New Study Reveals the Most Effective Time of Day to Workout
This may make it easier to get out of bed. Research has found that if losing belly fat is your goal, the best time of day to workout is in the morning, especially for women. Men and women both benefited from working out any time of day, but women who worked out in the morning lost significantly more abdominal fat, especially if they didn't eat beforehand.
The other surprising finding of the study was that women and men differ in how they react to working out at different times of the day. Men have less of a significant difference depending on whether they workout in the morning or the evening and both are helpful in bulking up and lowering blood pressure. Women, on the other hand, get significantly better results when they workout within a few hours of waking up.
If Your Goal to Burn Fat, Workout In the Morning
Essentially if your goal is to burn belly fat, it's not only what you do but when you do it that matters. The same is true of building muscle strength: Time of day has an impact on results, according to a study out of Skidmore College in upstate New York just published in the Frontiers of Modern Medicine. Evening workouts are slightly better for men trying to build bulk.
So what's the best time to workout? Surprisingly, the answer is different for men and women. No doubt working out any time of day is better than none, so if you're not a morning person or you work late and can't get to the gym to jam in a sweat session after work, don't sweat it. Just fit in your workout whenever you can. But when researchers looked at what time of day is best to workout for the most effective fat-burning results, the answer is that it depends on your gender.
The study which pretty much gives the answer away in the title is called: Morning Exercise Reduces Abdominal Fat and Blood Pressure in Women; Evening Exercise Increases Muscular Performance in Women and Lowers Blood Pressure in Men.
The researchers set out to see if there is any difference in how women and men respond to exercise and found that surprisingly, time of day mattered more than they had anticipated. The purpose, according to the study authors: "Given known sex differences in response to exercise training, this study quantified health and performance outcomes in separate cohorts of women and men adhering to different ETOD [exercise time of day].
The differences between men and women and workout results are more than just based on the what you do at the gym or in the park, nor is it only cued to your desired outcome or whether you want to bulk up or shed fat or get the toned, lean muscles of a yoga instructor.
When it comes to choosing the right time of day or night to hit the gym for your sweat session, the study found that women burn more fat early in the morning just hours after waking, whereas men had more toning effects at the end of the daylight hours.
The best time of day to workout is different for men and women
The study of a relatively small sample of 20 men and 27 women who were all active and healthy between the ages of 25 and 55 years old monitored the effects of varied fitness programs for 12 weeks.
The workout routines in the study ranged from both soft and hard sessions, including stretching, sprinting, resistance training, and endurance workouts. It found that women burned more body fat in the morning, while evening workouts were the most effective in fat burning among men.
The conclusion was: "Morning exercise (AM) reduced abdominal fat and blood pressure and evening exercise (PM) enhanced muscular performance in the women cohort. In the men cohort, PM increased fat oxidation and reduced systolic BP and fatigue. Thus, ETOD may be important to optimize individual exercise-induced health and performance outcomes in physically active individuals and may be independent of macronutrient intake."
The researchers speculated that the reason for this differential was because of differences in hormones between the sexes, as well as in biological clocks and sleep-wake cycles. Still, any workout, especially for beginners or those who are just starting out on their fitness journey, is beneficial and can be effective at toning up and shedding belly fat any time of the day.
The researchers tested the participants' blood pressure and body fat at the start and end of the 12 weeks as well as their flexibility, strength, and aerobic power. All the participants who took part in the study improved their overall health and performance over the 12-weeks, no matter what time of day they exercised. But women who exercise in the morning had slightly better results than those who worked out later in the day, whereas for men, the opposite held true: Working out after 4 p.m. was better for men.
What's The Best Time for Exercise? It Depends on Your Goal
"The best time for exercise is the best time you can do it and fit it into your schedule," says Dr. Paul Arcerio, the study's lead author and a Professor of Health and Human Physiological Sciences at Skidmore College, in New York State.
Arcerio suggests there is "something else going on," which indicates that the ideal time of day to exercise is different for women and men.
Morning Exercise Burns More Belly Fat
The study found that any woman who is eager to lose belly fat and reduce her blood pressure should aim to exercise in the morning, according to Dr. Arcerio.
Belly fat sits near and around the body's internal organs, including the liver, he adds, which can be dangerous. Still, anyone trying to improve muscle strength and tone their upper body or improve their overall mood and food intake should choose to workout in the evening.
For most men, the timing of working out was less important, since they can see similar results and build strength any time of the day, whether they workout mornings or evenings.
Evening Exercise Builds More Strength, Lowers Risk of Disease
Evening exercise is "ideal for men interested in improving heart and metabolic health, as well as emotional wellbeing," says Dr. Arcerio. When you improve your metabolic health you also reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or stroke, he adds
It's not clear exactly why men's and women's responses to the timing of exercise were so different, and the study authors concluded that more research needs to be done.
Women may burn more body fat in the morning because they are more likely to have excess belly fat in the first place, the study said. Another factor could be the body's internal rhythms.
The study, published in Frontiers in Physiology, tracked people who are living with a healthy weight, but the researchers say that the fitness routines could work well for people who are overweight or obese.
Following the RISE Exercise Training Protocol
In the study, both the morning and evening exercisers underwent the same exercise training regimen with the acronym RISE, which stands for Resistance, Intervals, Stretching, and Endurance training. Participants completed each of the four different routines one day per week for a total of four training sessions per week, each lasting less than an hour, with the exception of the endurance training, which was performed for 60 min or longer.
The resistance training routine was comprised of a dynamic warm-up, lower and upper body resistance, followed by core muscle movements performed for 10-15 repetitions and for two to three sets, in order to induce muscular fatigue. A 30–60 s recovery was allowed between sets of the same exercise and between different types of exercises.
The sprint interval (I) training sessions were comprised of 7–10 sets of 30–60 s of near-maximal all-out sprints with 2–4 min of recovery/rest in between sets, such that the entire routine was completed within 35 min. Participants were free to choose any mode of exercise (treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, swimming, snowshoeing, cycling, rollerblading, etc.) to complete the sprints.
The stretching exercise routine was led by a certified yoga instructor and utilized a combination of familiar stretching and traditional yoga poses, as well as several additional Pilates movements such that all the major muscles and joints of the body were involved. Lastly, endurance exercise training included full-body, rhythmical aerobic activities such as running, cycling, rowing, swimming, ellipticals, etc., and was performed for longer than 60 minutes at 60 percent of maximal effort based on the heart rate.
Timing of Meals Matters for Losing Fat, Toning Up
The timing of meals was an important component of the current study. On resistance (R) and interval (I) exercise training days, participants consumed a small snack of 250 to 300 calories within one hour prior to working out. On days when they were stretching (S) or doing endurance (E) training they fasted for at least four hours before working out but arrived well-hydrated and were allowed to consume water/electrolyte beverages as needed.
Participants in morning exercise routines consumed breakfast after their exercise and their remaining meals were consumed at approximately 4-hour intervals throughout the remainder of the day.
For evening exercisers they ate every four hours, starting with breakfast, and consumed their last meal of the day within an hour of finishing their evening exercise.
On non-exercise days, participants consumed breakfast within an hour of waking in the morning and their remaining meals every four hours thereafter, with the final evening meal consumed within two hours of going to bed.
Bottom Line: The Best Time to Workout to Burn Fat Depends on Your Goals
The best time to workout to burn belly fat and lower blood pressure for women is in the morning, and to build strength and lower the risk of disease for men is in the evening. Both morning and evening workouts are effective but the magnitude of improvement was significantly greater in morning exercise for women. Men saw less pronounced differences but had slightly better results when workout out in the afternoon or evening.
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