Numerous studies have shown how your body can work more effectively during certain times of the day. I believe that it is important to become fully aware of your body, current lifestyle, and goals, so you can strategically schedule your exercise time until you become consistent with the habit and get the numerous benefits such as improved physical and mental health, weight control, better self-esteem, and longer life.
Find the best time to exercise when you can sleep well
First of all, establish your sleep habits so that your overall performance (with exercise, work, eating, and other important tasks) the next day is at its best.
Then develop a regular exercise schedule that can work well with your sleeping lifestyle. Drastically changing your exercise schedule (from early morning to late afternoon) can affect your circadian rhythm and can negatively affect your health and metabolism, energy level, and hormones. Some people can work out anytime during the day without disrupting their sleep patterns. I prefer to avoid high-intensity workouts in the evening that will keep my body awake and raise my heart rate close to bedtime.
Keep a lifestyle journal and include detailed notes about your lifestyle (food, exercise, and sleep) so you can observe the effects of exercise on your overall sleep. Try to use a fitness tracker that monitors your sleep quality.
Find the best time to exercise when you can effectively manage stress
There are many reasons why exercise can make you happy and stress-free. A morning workout can help you manage stress well during the day. An afternoon or evening exercise after work can be your best stress reliever.
However, exercise can also stress you out if you push yourself to move at a specific time of the day that doesn’t match your chronotype (early bird or night owl), which is the body’s tendency to sleep at a certain time and is usually dictated by your current lifestyle, environment, and genetic make-up. If you are an early bird like me, who wakes us between 4 am to 6 am, you can schedule your workouts, regardless of intensity in the morning (between 6 to 10 am) to maximize your energy – the time when the body can effectively tolerate physical stress. An intense workout such as an intense indoor cycling class or a boot camp class after 7 pm can be very stressful to the body of an early bird exerciser that can negatively affect the sleep-wake cycle. I am an early bird, but I find it fulfilling and relaxing to get a short run at 6 pm. I always feel an effective release of stress plus positive feelings after a full day of work. The new habit also gives me a better sleep quality, but I just make sure that I don’t exceed 80 percent of my maximum heart rate during the whole activity.
Night owls perform well on exercises or sports scheduled later in the day. If you are a night owl who only has the time to work out in the morning, choose light to moderate workouts to avoid too much stress on the body. Remember that stress can even affect your eating throughout the day, making you crave more high-calorie foods that can cause weight gain.
It is safe to find any form of physical activity that can help release your stress at the end of the day without affecting your sleep, such as walking, yoga, Pilates, or any form of cardio workout.
Find the best time to exercise when you can achieve your health and fitness goals
Find the perfect exercise when you can perform well to achieve your goals such as weight loss or improved exercise performance.
Keep in mind that your total calorie burn from any form of exercise depends on your level of alertness and overall energy. Discover the best time when you are at your strongest and can sustain a long (more than 30 minutes) light to moderate long duration workout or can lift heavier weights, do your sprints, burpees, or jumping jacks with all out-effort.
For weight loss, you need to burn enough calories while staying at your recommended target heart rate range (based on your age), usually 60 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (220-age) so you can last the whole duration of the workout safely. A 45-year old exerciser should aim for a heart rate range of 105 to 149 bpm (MHR: 220-45= 175 X (.6 to .85) =105 to 149).
Regardless of one’s chronotype, studies show that strength training and power activities can be performed more effectively in the afternoon between 2 pm to 6 pm when the core body temperature is high, the body is in optimum condition and the circadian rhythm is at its peak.
Nutrition plan a big role in exercise performance, so you also need to consider the effects of food before and after exercise. I usually eat a light breakfast 2 hours before my first-morning workout at 9 am to get the much-needed energy to accomplish full-body resistance training and cardio. Try to experiment and compare your exercise performance and calorie burn with and without a light pre-workout snack or meal like a piece of toast with an egg or a glass of milk and a 1/2 cup of oats, fruits, yogurt, and nuts.
Find your best time to exercise when you can regulate your eating effectively
Exercise can contribute greatly to appetite regulation in various ways.
An early morning workout can set a positive mood for your day – reminding you to be more productive at work, to be more enthusiastic in dealing with people around you, and to be more in control of your eating. Studies have shown that morning exercise can play a big role in weight control and appetite regulation throughout the day.
Light to moderate exercises such as brisk walking or jogging can help regulate appetite, so try to schedule your workouts when you are more likely to crave high-calorie foods, usually in the afternoon or in the evening.
The effect of intense workouts on one’s appetite can vary from person to person and the duration of the workout/s. I have some clients who can regulate their eating well after intense exercise classes lasting 60 minutes or less. Others tend to eat more than usual after intense workouts (running, cycling, or circuit training) lasting for 60 minutes or more. To prevent overeating after an intense workout, hydrate well and eat a balanced snack or meal right after such as complete rice or bread with protein and vegetables.
Avoid exercising late at night (after 8 pm) if the event can significantly stimulate your appetite close to bedtime. Late-night eating can cause an imbalance in the digestive system, blood sugar, and fat metabolism. A study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms suggests that we should have a consistent eating duration of fewer than 12 hours per day, eat most calories in the earlier part of the day, and avoid food intake close to bedtime while sleeping or very early in the morning.
Email the author at [email protected] or follow/message her on Instagram @mitchfelipemendoza