With the days growing shorter and temperatures fluctuating between tolerable and barely tolerable, an early morning workout may not sound as attractive as turning your alarm off. Perhaps afternoon workouts — when you’re fully awake and temperatures peak — are more inviting to the cold weather-loather in you.
Switching exercise times may actually benefit you and help you achieve greater fitness gains. Find the workout hours that suit your style best:
CHOOSE MORNING WORKOUTS IF YOU ARE…
A HEAVY EVENING EATER
“Your insulin levels will be higher in the morning — so working out in the a.m. means you will burn more calories throughout the day,” says Jamel Harris, a personal trainer with SWEAT Fitness in Pennsylvania.
AN EMPLOYEE WITH A STRESSFUL JOB
You may find yourself more focused on your workouts if you avoid the afternoon. Tim Blake, owner and founder of superfitdads.com, found that clients who moved from a morning to an afternoon training slot experienced a lack of focus because of work-related distractions. A morning workout set a positive mental attitude that carried through the rest of the day.
SOMEONE WHO CAN WORK OUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH
In a 2013 study, researchers found you can burn 20% more body fat exercising in the morning on an empty stomach. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 12 physically active men were asked to run on a treadmill either after breakfast or still fasting from the previous night. Then they drink a milkshake recovery drink right after the workout and also ate pasta for lunch. Researchers found those who exercised in a fasted state burned more fat, taking into account the amount of energy and fat burned before lunch. This does not mean anyone looking to lose fat should follow this strategy. If morning workouts are not for you, you’ll actually have a more effective workout at a different time of the day.
CHOOSE AFTERNOON WORKOUTS IF YOU ARE…
DIAGNOSED WITH LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Exercising in a fasted state can spell disaster for those with hypoglycemia, diabetes or any other condition in which your body doesn’t have enough sugar to use as fuel. Working out in the afternoon when you have some food in you to stabilize glucose levels can help allow your body to perform at more optimum levels.
A WINTER DOLDRUMS’ SUFFERER
In the dreary months of winter, an afternoon slump can last for the rest of your night. “I find that afternoon workouts can vastly improve your productivity during days with shortened hours of daylight,” says Katy Fraggos, owner and founder of Perspirology in New Jersey. “By giving your afternoon a sudden boost of endorphins, you are more likely to be energized to keep your body moving later into the evening.” Activities such as shopping, walking and cleaning can make a huge impact in your daily calories burned when added together with your afternoon workout.
PRONE TO INJURY
Coming off an injury or find yourself getting injured often? Afternoon workouts may prove helpful. “Exercising in the afternoon is a good choice as nutrient levels are higher, and our body temperature is higher as well allowing for potentially lower risk of injury,” says Craig Cristello, an exercise physiologist and on-site wellness expert at Well & Being at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona.
CHOOSE EVENING WORKOUTS IF YOU ARE…
A SNACK LOVER
Harris says if you tend to snack during the day, especially on foods you should not be eating, an evening workout might fit you best. It will help you burn off what you ate and promote better sleep habits as long as it is not too close to bedtime.
AN INHERENT NIGHT OWL
If your circadian rhythm naturally keeps you up later hours, you should not fight it by trying to set your alarm clock for an early morning workout. Your body will function best if you keep to its innate state.
SOMEONE WHO PREFERS A WORKOUT PARTNER
Schedules often match up easier after work hours. The morning rush and family responsibilities make coordinating workout times harder. Try to aim for the past 7 p.m. hour when working out with a partner at a gym, as the crowds tend to clear out and you can find equipment next to each other.
No scientific fact proves a specific workout time is better than another. You need to find a time comfortable for your schedule and personality, and develop a habit of consistency.