Most of us try to squeeze in a workout session as and when our schedules allow. However, could there be an optimal time to exercise in order to achieve maximum results?
Unsurprisingly, there are a myriad of factors that could affect the way your body benefits from exercise. Here are a few noteworthy tips to take note of in choosing when to exercise:
1. Body temperature
Muscles should always be warmed up before any exercise or stretching, as colder muscles tend to be stiffer, more inefficient and prone to sprains. This means it might be better to exercise later in the day since body temperature tends to be higher in the afternoons.
If you’re a morning kind of person, make sure to warm up adequately before beginning your routine!
2. Hormone levels
Testosterone is required for muscle growth in both sexes, and tends to be produced in greater amounts during afternoon exercise. Blood pressure and heart rate are also at their lowest in the afternoon while reaction time is at its fastest. These factors contribute to improved performance and lowers risk of injury.
On the other hand, cortisol, a stress hormone which is known to cause fat storage and reduction of muscle tissue, is at its highest in the morning and decreases throughout the day. If you’re having a stressful day or week at work or suffer from lack of sleep, it could also lessen the effectiveness of your workouts and induce a tendency to overeat. Consider some stress-relieving workouts such as kickboxing to shake off your worries.
3. Before or after eating
Since blood sugar levels are lower in the morning before breakfast, the body is forced to burn fat faster at that point than later in the day when we’ve already had a few meals.
Supporting this, a 2010 study conducted by researchers in Belgium showed that exercising in a fasted state i.e. before eating, was more effective than after. Participants who exercised before breakfast did not gain weight after 6 weeks, whereas those given the same diet exercising after breakfast gained weight.
Exercising too late in the day or just before bedtime may interfere with sleep patterns. The rationale for this is that exercise stimulates the body, raises body temperature and may cause surges in hormones that cause alertness, thereby disrupting the body’s process of winding down for the day.
If getting up earlier in the morning sounds like torture to you, fret not! A study has shown that exercising consistently at the same time of day creates routine that your body learns to adapt to and it can therefore maximise efficiency during exercise, noticeably in higher oxygen consumption, lower perceived exhaustion and achieve better performance.
Try to observe how your body reacts to different regimes: it may be better to kick-start the day with a bang or be more convenient to exercise later in the day when your obligations are out of the way. What’s most important is creating a regular routine and sticking to it.