When I first started working out consistently, I had to decide when I was going to workout.
I didn’t feel like I enjoyed exercising enough to get up early in the morning, and I knew that if I waited until the evening, I would more than likely end up talking myself out of it and just chill at home.
Basically I didn’t really want to work out at all, but it had to be done. So, I looked to science for the answer — and by science, I really mean YouTube.
According to a number of weight loss videos I watched, the best time to work out is when you’re in a fasted state. That time could be either morning or night.
Dr. Kellyann Petrucci M.S., N.D., a nationally recognized, board-certified naturopathic physician and certified nutrition consultant, defined the fasted state as being six hours after a meal, during which the body burns off its stored sugar and uses fat for fuel. The time varies based on the composition of the meal. The more fiber, fat, and/or protein the meal has, the longer it will take to digest.
Lisa Payne, a nationally recognized fitness expert, explained that when you work out on an empty stomach, the body draws energy from its fat storage as opposed to the carbohydrates from a pre-workout meal. After you eat, the pancreas creates insulin, a hormone that allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates as energy. Without that chemical, the body is likely to use stored fat for energy, resulting in potentially more effective weight loss. Research shows that you can burn about 20% more fat when you exercise in a fasted state.
Fasted workouts not only aid in losing weight, they can also decrease insulin levels, which could stave off diabetes. Working out while in a fasted state can even train your body to be metabolically flexible, allowing it to use either sugar or fat for fuel, which improves athletic performance. It will take about two weeks for your body to switch from burning sugar to burning fat, so you should start slow.
It’s not all good news, though. According to Jim Stoppani, Ph.D in exercise physiology, fasted, morning workouts not only use fat for fuel, they also potentially draw from the amino acids that were broken down into glucose while you slept. This drainage could hinder goals of building muscle.
Payne went further and argued that the post-workout window should not be ignored. She explained that excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, generally happens within an hour of exercise when your body is recovering but also burning calories and using energy. This depletion can lead to dizziness, weakness and fatigue due to nutrient debt. Make sure to consume a fast-digesting protein like whey, chicken or salmon, as well as some slow-digesting, starchy carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes, during this window.
When looking to start a new exercise regimen or to switch it up, be sure to contact your primary care physician to ensure that you’re going about it in a healthy way. What works for someone else may not work for you.
Whatever you do, move your body! As the great Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!”
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