Working Out In The Morning? We've Got Bad News For You

Are you a morning or evening gym girly?
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With summer around the corner, many of us are dragging ourselves to the gym now that the mornings aren’t so miserable.

However, finding the time to go to the gym is difficult. Waking up at 6:00 am to go on the treadmill isn’t the easiest task in the world, but you’ll find that the gym is usually quieter.

But in seriously bad news for those hoping to bulk, working out in the morning can limit your inability to build muscle.

While going to the gym in the evenings allows you to wind down after work and work out in your own time, those late night workouts can impact consistency.

Nutrition experts at British protein powder brand Bulk have weighed up the pros and cons of an early-morning workout and a late-night workout to help us understand which is best depending on the results we want to achieve.

The advantages of an early morning workout (5am-8am)

Increased alertness

Believe it or not, one of the biggest advantages of an early morning workout is feeling more alert. Whilst you may feel exhausted as you drag yourself to the gym, your body produces a hormone called cortisol which is at its peak level at around 8 am in the morning.

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, helps you keep awake and alert. This hormone will only cause you problems if there is too much or too little of it.

Therefore, if you have a healthy circadian rhythm- the 24-hour cycle that includes physiological and behavioural rhythms like sleeping- your body will be more primes to exercise early in the morning.

Helps improve weight loss rate

If you’re looking to shred some body fat, a big advantage of working out in the morning is it is generally better for weight loss.

Elevated cortisol levels and growth hormone in the morning are both associated with your metabolism. Therefore, taking high-intensity exercise in the morning can help to boost the metabolism and burn more body fat, drawing more of your energy from your fat reserves.

Improves your body clock

A study published by the Journal of Physiology found that exercising at 7 a.m. can shift your body clock earlier.

Not only will this improve how alert you are in the morning but can also prime you to fall asleep easier and earlier that evening, allowing you to get enough rest to wake up and repeat the same routine again the following day.

Helps with appetite control

Exercise generally helps to control your appetite. Studies have now shown that aerobic exercise, like running, cycling, and swimming decreases appetite. This is because it alters our hormone levels that drive hunger.

The theory behind exercise as a suppressant or stimulant of your appetite is based on the activities of two main hormones, ghrelin and peptide YY.

These are hormones with opposing actions, both released during exercise. Ghrelin stimulates appetite while peptide YY decreases appetite.

Therefore as exercise suppresses the ghrelin hormone, this will help you to control your appetite.

Disadvantages of an early morning workout

Less time to warm up before weightlifting

For those who are wanting to build muscle or tone up, an early morning workout could do more harm than good.

This is because the body needs time to warm up before lifting weights. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to loosen up, you could risk an injury.

Lack of sleep

If you didn’t get to bed early enough the night before, or perhaps had a restless sleep, getting up at the crack of dawn and working out could also be extremely straining to the body.

Ensuring the body is fully rested before engaging in any workout is extremely important.

If you worked out the night before, sleep is what allows muscle tissue time to recover between workouts. Having enough sleep is also important for having the energy to exercise, therefore not getting enough can lead to being less physically active during the day and reduced any muscle strength during workouts.

Inability to build muscle

Working out first thing in the morning generally doesn’t help with building muscle. This is because your body needs a few hours to refuel stores that it has used up during the night.

Your muscles primarily use glucose to fuel weightlifting and resistance exercises. A morning workout does not result in significant gains in either muscle mass or strength, as you don’t yet have sufficient stores.

Therefore, if muscle or strength increases are your primary goal, workouts will see more benefits later in the day.

Metabolic rate can impact eating habits

As an early morning workout will boost your metabolism early in the day, your metabolic rate then generally slows down again in the evening.

Whereas an afternoon or evening workout will boost your metabolism later in the day, which is more beneficial if your dinner is your main meal of the day, providing the most calories.

If you’re looking for results in weight loss or weight maintenance, ideally you want to align your workouts with your biggest calorie intake to ensure best results.

If you want to burn calories and fat, changing your workout routine to the time of day when you eat your largest meal could be extremely beneficial.

Advantages of a light-night workout (7:30pm and onwards)

Higher energy levels

A study from The University of Birmingham shows you can go up to 20 percent longer when exercising in the evening, at a higher intensity. Therefore, doing workouts at a longer, faster, stronger rate will demonstrate results a lot quicker.

Muscles will tone up faster

Muscle strength and function peaks in the evening, as fluctuating hormones can make workouts later in the day more effective. High levels of cortisol in the morning can prevent muscle growth, however high levels of testosterone in the evening boosts it.

P.M workouts having negative impacts on sleep is a myth

Though many people believe that working out late night can be extremely disruptive to your quality of sleep, as endorphins are still buzzing, this is a myth.

Endorphins actually help to improve the ability to sleep, which also helps reduces stress.

A study in Sleep Medicine found that only two percent of vigorous exercisers said workouts interrupted their sleep, as 30 percent slept better after a good sweat.

Of course, depending on how late night your workout is, people may tend to rely on caffeine and taurine which are known as popular pre-workout supplements.

Therefore, opting for caffeine-free pre workout is a better option, which contains Beta Alanine and Citrulline Malate which helps to preserve muscle pH and acidity levels – delaying the build-up of lactic acid and muscle fatigue.

Effective stress relief

After a long day, exercise can help you unwind and de-stress. This is because physical activity produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers.

Studies show that among those who exercise, 33 percent of high-stress adults said they feel less stressed after exercising, compared with 18 percent of low-stress adults.

Disadvantages of a light-night workout (7:30 pm and onwards)

Can impact consistency

Exercising later in the day can make it much more tempting to move it to the next day because you are too tired.

Studies also suggest that fixing your workout session to morning time may make it easier for you to turn exercising into a daily habit than setting it at night-time.

Your post-workout fuel is consumed too late

It is important to help your muscles recover to replace their glycogen stores.

Therefore, eating a meal which contains both carbohydrates and protein after your exercise session is recommended.

However, if you are completing a workout late at night, your hunger levels may take a lot longer to kick in, therefore you are eating extremely late.

Eating late at night go against your body’s circadian rhythm, impacting your metabolism and make it more difficult to maintain blood sugar levels.

Less time for post-workout stretching

You may be going to the gym at 9 pm, however, it closes at 10 pm, which can make you rush out of the door. Not giving yourself enough time to complete thorough pre and post-workout stretching can put you at risk of injury.

Muscles and tendons that aren’t stretched properly after exercise may be more susceptible to injury.

Whilst it’s not only important to make sure you’re stretching after exercise, but also that you’re doing the right types of stretches.