Body clock – when’s the right time for your workout?

November 13 2015

There’s never a wrong time to work out, but research has shown that training at different times of day can affect our exercising efficiency by as much as 26%. We look at the benefits of morning, noon and night workouts, and the best ways to prioritise exercise with whatever time you have available.

If you’re an early riser

park-runExercising before work gives you an immediate energy boost, and the post-workout endorphins will help you race through the day’s work. People who exercise in the morning tend to feel more energetic throughout the day, and are likely to be more consistent with their workouts.

As well as kick-starting your metabolism, a morning workout can burn fat more efficiently than later in the day. This is because you’re more likely to be using up your body’s fat, rather than the food stores accumulated through the day’s meals. However, if you’re training to build muscle mass, it’s important to have a protein-rich breakfast at least 20 minutes before you work out.

Make it work for you by…

  • Laying out your gym kit before you go to bed. This will save time and remind you of the previous evening’s good intentions, so it will be harder to roll over and hide under the covers.
  • Finding a workout buddy. You might consider letting yourself down, but would you leave a friend in the cold?

Top tip: Stretch well before your early-morning workouts. Your body temperature is at its lowest just after you wake up, so it’s vital that you give your muscles a chance to warm up fully.

If you’re a nine-to-fiver

Most jobs will allow you to take regular lunch breaks – the perfect time to fit in a gym session. And the regularity of work life should make it easy to exercise consistently. A lunchtime workout ensures you’re sharp and alert for the afternoon’s tasks, as well as leaving evenings free to relax or socialise.

Your body and mind are generally most alert in the afternoon, and many people find they push themselves harder midday than in the morning or evening. Your body is also warmer in the afternoon so your strength and endurance are at their peak, making lunch a great time for a weights session.

Make it work for you by…

  • Keeping it brief. There are loads of really effective 30-minute workouts, leaving you plenty of time to work up a sweat and shower before getting back to your desk.
  • Being prepared. Pack a lunch the evening or morning before, so you can maximise time spent in the gym.

Top tip: Aim to arrive for a lunchtime workout neither starving nor stuffed. A mid-morning snack will help keep hunger pangs at bay until after your workout.   

If you’re a night owl

dark-run-manEvening exercise is the perfect way to wind down after a stressful day. In addition to all the physical benefits of a lunchtime workout, a tough evening gym session can help you enjoy a sound night’s sleep. Aim to exercise at least a couple of hours before bedtime, so your body has time to unwind from the post-workout rush of endorphins. This might mean heading to the gym straight from the office, which will also prevent you from being tempted by the lure of the sofa.

Make it work for you by…

  • Figuring out what’s best for you. Some people prefer to exercise straight after work and then have a relaxing evening, while others say exercising just before bed actually helps them sleep better. It’s all about the individual on this one, so try a few different routines before settling on what’s best for you. 

Top tip: If you’re exercising outside at night, it’s a good idea to wear reflective clothing to keep yourself safe in the dark.

When’s your favourite time to hit the gym? Please leave your comments below…