Monday, 30th October 2017

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Any time is workout time

You don’t have to give up on fitness because you are too busy to exercise in the morning

By Sujata Mukherjee
  • Published 1.10.19, 10:23 PM
  • Updated 1.10.19, 10:23 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Quite a few scientific studies suggest that a moderate workout on an empty stomach cuts more flab — it helps shed at least 20 per cent more calories than usual iStock

Fitness enthusiasts I come across often ask what the best time to work out is. They are also eager to know whether it’s better to schedule an exercise session before breakfast or an hour after the morning meal. Just last week someone wondered what, going by the body clock, is the right time for exercise. Well, here’s what I know of the issue.

Before or after a meal

Quite a few scientific studies suggest that a moderate workout on an empty stomach cuts more flab — it helps shed at least 20 per cent more calories than usual. If you want to lose weight quickly, have an early dinner and exercise before breakfast. It’s even better if you can cut down carbohydrates, or do away with them altogether, at dinner. This depletes the glucose or glycogen level in the body, forcing it to tap fat deposits to fuel workouts or any other labour-intensive job. This burns the extra flab quickly.

However, some of you may feel dizzy if you exercise early in the morning on an empty stomach. This can be due to two reasons: either you can’t take too much strain or your workout is too rigorous. Therefore, make sure you are not pushing yourself. Moderate levels of cardio exercises — such as walking at 4-5 kmph for half-an-hour to 45 minutes — should be okay.

If you can’t do even a moderate workout while fasting, have a light breakfast and hit the gym an hour later. Contrary to popular wisdom, working out after a meal is not always bad. It can, in fact, be beneficial if one wants to strengthen or build muscles. In that case, have a full meal and start pumping weights three or four hours later.

Eat a banana, a few spoons of peanut butter or some other food that is rich in carbohydrate and protein right after your workout. High-protein snacks are essential if you have just participated in a high intensity workout.

Morning, evening or night

If you can schedule your fitness regime right after waking up early in the morning, you’ll feel fresh and full of energy the rest of the day. You’ll also be hungry enough to appreciate a heavy breakfast. As a result, you won’t feel hunger pangs the rest of the day and will sleep well. Unlike in the morning, when there is little to disturb you, it may be difficult to consistently continue working out in the afternoon or evening. Something or the other might need your attention, forcing you to skip a day or more.

If you are a morning person, start your day with a daily workout. According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, morning workouts gel so well with your body clock that you don’t run out of energy all day. You feel tired only around late evening. Listen to your body clock: have an early dinner and go to bed early.

But if your professional schedule keeps you tethered to your office till late in the evening and it’s impossible to go to bed or wake up early, don’t fret. Remember, you must not cut down on your daily quota of sleep to make time to exercise.

You can, instead, try exercising in the afternoon, between 1pm and 4pm. At this time of the day, muscles are flexible and the body remains warm; heartbeats and blood pressure are also under control.

A 2018 study says that at this time, 10 per cent more calories get spent since you are usually most active during these hours of the day. Therefore, it is easier to burn calories and shed flab.

This is also the best time to work on building muscles. If men do strength training at this time, it helps them add more testosterone as well as muscle cells.

If you have no time to exercise in the morning, afternoon or early evening, the next slot can be between 7pm and 10pm. However, this may disrupt your sleep cycle, according to a study published in the Journal of Physiology. If the exercise is too rigorous, it sets back the body clock, that is, you take longer to fall asleep. Take a bath after the session and then have dinner. Don’t go to bed immediately after the meal.

In essence, you can go to bed late and rise late but still be at least healthy, if not wealthy and wise. All you have to do is make time to stay fit.

The bottomline

  • Why do you want to exercise? The answer to this question will decide when you should work out. If your primary aim is to lose weight, it’s better to exercise early in the morning before breakfast. If you want to build muscles, schedule you gym session for the afternoon — never on an empty stomach. If you have free time only late in the evening, opt for a light workout

  • Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner based on your fitness regime. Eat a lot of carbohydrates before working out but only protein-rich food after. If you do moderate exercise, choose a nutritionally-balanced, low-calorie diet

  • Keep in mind that the hormone melatonin — responsible for making you feel sleepy — gets secreted in large amounts around 10pm. Complete your fitness regime and time your dinner keeping this in mind