Should you start your day with a sun salutation or burn off the day’s calories with a high-intensity cardio class?
Despite all the research, science doesn’t give us a one-time-fits-all answer (thanks, science).
So after you determine the best type of exercise to lose weight, it’s on you to schedule your new activity in a time slot that guarantees you’ll stick with it longer than your last relationship.
By understanding your circadian rhythm and working with your body’s natural tendencies, you’ll skip fewer sessions and drop weight faster.
Today we’ll show you why learning how to exercise at the right time for your body makes all the difference in your workout game.
Blame Your Circadian Rhythm for Your Best Exercise Schedule
A circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle of waking, living, and sleeping each person, animal, plant, and even certain bacteria transition through each day.
Though most of us associate circadian rhythms with whether we’re early risers (larks) or night people (owls), your circadian rhythm also plays a part in “brainwave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other biological activities,” as ScienceDaily points out.
So to perform your best, you have to exercise when these stats are all in (semi) perfect alignment.
Larks may automatically lace up their sneakers with the sunrise, for example, while night owls may prefer flying to the gym after work.
This basic way of deciding your prime workout time may be an easy peasy solution for you.
But it’s only half the story for many others.
You Should Work Out in the Morning If…
You’re Constantly Making Excuses for Skipping Your Workouts
Life always has a way of sabotaging your workout plans.
When you put off exercising in the morning, you’ll find it easier to shrug it off as the day continues. Your hectic work schedule, constant demands and stresses, and a zillion other pressing issues can zap you of energy and motivation.
To bust this rut, wake up and throw on your workout attire before you do anything else.
This will put you in the right frame of mind, get your excitement and blood pumping, and make it annoying to switch gears if you’re feeling lazy.
You Need Motivation to Stick with Your Goals
Morning workouts are perfect for those looking to establish a focused routine.
When you knock out a workout early in the day, you’re likely to continue on the healthy train and make that sweat sesh worth it. After all, you’ll be less likely to pig out on junk food when you know it will ruin all the hard work you accomplished earlier.
On the flipside, when you anticipate working out later in the day, there’s a tendency to overeat with the expectation of burning off those extra calories during your evening exercise. This is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t forget that exercise also gets your endorphins flowing.
When you start the day with these feel-good hormones, you’ll be basking in the glow of your post-workout accomplishment and feel happier and more confident making difficult decisions later. You won’t groan at taking the stairs over the elevator and you’ll skip those slices of pizza in favor of your homemade healthy lunch.
You’re Looking for Maximum Weight Loss
Your stomach is usually empty first thing in the morning.
Since your body relies on the carbs in your diet for energy, putting your body through vigorous activity when it’s running low on them forces your body to find something else to fuel your workout.
That’s when your body gets into the “fat burning zone” and burns your fat stores instead.
Dr. Axe says that exercising when your body’s carb stores are low has been shown to:
Unless you’re going keto, it’s unlikely that your carb reserves will be depleted enough to get into the straight fat-burning zone after a full day of eating.
PS: If you crash mid-routine, snack on a handful of fatty nuts like macadamias or almonds to give you the low-carb energy boost you need to push through to the finish line.
You’re Prone to Insomnia
The National Sleep Foundation supports exercise as a natural remedy for those who struggle with falling and staying asleep.
They mention multiple studies confirming that “after 4 to 24 weeks of exercise, adults with insomnia fell asleep more quickly, slept slightly longer, and had better sleep quality than before they began exercising.”
But here’s the catch: Exercising at night could actually make your insomnia worse.
See, exercise increases your heart rate and your body temperature (if you’re doing it right). However, you need both of these factors to calm down to get your body into sleep mode.
That’s why it’s not surprising that researchers from one study learned that exercising in the morning led to “greater time spent in deep sleep.”
The endorphins released during morning activity last all day and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are thought to contribute to insomnia (among other factors). Plus, tiring out your body physically leads to less mental and physical restlessness at night.
While these four reasons for morning exercise may convince you to get to bed earlier, you’ll see positive benefits from exercising in the evening as well.
You Should Exercise in the Evening If...
You and Your Muscles Hate Mornings
Serious night owls may not be able to change their feathers and become larks, no matter how many alarms they set or bedtimes they try so earnestly to meet.
What’s worse is that your body may just not be built for your AM plans.
Waking up early and disturbing your internal clock can have serious consequences for your waistline. Can a lack of sleep actually make you hungrier and heavier?
There are two important hormones connected to weight loss:
Bank fewer hours than your body needs and researchers say:
This simultaneous combo is a nightmare scenario for those trying to lose weight.
Additionally, if you’re not a natural early-riser and you attempt to tackle a morning routine, you may not be able to concentrate on what you’re doing or push yourself enough. Your unfocused movements can increase the potential for injury or make your sweat time ineffective (yikes!).
You Can’t Find an AM Class You Like
Since morning gym buffs usually head over to their machine or station to get in and out in their scheduled block of time, group classes may not be offered when you need them before work.
You’ll find more exercise classes in the afternoon and evening, but be warned that gyms, yoga studios, etc. will be most crowded during this time. If you like that activity, it’s worth dodging the chaos to stay on track with your fitness goals.
You Can Actually Stick To a Schedule
Since the biggest obstacle to night workouts is getting around to them, they really only work for those with enough energy at the end of the day to see them through.
Get in the habit of scheduling your workouts in a set window of time and treating that time commitment as if it’s a work deadline or a meeting you can’t miss.
Life can be arranged around the (short) time you allocate to get fit and healthy.
You Need Serious Stress Relief
If you’re worrying about being late to work while you’re exercising, you’ll never fully decompress. So sometimes there’s nothing better than working out in the evening to banish the stress of a long day.
According to researchers from Harvard Health, exercise helps us relax by:
Some turn to kickboxing, punching bags, or running to clear their minds, but you can achieve the same effect with a simple stroll in nature.
Scientists at Stanford University discovered that people walking through a natural environment (like a park, nature trail, green neighborhood, etc.) had lower anxiety and more attentiveness than those opting for a more urban, heavily-trafficked path.
The Choice Is Yours
Your circadian rhythm plays a major role in determining the optimal workout time for your body. But your lifestyle, habits, and schedule can all be overwhelming factors to consider as well.
Try morning workouts one week and switch it up the following week for seven days of night exercising. Listen to your body and track your behavior to learn which schedule you’re most likely to continue.
In truth, the best time of day to work out is whenever you can find time to.