Exercise activity during morning
Most research outlines exercising in the late afternoon or evening is optimum for athletic performance, but morning training should not be completely dismissed. Depending on a person’s lifestyle, morning training might be the most convenient or perhaps the only period of the day they can work out or exercise. Especially for the recreational exerciser, performing some workout or exercise regardless of activity timing is better than nothing. However, some evidence suggests exercise timing for people trying to lose weight may potentially be superior in the morning. Muscle cells seem to be more effective at metabolising sugar and fat during the morning time, potentially leading to greater fat loss. Therefore, morning exercise could be an effective strategy for people with obesity and/or type two diabetes.
How a person performs in a morning workout may depend heavily on their sleep chronotype. Every person has a diurnal preference, meaning individuals have their unique preference for activity timing. This preference results in disparities between individual biological clocks, and people are often referred to as ‘larks’ and ‘owls’ depending on their preference. Genetic predisposition determines an individual’s preference. If you fall asleep easily around 10pm and wake up feeling alert around 6am, it’s a good sign that you are a lark. If you find it difficult to fall asleep before 1am and find functioning during early morning challenging, you are likely an owl. Larks tend to experience morning peaks and evening troughs in circadian rhythm, whereas owls experience the reverse. Therefore, a lark would be better suited to morning exercise than an owl.
Interestingly, work from Facer and Branstaetter challenges existing research, portraying that individual differences between larks and owls have not been significantly examined. Facer and Branstaetter believe when analysis on individual athletes’ sleep chronotype, diurnal preference, and performance testing are considered, there is a less clear advantage for late afternoon/evening exercise. Therefore, scheduling workouts based on the individual’s circadian rhythm may be an option to consider.
For athletes who compete at a certain time of day, it is a good idea to schedule training and workouts at a similar time. It is irrational to expect an athlete to perform to their optimal potential in an early morning event if their training sessions are all during the evening.