Thursday, April 7, 2011

When's the Best Time to Workout? -- Finding the Time to Get Your Sweat On

I hear this question a lot and also have heard some pretty funky answers. There are no shortage of wacky suggestions when it comes to fitness, nutrition, working out, and losing weight in general; and unfortunately there are also ones willing to take advantage of that fact. (Do I need to mention the ab-zapping belt?!) And don't get me started on the people who tell you to workout slower or easier during your cardio sessions so that you keep your heart rate low enough, or in the 'fat burning zone.' That one really gets to me...that fat burning zone, you'll see people barely moving those bike pedals and thinking their doing themselves a favor. Not true, for plenty of reasons (ie: higher intensity not only burns more calories in the same time, builds more muscle mass, and revs up your metabolism, but more) but that is a topic for another post! So here's the low-down on what time really IS best to workout.

Drumroll's when you are going to ACTUALLY get your workout done! Shocker right? Okay, sorry for being a tad sarcastic here, but the truth is that everyone is different; not only when it comes to personal preferences but also schedules. If the only time you have to exercise is during your lunch break, then that's your golden time slot. If instead you feel just plain sluggish or 'off' until you've had your sweat session (Both Amanda and my arms are raised here...hehe!) then the best time is in the morning. That being said, there are some really interesting new findings that suggest those who do get up and exercise first thing may be getting an edge on the rest of us. We'll be rolling out an article on just that soon, so stay tuned!

Until then, there are some factors that come into play and need to be taken into consideration depending on what time of day you do your workouts:

  • Rise-and-Shiners: Personally, I like to start my day off with my workout. Not only do I feel more energized throughout the day and more productive, but I then don't have to worry about something suddenly coming up that may interfere with getting my workout in. Still, sometimes that means having to get up a bit earlier and it can be hard to get moving first thing. Skimping on sleep is not something that I'd recommend and if you know you're going to have to get up earlier, really try to get into bed earlier the night before. Also, I like to have everything laid out and ready the night before; I even go so far as to put the running shoes next to the clothes I'm going to wear so it's a quick change and I can get out the door. Coffee is also our friend, and studies show it can improve your workouts, making you able to go faster, longer, and give you a little extra 'pop.'
  • Mid-day-Follies: Some people need some time to gradually 'wake-up' and don't find working out first thing appealing in the least. For them they find that during a lunch break or mid-day tends to be the best time. That's fine, but it also means that the time frame could be a tight fit if you've only got a certain amount allotted for your break. That's where having that gym bag already packed, ready, and waiting at your desk is helpful so that all you need is right there and boom, you're out the door. What can also get people in trouble is if a coworker gets to talking to you and before you know it you've talked through half your break. Or instead, a pressing project gets you toiling away and you lose track of time. That's where setting your watch alarm, a reminder on your computer, or scheduling your workout time just as you would any other appointment in your agenda book can help. Those cues will alert you that it's time to get physical; if you feel 'guilty' putting a project on hold, remember that it's been proven that bouts of exercise breaks will perk you up, re-energize you, and make you more productive upon your return. In fact, there are businesses that encourage their workers to do just'd you like to find yourself on the elliptical next to your boss?
  • Night-Riders: There are also those who live for the night; whether it is because they find it relaxing to watch the sun set on their runs or it's the only time they have free during the day, this is their sweat hour. That's cool, but there are some things that can also make this time a little tricky. Sometimes motivating yourself to get to the gym after a full day is a little tough; you're already mentally burnt-out, tired, and just want to get home. To combat lagging workout inspiration that's where loading a fun new playlist can help get you in the mood, having people to meet up with at the gym, and keeping a fitness log can help. What works best for me when I'm tempted to skip out, is that I remember how much better I'll feel AFTER I'm done. I also remember that those first few minutes of getting started are usually the hardest part and that once I get going those endorphins kick in and I'll start getting into the groove.
What to eat, when to eat, and weight does this come into play?

I heard that working out on an empty stomach is the best way to burn fat? Again, we're in speaks with a few experts on that one and will address just this in more detail in our next article. For now, we'll offer you some quick tips and advice. As for doing your workouts off of no fuel, you'll be like the little engine that ran out of gas. You'll feel tired, sluggish, and won't be able to perform at your best. People who are afraid that putting the calories into their body might then cancel out or negate the calories they'd burn off from their workouts need to think about two things: first, that not eating will cause your metabolism to slow down to almost nil because the body goes into 'starvation' mode and secondly, eating a smart meal or snack will enable you to go harder or longer in your workouts and thus burn more calories than you would have running on empty.

  • AM'ers: Waking up even earlier to eat something...are you kidding me? In this instance, doctors we've been talking to say that perhaps if you're an early bird and workout before breakfast you could be doing yourself a favor. Though if you plan on running a marathon or doing a particularly long workout you may want to consider putting something into the tank. In these cases, and you just can't handle getting yourself up earlier, then something people do is to keep a sports bar by the side of their bed. Then, you wake up during the night for a bathroom break, eat your bar, go back to bed, and have that energy ready when you go to workout. Finding something that is 'easy' on your stomach is key; I've found oatmeal works best for me. Finally, if nothing else, try to find a sports drink with a good amount of carbs and protein and sip on that.
  • Nooners: Don't have the last thing you've eaten be from breakfast; aim for a snack a few hours beforehand that is a combo of carbs and protein. Try half of a bagel with some peanut butter, fruit and nuts, or you could also have half of your turkey sandwich and finish the rest as your post-workout fueling.
  • Night Owls: Again, don't let the whole day get away from you without eating something. Follow the example from the nooners and have a snack before getting sweaty with it. When you're done make sure to refuel within 30 minutes, the optimal window for recovery. That goes for everyone; but if dinner isn't all cooked or ready in that time make sure to get in a smart, complex-carb and protein rich snack to tide you over until then.
Whew! Are you guys still with me? Sorry, you'd think a simple question would grant you a simple answer but I tend to get going and then keep on rolling! Hopefully you've gleaned a few tips to help you improve your workouts, WHENEVER you find is the best time to get them done! :)

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  1. Very interesting article! Here's a wrench in the schedule... I enjoy a sweat session, but I'm also the "nooner". I need a good day time workout for 30 minutes where I wont sweat too much to go back to the office. Suggestions?

  2. Hey there, thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the post! As for your question, it is tricky to do the covert lunch-time workout, hurry back, and not be a sweaty mess! Unfortunately, if you're doing a workout that works you will need to get a little sweat going. But that doesn't mean you need to go back to work with BO! Here's a few suggestions: First, check out some of our workouts here: and there are quite a few that are 20 minutes or less. Is your work close to a YMCA, gym, or any kind of locker room? Scope out a place where you can do a quick rinse-off. If not, in a pinch you could use a larger restroom, bring a towel and at least do a quick once-over to get yourself a little more decent and of course deodorant is our friend! You can also cut time by doing your workout around or inside your business's office like the one we wrote about HERE. Hope that was able to help you a bit and keep getting those workouts in! :)

  3. Not all simple questions need simple answers only. :). But if I were to workout, I would prefer in the morning. You feel refreshed and energized through out the day. Well, there are times that you'll feel lazy to workout if it's already noon or night because you must be exhausted of working the whole day. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  4. Hehe...thanks for stopping by, Ann!

    So you're a fellow morning fan, and you bring up a good point that if you do it first thing there are usually less excuses to opt out later in the day. ;)

    Great job and keep on sweating,
    Amanda and Cait