A team of Dutch researchers assessed men at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, putting the volunteers through workouts in two different time slots during the day — one group exercised between 8 and 10 a.m., the other group exercised between 3 and 6 p.m. After three months of data-collecting (during which the men would ride stationary bikes in the lab three days a week), the results were clear: working out in the afternoon yielded better results than working out in the morning.
The afternoon exercisers had an easier time trimming their waistlines, and a better handle on their blood sugar levels — pretty crucial, considering they were pre-diabetic at the beginning of the experiment.
What was going on? The physiologists aren’t too sure. But their best guess has to do with “metabolic health.” When we work out later in the day, it’s possible that that process jumpstarts metabolization after dinner. It’s easier for the body to break down its last meal, and, assuming you’re not a midnight snacker, you can sleep in a fasted state. That, in turn, would have all sorts of benefits for your circadian rhythm. If you’re embarking on a weight loss journey, that sort of 24-hour predictability is your best friend.
Plus, this research is probably music to the ears of those who consistently beat themselves up for snoozing through morning workouts. We’ve been conditioned to view the early hours as the domain of society’s go-getters. If you’re not crushing a run or lift before breakfast, you’re going to get left behind. But that isn’t just psychologically misleading — everyone’s schedule looks a little different, and that’s okay — this study suggests it could be physiologically deceptive, too.
If you do work out in the morning, don’t feel compelled to stop. The authors of the study pointed out that exercise at any time of the day is far better than none at all. But to take advantage of that fasted state before bed, try to cut off your eating a little earlier. Make 8 p.m. your hard cap.
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