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It's all in the timing: When to work out for max results
by Jessica |  Sep 27, 2013

When it comes to scheduling a workout, it's pretty hard to fight your habits. Some people can lurch out of bed and go for a run before the sun is up, while others prefer to hit the gym to de-stress after work.

Studies and expert opinions never seem to agree on the best time to exercise, but one thing they do have consensus on is that timing does make a difference in your energy level, calorie burn and overall results - it just depends on your goals. So when should you be slipping on your sneakers? Whether you're an early riser or a night owl, here are the perks to a workout at any time of day:

Morning
An early workout is certainly not for everyone - some would rather hit the snooze button than pound the pavement. However, if you're having a tough time staying motivated, it might be worth forcing yourself out of bed.

According to Fitbie, studies at the Mollen Clinic have shown that 75 percent of those who exercise in the morning hours were likely to stick with their program, while only half of the afternoon exercisers and a quarter of those who head to the gym after work did so regularly. It's not just that you're getting it over with at the beginning of the day - you're also preventing the possibility of missing a workout due to an afternoon or evening crash after a grueling day. Even if you don't have the time for an hour-long session, you'll still see some major benefits. 

Fitbie noted that research by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found just 20 minutes of aerobic exercise can boost your ability to concentrate and overall cognitive function.

When you first wake up, your body temperature is lower and you've mostly depleted your energy stores overnight, so it's advisable to warm up for five to eight minutes and fuel up with the right foods before you hit the gym. Not only will you have a more effective workout, but you'll reduce the risk of injury.

Afternoon
If your work schedule is such that you can squeeze in some exercise during lunch hour, there some are some definite advantages. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, told Forbes that body temperature usually rises several degrees in the afternoon, which naturally warms up your muscles so you're able to perform better. That means if you're going for kickboxing, plyometrics or some other form of exercise that involves explosive movements, you may actually see an improvement in your capabilities. Not only that, but Bryant noted that since you've already been moving around throughout the day, you won't have to stretch as much beforehand to prepare. 

In fact, Khari May, a personal trainer at Crunch in New York City, recommends doing weight training in the afternoon over the morning. She explained that since there is more glycogen in your muscles, you're more likely to tone up and build mass.

Evening
Provided you don't have an exhausting day at the office, the evening is actually an optimal time to exercise.

UK-based trainer Christian Finn even told Fitbie that your muscles may be at their strongest at this time, possibly because a peak in body temperature activates the fast-twitch fibers. There's a serious advantage to warmer muscles that goes beyond higher performance, though. Robert Reames, a spokesperson for Gold's Gym International, also explained that cortisol plays a major role in your body's ability to burn fat. According to him, your body's cortisol levels are lowest at night. When there's a high amount of this stress hormone in your system, your body switches to "survival mode," breaking down muscle instead of fat. 

Ultimately, though, he argued that the best way to fight this effect is to get a good night's sleep to stabilize your cortisol levels.

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