Keeping a sustainable fitness lifestyle requires more than working out and eating the right things.
It’s about being constant and finding strategies that help you stay within that path.
A lot of things in life demand our attention now, such as work, family, and social responsibilities; it’s too easy to deprioritize training as the day picks up.
It takes more mental energy to meet the goal of training as distractions mount.
Naturally, the question of whether when should we be working out is essential for our fitness success.
While some studies suggest that changing the timing of when you eat and exercise can better control your blood sugar levels, it’s important to remain critical about the changes that we make to our schedule.
Instead of going through momentary changes or inadequate temporal fixes we want to find the best solution, which means fitting in the right time to work out properly.
In this post, you’re going to read about small bits of science about sports training timing, sleep patterns, hormones, etc.
You’ll be able to find practical applications in the highlights section.
Table of contents
- Let’s start with our circadian rhythms
- Consider your hormonal changes throughout the day
- A power nap can help you before your mid-afternoon workout if feeling sluggish
1. Let’s start with our circadian rhythms
From the Latin circa, meaning "around" (or "approximately"), and diēm, meaning "day".
Although circadian rhythms are endogenous ("built-in", self-sustained), they are adjusted (entrained) to the local environment by external cues called zeitgebers (from German, "time giver"), which include light, temperature, and redox cycles.
They allow organisms to anticipate and prepare for precise and regular environmental changes (migration, hibernation, and reproduction).
Our circadian rhythm requires rhythmicity in order to regulate and coordinate internal metabolic processes, as in coordinating with the environment.
A chronotype is the behavioral manifestation of underlying circadian rhythms of myriad physical processes.
There are two extreme types: eveningness (delayed sleep period) and morningness (advanced sleep period).
Humans are normally diurnal creatures, that is to say, they are active in the daytime. However, there are always exceptions to the rule such as free-running sleepers.
Important environmental cues (zeitgebers) include light, feeding, social behavior, and work and school schedules could also influence your chronotype.
2. Consider your hormonal changes throughout the day
Even if the video is mostly focused on female hormonal changes, you get the idea.
Hormones serve to communicate between organs and tissues for physiological regulation and behavioral activities such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, excretion, lactation, stress induction, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood manipulation.
The levels of some such as melatonin and cortisol change throughout the day.
Cortisol is called the stress hormone but is only problematic when it’s too high or low at the wrong time.
In an ideal circadian rhythm, cortisol rises in the morning and remains level throughout the day to support alertness and energy.
In fact, caffeine could suppress cortisol, making it tough to feel awake without caffeine. Consider performing your workout in the morning before you consume caffeine.
Another one is Adenosine. In a normal circadian rhythm, adenosine is lowest in the morning and increases as the day goes on, while cortisol levels decline.
Some people consider doing a bulk of exercise first thing in the morning; you get your exercise in before other distractions can intrude.
We can all relate to that -- because once the day gets going, it's hard to get off the treadmill called life.
Research suggests that morning exercise improves sleep, a benefit that could also promote weight loss.
It has also been found that people who performed exercises before breakfast burned double the amount of fat than people who exercised after breakfast.
The muscles from those who exercised before breakfast showed greater increases in key proteins, specifically those involved in transporting glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles.
On the other side, evening workouts allow you to get a proper jumpstart on your morning, which can include anything from “clearing out your inbox” to “returning phone calls.” Heck, even eating a full breakfast can be on the menu.
Think about it: In the morning, your body is nowhere near stretched out because you’ve been laying horizontally for hours; but by the time the evening rolls around; you’ve at least somewhat stretched out your limbs by walking around all day.
Although some studies argue that working out in the evening can leave you feeling fatigued it also a great opportunity to unwind and relax and there’s more potential for the workout to be a social experience.
Also, here are some useful recommendations regarding what to do first, cardio or weight training.
3. A power nap can help you before your mid-afternoon workout if feeling sluggish
A power nap is a short sleep that terminates before deep sleep (slow-wave sleep; SWS); it is intended to quickly revitalize the subject.
A brief period of sleep of around 15 to 20 minutes, preceded by consuming a caffeinated drink or another stimulant, may combat daytime drowsiness more effectively than napping or drinking coffee alone.
Caffeine in coffee takes up to half an hour to have an alerting effect, hence "a short (<15min) nap will not be compromised if it is taken immediately after the coffee.
Although this information may seem daunting, especially for constant travelers switching from one time zone to another, it is useful to know when to apply a temporal fix or a long-term change to our workout times considering all things mentioned.
• It has to be simple for you to do from day one.
• Consider the pros and cons of your chronotype. Disrupted circadian rhythms are associated with several human diseases, for example, chronotype is genetically correlated with BMI (body mass index).
• Consider your actual occupation (time and energy needed to perform at best).
• Working out in the morning could also require adding an additional warm up to your routine, which could take away from the focus of your workout.
• The late afternoon is also the time when your heart rate and blood pressure are lowest, which decreases your chance of injury while improving performance.
What really matters is that you find a time of day that works for you and that fits your schedule, and then stick to it.
By keeping your workout regime consistent at the same time every day, you could be making greater training gains.
And isn’t that what really matters?
What do you think?
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- “Increase Health Benefits of Exercise by Working out before Breakfast -- ScienceDaily,” n.d. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191018080619.htm.
- “Morning Exercise for Weight Loss,” n.d. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/lose-weight-with-morning-exercise.
- “There’s A Big Difference Between Working Out In The Morning And At Night,” n.d. https://www.elitedaily.com/life/theres-big-difference-working-morning-night/1035312.
- “Relationship of Consistency in Timing of Exercise Performance and Exercise Levels Among Successful Weight Loss Maintainers - Schumacher - 2019 - Obesity - Wiley Online Library,” n.d. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/oby.22535.
- “Best Time of Day to Exercise: When to Work Out,” n.d. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/best-time-to-workout.
- “Different Effects of Heat Exposure upon Exercise Performance in the Morning and Afternoon. - PubMed - NCBI,” n.d. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029194.
- “A Comparison of the Immediate Effects of Moderate Exercise in the Late Morning and Late Afternoon on Core Temperature and Cutaneous Thermoregulator... - PubMed - NCBI,” n.d. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10757464.
- “Effect of an Acute Hot and Dry Exposure in Moderately Warm and Humid Environment on Muscle Performance at Different Times of Day. - PubMed - NCBI,” n.d. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16388442.
- “Warm-up Affects Diurnal Variation in Power Output. - PubMed - NCBI,” n.d. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21305444.
- “Your Brain on Exercise | The Neuroscience of Working Out,” n.d. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/7116/your-brain-on-exercise-the-neuroscience-behind-a-good-workout?topicScope=exercise-science.
- “How to Increase Serotonin in the Human Brain without Drugs,” n.d. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/.
- “When Is The Best Time of Day to Exercise?,” n.d. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6929/when-is-the-best-time-of-day-to-exercise.
- “Morning vs Evening | Best Time of Day to Workout - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fjp48nteWHk
- “What Is the BEST Time of Day to Train? | Should You Do Cardio or Weights First? - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOMR73FC4Qw
- “Chronotype - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronotype.
- “Circadian Rhythm - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm.
- “Understanding Your Hormones For Fat Loss & Muscle | The Women’s Series Ep. 2 - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDM1cUHuAjs
- “Circadian Rhythm and Your Brain’s Clock - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbQ0RxQu2gM
- “The Science of Sleep - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLNhfVCa5qY
- “How Does Your Body Know What Time It Is? - Marco A. Sotomayor - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8ZXOfWUbms
- “How Does Caffeine Keep Us Awake? - Hanan Qasim - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foLf5Bi9qXs
- “Free-Running Sleep - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-running_sleep.
- “Melatonin - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin.
- “Sleep - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep.
- “Hormone - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormone.
- “The Scientific Power of Naps - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ_f9onTTQE
- “Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better than Coffee or Naps Alone - YouTube,” n.d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaI5LWj6ams
- “Power Nap - Wikipedia,” n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_nap.
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