The Training Timing Mystery: The Optimal Time to Exercise

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Last reviewed: 14.06.2024

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08 June 2024, 20:24

A long-standing debate among those who want to get in shape continues: when is the best time to exercise? According to Future Member, about 41% of workouts take place between 7 and 9 a.m. Or 5 and 7 p.m.

"The debate is fascinating, with advocates of both morning and evening workouts making different arguments," says Dr. Andrew Jagim, director of sports research at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska. "From increased energy levels to improved performance or greater efficiency for weight loss, health experts study the science behind workout timing to shed light on the optimal approach for achieving fitness goals."

Morning workouts

For those who exercise in the morning, the appeal of starting the day with a workout is undeniable.

"Completing a workout before starting the day can provide a sense of achievement and set a positive tone for the entire day," explains Dr. Jagim. “The post-workout release of endorphins and the satisfaction of completing a task before 9 a.m. Can be a powerful motivator.”

Perhaps most importantly, morning workouts eliminate the need to worry about finding time to exercise later in the day, since this is often the only time that is not already occupied by work, social events, or family commitments.

"By finishing your workout in the morning, you free up your afternoon and evening hours for other activities, such as cooking dinner, socializing, or simply relaxing," notes Dr. Jagim. "This feeling of freedom and flexibility can reduce stress and improve overall well-being."

For those who begin morning workouts, strategic pre-workout nutrition can make a significant difference in energy levels and performance.

"Starting the day with a balanced breakfast containing carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats can provide the energy you need for your morning workout," advises Dr. Jagim. "Choose whole grain cereals, Greek yogurt with fruit, and allow plenty of digestion time to avoid discomfort and optimize nutrient absorption. Or, if you're not hungry in the morning or don't have time, something as simple as an energy bar will do." "

Evening training

For some people, however, getting up early in the morning to exercise is the last thing they want to do, which makes evening workouts more appealing.

"Your body's ability to perform exercise peaks in the afternoon and early evening, with optimal muscle function, strength and endurance," says Dr. Jake Erickson, a sports medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska. "At this time, your body is already awake from moving throughout the day, you've probably already eaten one or two meals to ensure you have enough energy for your workout, and you can be more mentally alert."

In addition, oxygen uptake kinetics are more favorable in the evening, allowing for more efficient use of resources during exercise. "Your body is ready for performance in the late afternoon and early evening, making it an ideal time for high-intensity workouts such as interval training or speed work," explains Dr. Erickson.

On the other hand, people who choose to exercise in the evening face unique challenges in balancing time commitments and mental energy.

"After a long day at work or a day with the kids, it can be difficult to find the motivation to go to the gym and do a physically challenging workout," adds Dr. Alecia Gende, a sports medicine and emergency medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska.

"Additionally, intense physical activity in the evening can trigger a stress response and make it difficult to fall asleep or cause you to wake up in the middle of the night if your cortisol is imbalanced and released at the wrong time. If you need to exercise before bed, it's best to engage in less intense activity, such as a walk." or light strength training. In this case, moving the workout to an earlier time in the day may be more beneficial for them."

Finally, if you decide to exercise later in the day, it is important to ensure you are getting enough nutrients throughout the day so you have enough energy to support your workout, and to eat a balanced meal after your workout.

"After a long day, it's important to replenish your body's carbohydrate and protein stores," advises Dr. Jagim. "Eating a nutrient-dense meal within two hours of exercise can help promote muscle recovery and improve exercise adaptation. Consider options like stir-fry chicken with quinoa and vegetables or a protein stir-fry to replenish after an evening workout."

What about working out in the middle of the day?

Whether at work or at home, most people experience a slump around 3 p.m. A study of more than 90,000 people recently found that exercising during the day reduced the risk of heart disease and premature death more than physical activity in the morning or evening. The benefits of daytime exercise for longevity were most pronounced in men and older adults.

"Morning workouts may not be suitable for shift workers or those who work late or go to bed later in the evening," says Dr. Gende. "In this case, it may make more sense to give yourself more sleep in the morning and train in the middle of the day or early evening before your next evening shift or late at night."

According to the OnePoll survey, the most effective activity for a day's exercise is walking, which is great for invigorating both the mind and body.

Avoid just sitting on the couch

For those who say they don't have time, you can always find time.

"I suggest planning an activity that competes with snacking," says Dr. Erickson. "This can be a good excuse for those who tend to sit on the couch and snack in the evening to change their habit. They can use this time to do some exercise. This can lead to a significant improvement in fitness as they will consume fewer calories by avoiding snacking.", and burn more calories through exercise."

For people who engage in long or intense workouts (more than 90 minutes), nutrition during exercise can play a key role in maintaining energy levels and preventing fatigue. Dr. Jagim recommends including carbohydrate snacks during long workouts to maintain endurance and performance.

Finding the optimal balance

So when is the best time to train? There are even benefits to splitting your workout into short 10-minute mini-sessions throughout the day if you don't have time for a full 60-minute workout.

One thing is clear; Although the science may seem contradictory, the importance of regular physical activity is undeniable.

"Ultimately, the best time to exercise is the time that fits into your schedule and suits your energy levels and preferences," concludes Dr. Jagim.

"Consistency and commitment to regular exercise are key and much more important regardless of the time of day you choose to exercise. Any time of day is better than no exercise for reducing the risk of death from any cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer." Experiments and self-awareness are essential to determining the ideal time to optimize exercise performance, recovery and overall well-being."

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