If you’ve ever thought about getting more improvements from your workouts depending on the time of day you do them, your intuition may be correct. Studies have already found that training time can play an important role in achieving results, from weight loss to the prevention of certain types of cancer. Now, New research has shown that working out in the morning or evening can affect mood, physical performance, and cardiometabolic health, and these benefits can vary by gender.
The researchers studied 56 very sporty men and women, aged between 25 and 55, for 12 weeks, in order to identify the most effective and feasible time of day to train. During this time, the participants followed a nutrition program and a type of training called “Prise”, conceived by Paul J. Arciero, researcher and director of the nutrition, metabolism and performance laboratory at Skidmore College, together with his colleagues.
The Prise program requires participants to train four days a week, doing a different workout each day, including resistance sessions, repetitions, stretching or strength exercises. In addition to following a strict 12-week diet.
All participants did each workout for a maximum of one hour, with the exception of those focusing on endurance. All groups performed the same type of exercise on the same day, under the direction of certified coaches. On the days of repetition and endurance, the participants chose a sport of their choice, including running, elliptical, indoor biking, roller or bike.
The participants chosen for the morning group trained between 6.30 and 8.30, while those in the evening group trained between 18.00 and 20.00.
On endurance training days, participants from all groups ate a small snack one hour before training. On the days of stretching, strengthening and repetition, the morning participants arrived fasted but hydrated, while the evening participants arrived hydrated and fasted for four hours.
The morning participants were able to have breakfast after the training sessions and having subsequent meals at four-hour intervals.
The evening participants ate four meals a day at four-hour intervals, with the last meal within one hour of completing physical activity.
On rest days, all participants ate breakfast within one hour of waking up and subsequent meals at the same four-hour intervals. The last meal two hours before bedtime.
At first, says Arciero, many of the participants who are usually active for more than four days a week didn’t want to cut back on their workouts. But that all changed when they started noticing improvements in their performance. “They realized that the key aspect of training is quality rather than quantity.”
The program is inspired by the advice of the American College of Sports Medicine, but has been designed so that people can maintain a healthy, active lifestyle that fits their work and family schedules.
In the end, in women, morning exercise reduced total and abdominal body fat, decreased blood pressure and improved lower body muscle power, while evening exercise improved mood and strength, power and the resistance of the upper body.
“Probably the reason women lose body and abdominal fat with morning exercise is that the body is in a more favorable hormonal state (lower insulin levels) which promotes the burning of body fat as an energy source,” explains Aciero. Evening exercise, on the other hand, is associated with an increase in muscle strength and power because the body is in a favorable hormonal and metabolic state, helping to improve the general mood because it acts as a “de-stressor” at the end of the day, for both women and men.
Men who trained in both groups experienced improvements in mood and physical performance, and reduced total and abdominal body fat. But for those in the evening group, exercise had greater improvements in lowering systolic blood pressure, decreasing fatigue, and stimulating fat oxidation than the morning group.
According to Aciero, the body and heart are better prepared for exercise later in the day than in the early morning, due to some characteristic metabolic factors. This is why evening exercise helps improve heart health and lower blood pressure.
If you are trying to achieve a specific goal, such as increasing upper body strength or lowering blood pressure, it is worth considering the time you train. In fact, your body may react differently to an early morning run or strength session than to an after-work workout. But what is most important to enjoy the effects of exercise is to simply move more, regardless of the time of day you do it.
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