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Are You Working Out At The WRONG Time?

strong motivated woman celebrating workout goals

Summer is around the corner, which means many of us will be eating healthy and hitting the gym to get beach body ready. However, experts have revealed that your results could be impacted depending on the time you work out.

Late-night training and early-morning training both have their advantages and disadvantages, however depending on your training goals these pros and cons could significantly be impacting the efficiency of your workout. 

I spoke to the sports nutrition experts from Bulk who have weighed up the pros and cons of an early-morning workout and a late-night workout- highlighting which is best depending on the results you want to achieve.

Early morning workout- 5 am-8 am 

Advantages 

  1.  Increased alertness 

One of the biggest advantages to an early morning workout is feeling more alert- believe it or not.  

Whilst you may feel exhausted as you drag yourself to the gym, your body produces a hormone called cortisol which is at its peak level at around 8 am in the morning. 

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, helps you keep awake and alert. This hormone will only cause you problems if there is too much or too little of it. 

Therefore, if you have a healthy circadian rhythm- the 24-hour cycle that includes physiological and behavioural rhythms like sleeping- your body will be more prime to exercise early in the morning.  

  1.  Can improve weight loss rate 

For those looking to shred some body fat, a big advantage of working out in the morning is it is generally better for weight loss. 

Elevated cortisol levels and growth hormones in the morning are both associated with your metabolism.  

Therefore, taking high-intensity exercise in the morning can help to boost the metabolism and burn more body fat, drawing more of your energy from your fat reserves. 

  1.  Improves your body clock 

A study published by the Journal of Physiology found that exercising at 7 a.m. can shift your body clock earlier. 

Not only will this improve how alert you are in the morning but can also prime you to fall asleep easier and earlier that evening, allowing you to get enough rest to wake up and repeat the same routine again the following day.  

  1. Helps with appetite control 

Exercise generally helps to control your appetite. 

Studies have now shown that aerobic exercise, like running, cycling, and swimming decreases appetite. This is because it alters our hormone levels that drive hunger. 

The theory behind exercise as a suppressant or stimulant of your appetite is based on the activities of two main hormones, ghrelin and peptide YY.  

These are hormones with opposing actions, both released during exercise. Ghrelin stimulates appetite while peptide YY decreases appetite. 

Therefore as exercise suppresses the ghrelin hormone, this will help you to control your appetite. 

Disadvantages 

  1.  Less time to warm up before weightlifting 

For those who are wanting to build muscle or tone up, an early morning workout could do more harm than good.

This is because the body needs time to warm up before lifting weights. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to loosen up, you could risk an injury. 

  1.  Lack of sleep 

If you didn’t get to bed early enough the night before, or perhaps had a restless sleep, getting up at the crack of dawn and working out could also be extremely straining to the body. 

Ensuring the body is fully rested before engaging in any workout is extremely important. 

If you worked out the night before, sleep is what allows muscle tissue time to recover between workouts.  

Having enough sleep is also important for having the energy to exercise, therefore not getting enough can lead to being less physically active during the day and reduced any muscle strength during workouts. 

  1.  Inability to build muscle 

Working out first thing in the morning generally doesn’t help with building muscle.  

This is because your body needs a few hours to refuel stores that it has used up during the night. 

Your muscles primarily use glucose to fuel weightlifting and resistance exercises. A morning workout does not result in significant gains in either muscle mass or strength, as you don’t yet have sufficient stores. 

Therefore, if muscle or strength increases are your primary goal, workouts will see more benefits later in the day. 

  1.  Metabolic rate can impact eating habits 

As an early morning workout will boost your metabolism early in the day, your metabolic rate then generally slows down again in the evening.  

Whereas an afternoon or evening workout will boost your metabolism later in the day, which is more beneficial if your dinner is your main meal of the day, providing the most calories. 

For those looking for results in weight loss or weight maintenance, ideally, you want to align your workouts with your biggest calorie intake to ensure best results.  

If you want to burn calories and fat, changing your workout routine to the time of day when you eat your largest meal could be extremely beneficial. 

Late-night workout- 7:30 pm and onwards 

Advantages 

  1.  Higher energy levels 

A study from The University of Birmingham shows you can go up to 20 per cent longer when exercising in the evening, at a higher intensity.  

Therefore, doing workouts at a longer, faster, stronger rate will demonstrate results a lot quicker. 

  1.  Muscles will tone up faster 

Muscle strength and function peak in the evening, as fluctuating hormones can make workouts later in the day more effective.  

High levels of cortisol in the morning can prevent muscle growth, however high levels of testosterone in the evening boost it. 

  1.  P.M workouts having negative impacts on sleep is a myth 

Whilst many people believe that working out late at night can be extremely disruptive to your quality of sleep, as endorphins are still buzzing, this is a myth. 

Endorphins actually help to improve the ability to sleep, which also helps reduces stress. 

A study in Sleep Medicine found that only two per cent of vigorous exercisers said workouts interrupted their sleep, as 30 per cent slept better after a good sweat. 

Of course, depending on how late night your workout is, people may tend to rely on caffeine and taurine which are known as popular pre-workout supplements. 

Whilst there is a lot of research to support their performance benefits, particularly if you are strength training, caffeine can be problematic and impact sleep quality. 

Therefore, opting for a caffeine-free pre-workout is a better option, which contains Beta Alanine and Citrulline Malate which helps to preserve muscle pH and acidity levels – delaying the build-up of lactic acid and muscle fatigue. 

  1.  Effective stress relief 

After a long day, exercise can help you unwind and de-stress. 

This is because physical activity produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers.  

Studies show that among those who exercise, 33 per cent of high-stress adults said they feel less stressed after exercising, compared with 18 per cent of low-stress adults.  

Disadvantages 

  1.  Can impact consistency 

Exercising later in the day can make it much more tempting to move it to the next day because you are too tired. 

Studies also suggest that fixing your workout session to morning time may make it easier for you to turn exercising into a daily habit than setting it at night-time.  

  1.  Your post-workout fuel is consumed too late 

It is important to help your muscles recover to replace their glycogen stores. 

Therefore, eating a meal which contains both carbohydrates and protein after your exercise session is recommended. 

However, if you are completing a workout late at night, your hunger levels may take a lot longer to kick in, therefore you are eating extremely late. 

Eating late at night goes against your body’s circadian rhythm, impacting your metabolism and making it more difficult to maintain blood sugar levels. 

  1.  Less time for post-workout stretching 

You may be going to the gym at 9 pm, however, it closes at 10 pm, which can make you rush out of the door. 

Not giving yourself enough time to complete thorough pre and post-workout stretching can put you at risk of injury. 

Muscles and tendons that aren’t stretched properly after exercise may be more susceptible to injury.  

Whilst it’s not only important to make sure you’re stretching after exercise, but also that you’re doing the right types of stretches. 

Bulk.com experts recommend using the RAMP method to help structure your workouts.  

Following these steps for a warmup which should last around 15-20 minutes should put you in an optimal state to carry out your workout. 

A spokesperson for Bulk says, 

“There is no bad time to exercise, it just depends on the types of workouts you do and the results you want to achieve. 

“Generally, for those who want to achieve weight loss, an early morning workout is more effective, and for those wanting to build muscle and tone, afternoon or evening is better. 

“The most important thing is to find a time that suits you best, and if you feel better working out the early morning as opposed to late night or vice versa, then do so. A workout should give you a sense of achievement and make you feel good. 

“For those who do have certain body goals, consistency is key, therefore chose a time you feel you can stick to help your body ease into a comfortable routine.” 

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