What is the best time of day to work out?

Not sure whether you should workout in the morning, noon or night to maximise your fitness and weight loss? We take a look at the pros and cons of exercising at different times of the day so you can decide what’s best for you.

Mornings are best because...

Research carried out by Associate Professor Steve Boutcher, Director of the Fat Loss Laboratory at the University of NSW, shows that if you want to lose fat the best time to exercise is in the morning before breakfast.

Professor Boutcher explains, “The body has effectively run out of carbohydrates or sugars for fuel and it switches to burning fats instead. One way that it does this is by releasing a substance that ‘turns on’ the fat cells to release their fats.”

If you’re one of those people who can’t exercise on an empty stomach, Professor Boutcher advises, “If you can’t face working out before breakfast or you’re really hungry, have a small snack, then after exercising wait for at least 15 minutes before you eat.”

Other studies support Professor Boutcher’s research findings on morning workouts and suggest that early exercisers are more likely to stick with a fitness regime than those who leave it until later in the day.

In addition, a recent study by Glasgow University found that morning exercise enhances mood by 30 percent more than evening exertion. Getting up and active early can help boost your physical energy and mental alertness for the day ahead.

On the flip side, your body temperature is at its lowest after waking so you’ll naturally have lower energy levels and blood flow in the morning. Therefore it’s very important to warm up well to prevent injury.

Lunchtimes are best because...

If you know you can put the time aside to exercise regularly, lunchtime exercise is a good option. You’ll be awake and alert and your muscles will be warmed up so you might be less likely to injure yourself. Plus, you can grab an exercise partner – a friend or colleague – and this will help you commit to exercise regularly and make it a lot more fun.

Exercising in the middle of the day could help to relieve daily stresses and boost blood flow to your brain so you’re sharper for your afternoon duties. Additionally, you might find that exercising in the middle of the day makes you more mindful of what you’re eating for lunch and later on.

On the down side, time constraints might mean that you can’t get a full workout in.

Evenings are best because...

If you want to gain muscle mass, exercising later might be your best option. “Exercising in the evening is a good way to gain strength and that’s why strength trainers like weight lifters train in the evenings,” says Professor Boutcher. “The muscles have warmed up by the afternoon or evening and certain hormones that are necessary for muscle-resistance work are optimal at this time.”

Evening exercise might also help you to regulate the amount of food you feel like eating for dinner, which is beneficial if you tend to eat big meals at night. It can also be a great stress reliever after a busy day at work or home.

On the downside, some research suggests that vigorous activity just before bedtime isn’t a good idea, so you’ll need to exercise one to three hours before you go to sleep. This is because exercise raises your body temperature and increases hormone activity, which could interfere with sleep. The only way to see if evening exercise works or doesn’t work for you is to try it and see how you feel.

Anytime is best because...

Experts agree that the most important thing is not so much the time of day that you exercise, but that you actually do it – and do it on a regular basis! That means that anytime you can fit it into your day is ultimately the best time for you.

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