The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
You’ve made the commitment to exercise, to live a healthier life. You’ve set your goals, even written them down so you can go to them every so often for motivation. You have a pretty good idea on what you need to do to achieve you goal. That’s fantastic! You have taken a step in living an active and healthier life.
The next step is figuring out how, or more specifically when are you going to do this. You know people that workout in the morning, some workout on their way home from work, and some workout in the evening. If you have a choice to pick any of these times consider yourself lucky. Sometimes we don’t always have a choice. If the activity you have chosen is a group activity, or any activity that is led by an instructor or personal trainer, you may need to bend to their schedule. Sometimes this can have drawbacks as it may not be the perfect time for you. But that might be OK If there are other benefits such as being more motivated by working out with others. It all depends.
Is there a difference
Does training at different times of the days impact us differently? Definitely. Let’s take a look 2 times of the day, first thing and last thing, and how this can impact our workout. These are really the two we are concerned with:
First thing in the morning:
There are some people who swear by working out first thing in the morning. Personally, I can’t do this. I have tried it before, multiple times, but it doesn’t work for me for some of the reason’s I’m going to explain. Now the term ‘first thing’ is relative, relative to the person who says it. For some, first thing might be waking up, taking care of business, and then heading to the gym. Elapsed time to when they hit the equipment might be an hour or two hours depending. For some people it might be only 15 minutes if their workout is biking or running, something they can do by just walking out their front door.
So what state is our body in fuel wise when we start our workout. This depends on what you ate in the morning and what you ate the previous evening. You did eat something, right? If you have read some of my articles on fueling the body, I am guessing you did have something to eat.
Let me create the following scenario to explain how you can be having really crappy workouts in the morning, mainly due to improper fueling, or eating. I’m going to use somewhat of a worst case scenario, but I think it will make a point. The night before your morning workout, you participated in a fitness class for about an hour, from 8pm to 9pm. This made for a long day and when you finally made it home 45 minutes later, you were pretty tired and decided to have a bowl of cereal and then off to bed about half an hour later. It’s 11 pm and you’re still awake. Soon you will be asleep you tell yourself. 12:30am and you’re still up. This is madness! OK, soon, I know it will be soon my eyes will close and at least I’ll get some sleep. It’s 1pm and you’re finally sleeping. 5:30 am, you can’t believe the alarm is sounding already. You drag your body out of bed and get ready to head to the gym. No time for breakfast, and besides, you never have been someone to eat first thing in the morning as your stomach just cannot handle it.
You made it to the gym and start your workout. You can’t believe how tired you are but you get through it. It was tough, but you did it. Your motivation takes a bit of a hit because that was a really tough workout and for all the wrong reasons. It shouldn’t have been that tough. You’ve done this before and felt good afterwards. So let’s look closely at what made this workout so challenging and sucked the life right out of you.
First off the body’s fuel was never replenished from the workout the night before. That 1 hour intense workout used up a good amount of your glycogen stores and the bowl of cereal afterwards was not really adequate to replenish the depleted stores. With the depleted glycogen stores your body does not have the fuel needed to make energy for your workout. Also, there was no follow up meal higher in protein an hour later to help the body rebuild.
Next, the lack of sleep impacted the body because there wasn’t adequate sleep time to help the body rebuild and repair itself. Sleep is a very important part in the recovery process. Also the lack of sleep plays on us mentally because we feel tired physically and mentally. How can you perform your best when the mind is just not there? Mentally you are already at a disadvantage as you are not prepared to perform. Sometimes this can be overcome by a fantastic personal trainer who can motivate you past this state of mind. Another reason to use the services of a personal trainer.
Lastly, with already depleted glycogen stores, breakfast was skipped and the opportunity to replenish these stores was missed. 8 hours elapsed from the last meal to the workout. That is a long period of time the body is going without taking in any fuel. No wonder energy levels were low.
If working out first thing in the morning is the ideal time for you be sure to get enough rest and be sure to go to bed with your fuel tank topped up. Also be sure to eat something about an hour before your workout. Banana, orange, any complex carbohydrate would do.
End of the day:
What do I mean by end of the day? By this I mean it’s your last activity for the day, other than having a recovery meal and winding down. Usually you would then be going to bed about an hour, hour and a half afterwards.
The end of the day workout is usually one where you have adequate energy and usually perform well. Usually, as the preceding day can impact this if you did not get enough sleep the night before. But, if everything went well, you had enough sleep, you have been eating well throughout the day the workout can be quite satisfying. The trouble starts to happen when your recovery is impacted due to lack of sleep. Why was sleep such a challenge in morning workout example? As what can happen most times when working out at the end of the day, you end up with elevated hormones, elevated endorphins and sometimes dealing with adrenaline dumps. Based on the activity you are doing, it may translate to your mind being so busy reviewing the activity end on end that your brain will not let you relax and sleep.
So what happens is we are up for hours. Instead of 7 or 8 hours, we end up with only 3 or 4 hours of sleep. This directly impacts our body’s recovery process. This can compound and greatly affect us negatively if this starts to be the regular pattern, and not the exception. More and more studies are showing the importance of sleep, be it for physical and mental health. With lack of sleep impacting our body’s recovery process we diminish the benefits we should be realizing, and in a worst case we risk injury.
What’s the answer
I believe balance to be the answer. You have made the choice to become healthier, to feel better and to feel stronger. Yeah! Ultimately we need to balance these things into our life’s schedule. Knowing how all these things impact how we feel and perform, decide what works best for you.
Is there a best time to workout? Yes. The best time is what works for you keeping all these things in mind. There really is no simple answer to the question. All of us are different and react to things differently. I think the more you understand about your body and how your body reacts to varying amount of sleep and food, the easier it will be to address the negative impacts of working out at different times of the day.
Try to be flexible. Train smart and you will find a way. I have no doubt.
Yours in health,