When is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?
Should we start setting our alarm clocks a few hours earlier to get the best workout?
You may have heard that a morning workout spikes metabolism and burns calories throughout the day. Before you set your alarm to the wee hours, it’s important to know that this belief is little more than myth. A recent study by Dr. Edward Melanson in the Exercise and Sport Sciences Review studied the rate of fat burned over a 24-hour period in individuals who exercised and individuals who did not. The study found that while exercise accelerated fat burn in those who worked out, there was little to no effect over the next 24 hours.
So, what do Melanson’s findings mean? There is no ideal time of day to workout, rather it’s determined by your preferences and your schedule. We suggest asking yourself these simple questions to decide your ideal time to fit in a workout:
- Am I an early riser or a night owl?
- What does my daily work schedule look like? Do I have to be in the office early, or do I often work late?
- Do I have fewer responsibilities outside of work in the morning or in the evening? For example, do you drop off your kids at school, or do you cook dinner for your family?
By analyzing how the majority of your days flow, you’ll be much less likely to use the excuse, “I don’t have enough time!” when it comes to exercise. And whether it’s morning, midday, or night, after you commit to a workout time, we suggest shaping eating habits and sleep schedule towards optimal workout performance.
For example, if you’re a morning exerciser and you’re planning an intense workout, then make sleep a priority the night before, and avoid dinners that might upset your stomach. If you’re exercising outside, check the weather in advance to make sure you have the proper clothing clean. Conversely, if you’re an evening exerciser, be mindful of how you eat during the day. It’s much easier on your tummy if you eat a smaller lunch and several snacks, such as a low-sugar energy bar, banana, or peanut butter sandwich, to stay full. Keep a water bottle with you, making sure to hydrate.
Once you know what time of day you’d like to exercise, plan ahead as much as possible to maximize your time in the gym. For example, if you’re attending a spin class later in the evening, arrange to have a healthy meal delivered later or pull together a quick meal by repurposing leftovers.
As important as it is to fit your workout into your daily routine, it’s also important to account for flexibility. If you plan a tough workout in the evening but have a rough day at work, it’s okay to adjust. Simply move your intense workout to the next day, and take a long walk or easy run after work. If you’re a morning exerciser but have an early conflict, then move your routine to the evening. As long as you are making a conscious effort to workout, then you’re on the right track to making it a daily habit for life.