Exercise demands a certain degree of regularity if you have fitness goals to aim for. When your doctor asks you if you exercise 1-5, 5-10 or 10+ hours a week, they mean each and every week not one random week!
But if you work or study during the day, have children or your life is simply too hectic to be able to plan workouts in advance, it can be hard to fit fitness in. Also, how do you know when it’s a good time to train in order to get the best out of the activity? If your time is limited, you want to be sure you maximise the time you do dedicate to training, don't you?
It may surprise you that your physical and mental states change as the day goes on, and this can impact the quality of your workout.
Have you ever been out for a run and come home feeling completely revitalised and then another time returned home exhausted and deflated? This might explain why...
Here are just some of these fluctuations:
- Morning: This is when your mental agility and memory are at their peak, testosterone is also at its highest level.
- Afternoon: Your pain tolerance is at its highest, which it good if you want to take your workout to the next level. However, be aware that you may feel a wave of fatigue at around 1pm. In the late afternoon, adrenaline levels and body temperature are high.
- Evening: On one hand, coordination, endurance and body temperature are at their ideal levels for exercise. On the other hand, concentration progressively worsens.
- Night: From around 9pm, the body begins to produce extra melatonin, a sleep hormone.
Having a fitness coach to motivate you and keep you on track, as well as provide you with a training and nutrition plan which is tailored to your specific physiology, body composition, athletic ability and your goals can be incredibly beneficial.
Though to some, this may seem like another way for the fitness industry to make money, personal trainers are experts in their field. It takes years of training and exams to get certified and earn your personal training certification to become a personal trainer, so you can rest assured that you are in capable hands.
Your personal fitness instructor will be there to provide support and advice on all aspects of keeping physically and mentally healthy, including nutrition, functional training techniques, and how to get the most out of your training program, as well as more specific issues such as the time of day you should be exercising.
Personal training services can be found in health clubs and gyms, however, there are also many private personal training businesses that will operate within a certain area - so you'll be spoilt for choice!
Training Before Breakfast
Contrary to what some might say, completing a workout on an empty stomach is a good thing since it forces our bodies to take their energy from our stored fat, and so, we have a higher chance of shedding the excess pounds and slimming down.
Training before breakfast is guaranteed to help you burn more fat during your workout, as your body has already used up its stored sugars during sleep, meaning that it has to rely on stored fat for fuel.
When it comes to your fitness nutrition, you’ll need to find out about consuming enough healthy fats. These will help you to recover more quickly as they promote the growth of cell membranes, which strengthens the immune system and helps fight inflammation.
There are many advantages to exercising in the morning:
- If you’re up early enough, you’ll be able to avoid crowds and have the road or the gym to yourself
- Something to get out of bed for
- Keep yourself energised for the rest of the day with the increased production of endorphins
- Have a better night’s sleep
A Guide to Running on an Empty Stomach
- If you’re worried about training before you’ve eaten, see your doctor. They will be able to advise you on what’s best for your body.
- The night before your workout, whether you’re playing a team game or having personal training sessions at the gym, make sure you eat enough carbohydrates to fuel your body. As an accredited health and fitness professional, your certified personal trainer will be able to advise you on this.
- Once you wake up, drink a big glass of water. This will help kickstart your body’s main functions and ensure you’re sufficiently hydrated.
- Always take money with you – you never know when you’ll need it. You may need to buy some food if you feel faint, or take the bus home.
- Try to keep your training regular, and don’t go too far. It’s recommended that you start by running for just 20-30 minutes at a time, but never exceed 1 hour on an empty stomach.
- The morning is perfect for aerobic endurance workouts rather than high-intensity training since this can lead to tiredness and acid build-up during the day.
- If you are a frequent runner (around 3-4 times a week), you can train before breakfast once a week. However, if you run less than 3 times a week, try to only do this once every fortnight.
- Once your workout is complete, make sure you have a substantial and balanced breakfast.
Training After Lunch
Training after lunch isn’t the best time to work out - our bodies need to rest, and that’s why we often feel sleepy in the early afternoon. This has been a part of our biological body clocks for thousands of years, and it’s something that can’t be changed!
However, if this time of day works best for you as an athlete, go ahead – just know that a fitness specialist may advise against it.
Although you are more likely to be affected by fatigue, you’re generally more alert than in the mornings, so it’s easier to lace up and go (as long as you haven’t eaten in the hour before your workout)!
So how should you manage your time when it comes to eating and training in the early afternoon?
Instead of a post-workout snack, have your lunch.
This is because after eating your lunchtime meal, your body takes a lot of energy to digest and process your food, which is why people often feel sleepy following their lunch.
When it comes to choosing what you’d like to eat, you should try not to eat too much or too quickly.
If you find a personal trainer, they will be able to use their fitness expertise to advise you on the best meals for recovery following a workout, and how big your portions should be.
The type of exercise, as well as the amount of type between your meals can influence what your body needs.
As a general rule, eating foods with added sugar such as biscuits and sweets are not recommended, as these will only provide a short burst of energy.
When it comes to practicality, arranging a time to eat and work out without going hungry or putting yourself at risk of getting a stitch, can be difficult at first.
However, you can get around this problem by actively scheduling your training sessions and your meals and making them a part of your routine.
And even if you can't fit in a full work-out, you can do some exercising at work before your lunch break to help you stay active!
There are several advantages to training and visiting the gym in the evening:
- Your performance will generally be better, since your body temperature is higher, meaning that your body is more likely to burn energy
- The risk of injuries such as sprains is lower, since your muscles have had all day to warm up
Evening exercise either alone or group fitness classes near me are an opportunity to release the tension built up during the day
Advice for Evening Workouts
Training sessions at the end of the day are perfect for strength and resistance training.
Your metabolic rate and your body temperature peak at around 4pm, meaning your muscular ability will be at 100% in the evening.
However, avoid high-intensity workouts, as they put you at risk of hypoglycaemia, which is caused by low blood sugar.
The evening is a good time to concentrate on cardio training and weights to work on your muscle strength.
If you start exercising in the late afternoon, be sure that you finish your workout before 7pm.
This is because your body’s workout temperature will affect your sleep cycle, and this may end up doing more harm than good.
Make you don’t forget to have a satisfying and nutritious dinner, too!
Training at Night
Night workouts are incredibly popular among athletes, with 70% of them training between 5pm and 8pm.
This is mostly down to practicality. For those who work, this slot is free to go to the gym, see their personal fitness trainer, go to group training classes, and even wind down for the day with a yoga or Pilates session.
Advantages to training at night include:
- Your body temperature is high, so your muscles are warmed-up and you’re less likely to get hurt
- You’ll be able to work harder since your muscle strength is at its peak, and so you’ll be able to put in more effort than usual, making your workout more worthwhile.
- fitness classes and workouts are an opportunity to release the stress from the day.
However, if you’re a night owl, you’ll need to keep an eye on the time.
Make sure your workout finishes before 9pm. This will give your body a good chance to cool down sufficiently for you to sleep – and it takes longer than you think!
What Happens If You Exercise Straight After A Meal?
If you've ever done it, we probably don't need to tell you that exercising on a full stomach isn't a good idea. A bloated feeling, nausea, perhaps even the need to throw up... it isn't very nice and will also impact negatively on your training session.
Many fitness experts suggest waiting 2 hours after a hearty meal before hitting the gym, but this all depends on your metabolism and is unique to you. Also, don't let this put you off having a small snack. Sometimes eating a banana can give you fuel and a kick of energy thanks to the carbohydrates. Being really hungry can cause you to feel a bit sick too!
Exercising at the Weekend
If you set your weekend aside to exercise, you’ll know that it helps you relax and de-stress before the working week starts again.
However, if you work out frequently during the week, you may want to have the weekend off.
Just like you have two days off work to rest your brain, your body also needs to recover from the week.
It’s all about managing your training program by thinking about workout intensity, frequency and the type of exercise you choose.
You should always aim for short and frequent training sessions rather than 2 or 3 long workouts per week.
By training regularly during the week and taking the weekend to rest, you’ll avoid progressive fatigue and lower the risk of injury.
When To Exercise In Order To Improve Your Sleep
A small amount of exercise is needed each day for the body but also to improve our mind space. This is why it is important to work up a sweat in the gym or by going out for a walk if you want to get a good night sleep and feel truly rested. But. again, when is the best time to exercise for this workout to have the necessary effect on our sleep?
Well, experts suggest that getting up and performing your workout in the morning could lead to a deeper sleep that night.
Since a decent night's sleep is partially down to blood pressure (did you know this?), then an early morning exercise routine can help to achieve the correct drop in blood pressure when night falls. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you more than likely don't experience this nighttime drop in pressure, which is said to be good for the heart. If you've ever consulted a doctor or sleep therapist about problems with your sleep, they will no doubt have prescribed a more active lifestyle to help improve this.
Having said that, focusing particularly on strength training at any time of the day could be the recipe for a better night's sleep too.
Although lifting weights at different times of the day won't affect the mentioned blood pressure decrease during those early hours, those who pump iron at any time of the day can benefit from better sleep. Those who lift weights early in the morning tend to fall asleep faster at night according to some fitness surveys, whilst those who hit the gym later in the evening are said to wake up less frequently. It's a win-win!
While getting a good night sleep is essential to our physical and mental health, sleeping too late can cut down on the time you have to exercise. And we don't just mean going to the gym - for each extra hour you spend in bed, you are missing out on an hour of physical activity and this can quickly lead to a negative cycle.
When To Alter Your Workout Regime?
Dangers Of Raised Temperatures
Whether you decide to take this advice or not, you do you because only you know what feels right for you and your body and current lifestyle.
However, one time that you may wish to take note of experts' opinions is when there are certain changes in weather which could endanger your health if not considered, much like this heatwave that is upon us in Europe in the coming week.
Whether you're walking, running, playing football or doing yoga (with the exception of hot yoga which is meant for you to get hot!), take care when the temperature rises. If you exercise outdoors in hot weather rather than using an air-conditioned gym, use precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses - drink plenty of water, dress sensibly and don't push yourself too much.
Similarly, don't underestimate the strength of the sun and the impact of heat exhaustion when you leave your fitness centre. Make sure you fill up your water bottle before leaving and, if walking home, be sure to wear a cap to avoid getting sunstroke and feeling poorly.
Pay attention to warning signs during hot weather, and keep a close eye on the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
- Visual problems
If you experience any of the above symptoms, stop exercising immediately and lower your body temperature as well get rehydrated right away. It's a good idea to tell someone how you are feeling just in case your condition takes a turn for the worse when you are in the changing rooms or gym shower, for example, or taking a dip in the swimming pool to cool down.
Going back to the title of this piece, it is recommended to exercise early in the morning or early in the evening to avoid the hottest times of the day.
Cooler Temperatures And What To Do
Very cold temperatures might put you off doing your usual fitness upkeep yet, for some, neither rain, snow or tornados could hold them back from getting a session in at the gym.
When exercising during cold weather, follow these tips:
- Don't exercise outdoors if there is low wind chill forecast
- Keep skin covered as the wind can penetrate your clothes and leave exposed skin vulnerable to frostbite
- Consider delaying your workout if it's raining or snowing unless you have waterproof gear.
- Beware of training in freezing temperatures especially if an older adult or young child, as you are at greater risk of illnesses such as hyperthermia.
- Dress in layers so that you can remove a layer if needed rather than getting too warm
- Add some insulation and a waterproof, breathable outer layer if it's wet
- Mix up your exercises: walk in between running if the weather is a bit harsh on you
- Protect your head, hands, feet and ears by wearing hats/headbands, gloves and warm socks. If it's really chilly, a ski mask might be necessary to protect the skin on your face from the wind.
Adjusting Exercise When A Senior
As an older man or woman, you may find that you don't have the energy to exercise first thing in the morning as is so often recommended for keep fit fanatics. For this reason, senior citizens often do their workout routine in the early afternoon and can't restrict themselves to exercising at a specific time like some others may be able to do. No matter how light your exercise, keeping your body healthy is very important, no matter what time of the day you do it!
It's essential that you get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, and you are advised against training in difficult settings (i.e. high summer, freezing temperatures). Also, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of taking their medication and eating their meals if they set out to begin an exercise schedule.
As a senior gym fanatic, bear these tips in mind:
- Listen to your body. Your routine shouldn't be painful or make you feel below par. Also, stop exercising at the first sign of dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain or any other unusual sensation.
- Don't try to complete a workout training destined for a young or middle-aged adult. No matter how fit you are, your body may have some limits when you reach a higher age so you shouldn't be led by a determination to keep up with the young ones. If you can though safely and without extensive discomfort, then good on you and keep at it!
- Delay exercising if one of your joints is red, swollen, or tender.
- Start slow and build up at a steady pace. If you haven’t been active in a while, start exercising little by little at a pace you are comfortable with. You might like to space workouts in ten-minute slots twice a day, or simply do one class a week.
- Warm up and cool down properly to avoid injury.
Your Workout, Your Choice
As we've already said, despite the many recommendations and advice of fitness experts, sometimes how you spend your time is more important than exercise science, so the time you choose to exercise really is up to you.
As long as you feel that you are making good progress towards your fitness goals or becoming generally healthier, it’s shouldn’t matter too much if your performance is influenced by the time of day. The point is to enjoy keeping fit and healthy, otherwise what is the purpose of it!?
Following a fitness program will help you get to know your body better, and what time of day works for you.