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What's the Best Time of Day to Workout?

There's more to being a badass mom than just hitting your workouts hard. In order for your hard work in the gym to pay off OPTIMALLY, be aware of the following factors that can affect your schedule. So when should you train? Well, there's a lot of debate over when the best time to work out is. Some say mornings, others say evenings. But of course, much like anything else, there are a variety of factors to consider, so let’s have a look! And listen, I know you're thinking, " Emily, you know I don't have time to overthink the best time of day to get my workout in, when I'm struggling to fit it in AT ALL!" Yes, I get it. Obviously, when faced with a "do it or don't" dilemma, let's just get it done!

Circadian Rhythms

Your circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle. They’re regulated by the hypothalamus, which is part of your brain. The hypothalamus responds to light and dark signals it receives from your eyes. These signals help to set your body’s natural clock or circadian rhythm. Now, considering the fact that this natural rhythm of the body controls the biochemistry, as well as the activity of the central nervous system, it's easy to conclude that at one point of the cycle, we'd have better performance and that muscle strength follows a circadian pattern. Maximum isometric strength varies during the day and peaks in the late afternoon (4 to 8 pm). Circadian rhythm-wise, it's IDEAL (but not necessary) to do your strength workouts in the late afternoon.

Muscle Glycogen

Alright, so the first thing to consider is the phase of your natural cycle, which you are at during the workout (just what we discussed above.) But that’s just one part of the story! The second important consideration is- Do you have fuel to get the best workout possible? The primary source of fuel for heavy workouts in the gym is muscle glycogen. Essentially, muscle glycogen is the stored version of carbohydrates (the body stores whatever it doesn’t use.) If your muscle glycogen is depleted, you are likely to have a suboptimal workout. And unfortunately, muscle glycogen and blood sugar are at their lowest in the morning. So if you’re planning to start doing your strength workouts in the morning, think again! Because that might hinder your performance. Have a meal or two with quality carb sources in the hours leading up to your workout! Now, don't @me with all the theories about fasted cardio, intermittent fasting and the like. I know them well, and that's not what we're discussing now. Strength training is always more effective with muscle glycogen.

Recovery Time

The third and perhaps most important consideration is this... Are you recovered from your previous workout? As you may or may not know, during weighted workouts, we inflict micro-damage to the muscles and also ramp up the nervous system. All components engaged in strenuous exercise need time to recover before they can get their peak output and capacity back (with some more of it added, which we call ‘gains’) With this in mind, you’d want to optimize the recovery times between each workout in order to perform at your best every time. Generally speaking, you’d need 48 to 96 hours between each training session for each muscle group. What this means is that if you train your pushing muscle groups on Monday at 4 pm, you’d be best off doing this workout again later on in the week, on Thursday or Friday.

The Verdict

So, when is the best time to go to the gym? The answer isn’t always clear-cut, but hopefully, this article has given you a few things to think about. If you want to get in shape and don’t mind sweating it out during prime-time TV hours, then evening workouts might be right for you. But if you prefer peace and an earlier bedtime, mornings may be better. Ultimately, it all comes down to what works best for your schedule and fitness goals. Just make sure you stick with it–consistency is key! Are there any other times of day that work well for you?

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