Today's post is brought to you by Monica, a blogger and fitness enthusiast over at Not Another Diet Method. She's been a personal trainer since 2006, has a B.S. in Exercise Science, and has helped hundreds of people lose weight with her tools and methods.
You may have heard varying responses to the best time to work out – morning, afternoon or night?
When is the best time of day to work out to optimize weight loss?
In this article, I will discuss the benefits of working out morning, afternoon and night.
I will also note the steps that make working out a permanent change so that you never skip with a free printable at the end.
Some people find it hard to get up and workout. That is with great understanding, I mean who wants to hit the alarm after a deep sleep and head to the gym.
When is the best time to workout?
You may have chosen morning time to work out based on what you may have heard about fasted cardio. Fasted cardio is working out on an empty stomach in order to optimize fat loss. Studies (1) have shown there is no evidence to support this theory.
In a 4-week study trial, a group of 20 young women was either assigned a fast or a 250 calorie shake in the morning before aerobic workouts. The research showed that there was absolutely no difference, both groups lost the same amount of body fat and weight.
Another study (2) involving 16 overweight women performed High-Intensity interval training for 6 weeks. The group was either fasted or fed a meal of an energy bar, yogurt and orange juice (439 calories). Similarly, to the first study, the end results showed no difference in fat or weight loss between the two groups. Both groups lost the same amount of weight.
However, one thing that has shown to maximize your morning workouts is coffee. Coffee is a powerful stimulant. It is quickly absorbed within about 15 mins of your first sip and maximized effects about 75 mins into your first cup. get your Morning workout in around that time!
As an athlete growing up and in college, we would practice and weightlifting sessions in the afternoon. As a trainer, I work out in the afternoon because that is when I do not have clients. I find that I have my best workouts when I work out at that time.
Research (4) has shown that the afternoon time frame poses peak muscle strength and flexibility. The study found that it has to do with the bodies circadian rhythm and core body temperature. This makes sense right as you get moving throughout the day, your blood gets moving and your muscles aren't as stiff.
However, if you go to a gym in the afternoon you will typically find that it is pretty empty.
Most people do not have the flexibility to get to the gym from 2-4 pm.
When I tell my clients to train for marathons
I train runners for 5 k, half, and full marathoners. I direct them to train in the afternoon, when possible, to maximize their training. About two weeks before their race, I have them train in the morning around the start time.
If you work out at night for an event then on race day run in the morning, your body doesn't know how to adjust. Training at the same time as your race, will improve performance and allow you to have a great race time.
If you aren't a morning workout person or have time to hit the gym in the afternoon. then that means you work out at night. Some people chose not to work out at night for fear of being too stimulated and unable to go to sleep.
One study (3) has proven that even workouts have zero effect on sleep patterns. There was a study of young adults, who performed intense exercise two hours before bed and then a controlled study of regular sleep. Research showed that there was no difference between the two groups when it came to Heart rate, rapid eye movement(REM) and non-rapid eye movement.
While research hasn't been able to pinpoint the best time of day to work out for weight loss. The most important variable for weight loss is to make sure your activity outtake is more than your nutrition intake. Some call it calories in vs calories out. When you stay persistent with that, you will ALWAYS lose weight.
In order to stay on track, the following are the most crucial points when scheduling your workouts. The most successful weight loss stories come from following these:
- Schedule workouts. Think of your workouts as important meetings you've scheduled with your boss. Don't cancel
- What time is MOST consistent with your schedule. Schedule morning workouts if you find that is the time you won’t be disrupted OR workout in the evening if you find that you keep hitting your snooze button in the morning
- Track your overall calorie expenditure and log your food. Here is a Free Food log printable to help you track your food and calorie intake. Click on the link to download it. FoodLog
- Find support. Recruit a friend or find a weight loss community to join online like mine. When you have support and encouragement on this challenging weight loss journey, you will be more likely to stick with it.
- Have fun with it. If you don't like it you won’t stick with it, find a spin class or workout with friends to keep you motivated.
- Workout even when you talk yourself out of it. Results consistently happen on days you didn't want to work out. We all have days where like this. Just work out anyway.
When do you workout?
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1. Schoenfeld, Brad Jon, et al. “Body Composition Changes Associated with Fasted versus Non-Fasted Aerobic Exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 18 Nov. 2014, jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7.
2. Gillen, Jenna B., et al. “Interval Training in the Fed or Fasted State Improves Body Composition and Muscle Oxidative Capacity in Overweight Women.” Obesity, 31 May 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20379/full.
3. MYLLYMÄKI, TERO, et al. “Effects of Vigorous Late‐Night Exercise on Sleep Quality and Cardiac Autonomic Activity.” Journal of Sleep Research, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 28 July 2010, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2010.00874.x/abstract.
4. Chtourou, Hamdi, and Nizar Souissi. “The Effect of Training at a Specific Time of Day.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 26, no. 7, 2012, pp. 1984–2005., doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31825770a7