When is the best time of the day to exercise? Well honestly it depends on you, your schedule, and when you feel the best. Scheduling workouts is also a factor. For me I honestly think I’d get better results if I worked out in the afternoons, but that’s when my kids are the most whiny and interrupt me when I try to fit the workout in. So for scheduling and peace of mind I workout first thing in the morning.
When will YOU workout – You need to choose a time that will work best for you and it needs to be a time when you have the least number of excuses. And if you missed your optimal workout time don’t just skip the workout all together! Now have I had days where I missed a workout, yes I’m human. But when I begin a program I also tell myself the rules of skipping. When I did the Insanity program I told myself I was going to workout first thing in the morning and if I missed a day my ‘rest day’ became my make up day. I also told myself that if I missed 2 days in a week that I’d have to do 2 workouts on another day that week to make up for it. You know what, I had 1 week that I missed 2 workouts and it never happened again through the program. Yeah 2 Insanity workouts in 1 day about killed me and I wasn’t going through that again! Yes you can call me insane, but I stuck with my commitment.
When do YOU feel best – Are you a morning person? Are you a night owl? Workout when you feel is the best time for you and when you feel the most refreshed. I’ve always been a morning person so that’s why I workout in the morning. Since I’m working out on an empty stomach for the most part I don’t always have the fuel for highly intense workouts unless I eat a little something before working out, but mornings work best for me. So find the time that works best for you, when you feel the best.
When glycogen stores are full – Your body can push itself longer and harder if you begin your workout with a full tank of muscle glycogen. This will let you pretty much improve every important aspect of every workout that’s not tied to recovery or aerobic efficiency. Glycogen is mainly recharged by carbohydrates, and is extinguished very quickly with exercise, brain activity, and most other tasks. This means it fluctuates throughout the day and is always highest immediately after you digest a meal containing carbohydrates. This means—depending on your eating schedule—your body is probably primed for peak exercise in the late morning, afternoon, or early evening.
At night, the body can store glycogen, meaning that it’s possible to wake up and train in the morning before you’ve eaten and still have enough energy to get through a workout, but this is a theoretical scenario. And I’ve found that I have the most energy in the morning if I drink my Shakeology in the evening. Essentially if you workout in the morning and don’t have your stored glycogen you lose the ability to push your anaerobic realm, and you feel like you’ve hit a wall. When your body is out of glycogen, it starts to break down muscle tissue and you quickly begin to offset the fitness gains you’ve made. It’s inevitable that it will happen to you at some point. When it does, don’t try and push though. Instead cut your losses and get on the recovery program by eating, resting, and then reevaluating your eating schedule and/or choice of workout times.
If exercising when your glycogen stores are low is the only time of day available, you can fix the situation nutritionally. If it’s first thing in the morning, eat a half or a whole banana or drink a half or a full serving of Results and Recovery Formula® (depending on how long you’re training) before you start your workout. If that helps, try adding another serving of complex carbohydrates to your evening meal and then skip the banana. If that doesn’t work it means you’re on a nutritional edge and aren’t eating enough calories to recover from your workout program. It’s time to reevaluate your daily caloric intake.
In the morning on an empty stomach – In the morning, before you’ve eaten, your body is forced to utilize its fat stores for energy, and you can train your body to be efficient at doing so, which is cool. You’re also “burning fat,” which sounds even cooler (although it’s not nearly as effective as “burning glycogen” when it comes to losing body fat). This means easy workouts can have added benefits if done in the morning on an empty stomach.
Workout before bed – This time of day is last for a reason. Unless it is really the only time you will work out or the only time you feel the best, you should probably avoid it. Working out directly before bed can affect your sleep. Most people have a hard time getting to sleep after a workout because exercise can throw off your melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, among other things. Anything that hurts your ability to sleep should be eliminated if possible. Exercise also utilizes a lot of nutrients, which are further depleted at night. If you’re on a strict diet, perhaps trying to lose weight, you run further risk by training and then not eating to recover from the workout prior to bed. If you’re on a low-calorie diet and plan to train hard at night, you should follow your workout with, at least, a nutritional recovery strategy (Results and Recovery Formula or equivalent), if not a small meal before going to sleep.
The bottom line is that everyone’s body responds differently. We all need to exercise and most of us can eat better. In between are a lot of individual variables. When it comes to getting your best possible workout, psychology often trumps physiology. Exercise when you can and pay close attention to your performance. Then choose your preferred workout time based on your results. It’s really that simple.