we need if we’re trying to work at a high intensity.
Exercising between 1pm-4pm has been shown to shift forward our body clocks in the same way as an early morning workout. Even just getting up and active can help you to perk up and refocus.
Studies have shown that your body naturally burns around 10% more calories in the late afternoon, compared to the early morning and late night. The research however, only looked at bodies at rest so were unable to draw firm conclusions about what happens when people work out. It was still enough evidence that it was deemed possible that you could burn a little extra energy if you move in the afternoon.
An evening workout tends to be the most popular time as a lot of people tend to shun the idea of getting up extra early in the morning or a lunch time workout for a more convenient after work stress-reducing session. There are also a large number of people who find it difficult to fall asleep later if they train in the evening. A Journal of Physiology study found that exercising between 7pm and 10pm delays the body clock, resulting in later bed-times.
While the research about morning workouts and weight loss are more established, there is evidence to suggest that night-time workouts can also greatly aid weight loss. Research has found that night-time workouts do not disrupt sleep, and over time can also reduce levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, which could help with weight loss or management.
In conclusion, it all comes down to trial and error and doing what feels right for yourself as an individual and helps you achieve your training goals. Train at the time that suits you best and if what you’re doing currently doesn’t suit you or isn’t helping you achieve results then use the above information to help find the best time for you to train and reach your goals!