It’s no secret that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to picking a time to work out. Some of us are early morning grinders who refuse to start our day without a good sweat. Then there are others, such as myself, who savor every precious minute of sleep before stepping out of bed. Don’t worry if you’re the latter, as your afternoon workout may be more efficient and effective than you think.
But before we make a decision on which workout time is best, we have to keep in mind which type of workout we plan on doing. An endurance workout requires less explosive power than does a session of heavy resistance training, which may be why you see more early-morning runners than you do weight lifters. And while you might overlook the fact that exercise seems easier in the afternoon than in the morning, there’s good reasoning behind it.
Let’s start with the early morning grinders.
By working out directly after waking, you have put yourself in a position to increase your metabolism for the remainder of the day. The mechanism behind this is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short. Also known as oxygen debt, EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen required to bring your body back to homeostasis, which is our normal, resting state. This means you will continue burning calories after your workout as your body works to return to its natural state. But keep in mind, you most likely need to hydrate and allow time for a longer warm-up prior to your workout in order to establish a higher core body temperature and increase blood flow to the muscles.
Now if you’re someone like me who would rather get an extra hour of sleep than drag yourself out of bed for a workout, that last paragraph is probably slightly discouraging. However, you’re in luck, because your afternoon or early night-time workout may be easier on your body.
By waiting until later in the day to work out, you’re allowing time for your body to increase its core temperature and gain nutrients through the foods you’ve eaten. This means you’ll have better blood flow to the muscles, and more fuel to use as you continue your workout. Afternoon sessions are even more beneficial for strength training, which depends on a steady flow of carbohydrates in the bloodstream as energy to push around all that weight. One major benefit of a quality strength training session is the increase in muscle mass, which will return the favor by burning more fat at rest. Though none of this should shy you away from doing cardio in the afternoon, as there are numerous benefits of cardio that go beyond simply burning fat.
Given this information and the topic at hand, it’s time for some Q and A.
How can I utilize my workout timing to burn the most amount of fat?
If you can get to bed by a decent time and find a way to get ample rest, then the morning workout is the way to go, as you will be kicking your metabolism into overdrive to start your day. Then, if you truly want to maximize fat loss, you can perform a resistance training session in the afternoon.
Will I still burn fat by doing cardio in the afternoon/at night?
Of course, you will still burn fat by performing an evening cardio session. You may even perform better given the fact that you have more nutrients at your disposal. Workout timing aside, you will still eventually burn fat by putting yourself in a calorie deficit with proper monitoring of your diet.
Can I still do cardio and strength training in the same workout to reap the added benefits?
Yes! There’s no reason you can’t complete both cardio and strength training in the same workout. But don’t forget that fatigue will eventually set in, and the second part of your workout may suffer as a result.
What’s the most important thing to consider when making my decision?
When picking a time of day to work out, it’s wisest to choose a time that you can reliably and consistently achieve. The best way to adhere to a workout routine is to pick one you will actually do.
Key Word: Timing