What time of day should you be exercising? Strong Women ambassadors answer the most googled health and fitness questions.
We all have personal preferences when it comes to exercise. You might love squatting and deadlifting heavy weights, while your best friend prefers a sweaty HIIT class. Some people love getting outside to run while others would rather get their heart rate up in the water. Training fasted works for certain people, while many can’t fathom the idea of even leaving the house without breakfast let alone pushing their body to exercise.
But one difference that really causes a stir is when we train. First thing in the morning, during your lunch break, straight from work or before bed – whatever you do, we bet you can’t imagine any other way. But are you doing it right?
Each week, we ask trainers to answer some of the most asked questions from women who want to get into lifting. This time, they’re letting us know when we should be hitting the gym floor to get the most out of our workouts.
What’s the best time of day to workout?
“This is always subjective depending on the person, what they want to achieve and also their own schedule. A person can choose what time of the day they train and explore different benefits of training at different times, depending on what kind of week they have and tailor that for their own needs. For me, for example: sometimes I go through a period of time where I am doing morning training because my schedule will allow it, or it’s hot and it’s easy to wake up in the morning. But sometimes I have a lot of morning classes and so my training will be in the afternoons.”
“I think this is one that completely depends on the person. So some people will train fasted in the morning, which is absolutely fine. But you might want to adapt your style depending on the time of day. For example, with strength training it’s always best to be fuelled beforehand. So people who train in the morning tend to be more cardio goers than people who train post 9am, once you’ve had time to get some food. But people will respond differently.”
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MORNING TRAINING?
“Some studies show that training fasted in the morning, on a completely empty stomach is the optimal time to train. It can mentally set you up for the day, you’ll feel more organised, refreshed or energised for the day. Training after breakfast or lunch can have benefits, too – you might have a little bit more energy because you may have eaten a couple of meals. You’ll be able to actually really go for powerful, intense workouts, whether that’s resistance or cardio. And also, another good reason for training at lunchtime specifically is you might avoid that afternoon slump at work because of your endorphins post training.”
“From experience my most productive clients are in the morning, because it just sets them up pretty well for the day. They’re in a slightly more stressed, productive state for the rest of the day. And they actually seem to be a bit happier too, because I think if you train at the end of the day, stuff can come up that distracts you or you can just be knackered or you might not want to do the exercise. So I’d say morning or lunchtime tend to be the best. I think quite a good tip is that if you have flexibility about when you can take your break, go to the gym mid morning when it’s not so busy then come back and eat at your desk.”
SHOULD YOU TRAIN IN THE EVENING?
“Evening training can be good after quite a stressful day so you can use all that pent up stress and energy to channel into your workout and get a restful night’s sleep afterwards. We can also have a longer time to work out, as there’s nowhere to go after. But evening exercise can make you overstimulated, so make sure that there’s ample amount of time between you finishing the workout and actual bedtime. Often our schedules are busy, so we find the latest class, race to the gym really late, do the workout, rush home, have a shower and then try and sleep all within an hour of finishing. We need time to come down from the buzz of exercise before we sleep. You can avoid that by choosing what kind of workout you do. For example, having a nice yoga class in the evening would actually help me to sleep. If you’re just the kind of person that needs a few hours to come off from that buzz, just don’t exercise in the evening.”
“Training puts your body into a really stressed state, so you want to soothe your parasympathetic nervous system, reduce that fight or flight mode, after you train especially if you’re training in the evening. So if you train intensely late at night, and then even if you sleep pretty well, it might take your body a couple of hours to actually go into recovery mode. I would suggest training earlier in the day, pre-5 or 6pm. If you’re not a morning person, it’s still better to do some sort of exercise even if it’s late at night than none at all. In a book called Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker it basically says you are naturally an early bird or night owl and you can’t change that. So if you’re someone who stays up really late and doesn’t like getting up early, you would benefit more from training late because you’re not sleeping until later anyway. So even if you train until 6pm and you’re going to bed at 11.30pm, that still gives your body five and a half hours to chill out and get into recovery mode.”
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