The Many Benefits of a Morning Workout

Not many of us wake up, hop out of bed with full energy and can zealously tackle our workout first thing in the morning. The natural inclination is often to put if off, generally until the end of the day, when all the other important things like work and school have been accomplished.

But is this wise? What are the benefits of a morning workout, before you go about the rest of your daily activities?

Start The Day Off Right

In a recent post, we discussed the fact that a balanced breakfast can help to set a healthy tone for the rest of your day. Morning exercise seems to have a similar effect, for several reasons.

First, numerous studies have shown that exercise can improve your sense of well-being and overall mood. For longtime exercisers, this won’t come as a surprise but it has important implications. If you exercise first thing in the morning, elevating your mood, you are more likely to eat healthier foods and enjoy your day more.

Additionally, once you experience these benefits, you’ll want to continue exercising so that you can keep enjoying them. Speaking to U.S. News, Julia Valentour, program coordinator for the American Council on Exercise, said that “People who exercise in the morning are more likely to make it a habit, as there’s less chance of scheduling conflicts that get in the way of exercise.”

Razor Focus!

Closely related to the improved sense of well-being is a heightened alertness throughout the day. Although you have to drag yourself out of bed and struggle to start your workout, once you do you’ll wake up quickly. Not only will you be able to give your workout your full attention but, by the time you get to work, you’ll already feel awake and accomplished.

A key factor to consider when discussing how to set a good tone for your day is the effect that exercise has on your metabolism. Recent research has shown that not only do our bodies burn calories during exercise, but that increased caloric burn continues for hours after. One study found that men who biked at a high intensity for 45 minutes burned an extra 190 calories over the 14 hours following the workout. Other studies have backed these findings but, they all note, that low or moderate intensity workouts don’t show the same substantial results.

Sleep Better

It may seem counter-intuitive, but waking up early to work out may help you sleep better. A quality night’s sleep is dependent, to a large extent, on regularity. We need to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Scheduling your workout in the mornings can be a valuable step toward creating a regular sleep pattern.

Research also indicates that people who exercise at night or in the evenings have more difficulty falling asleep than those who work out earlier in the day. Not only will the improved sleep help you be more focussed and energetic, but sleep plays an important part in weight loss. Several hormones that control your appetite and metabolism are regulated by your sleep patterns so creating a healthy sleep schedule can have a positive effect on those systems as well.

Avoid Conflicts

How often does your day go exactly as you had planned? Things pop up unexpectedly that force use to make last minute changes. We may have to work late, deal with some emergency or handle an errand we forgot about, and any of these things can suck up the time you’d planned for your workout. By taking care of your exercise as soon as you wake up, you lessen the chance of something else getting in the way.

What benefits have you experienced from working out in the morning? Please share them with us in the comments.

Sources

http://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2005/03000/Exercise_and_well_being__a_review_of_mental_and.13.aspx

http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2010/08/10/how-morning-exercise-can-boost-your-career

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mielke25.htm

http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/exercise/story/2011-09-01/Bonus-for-exercisers-Calories-burn-long-after-workout/50224116/1

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/lose-weight-with-morning-exercise

Breakfast: Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Fried egg with baconHow many times has someone reminded you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? It’s one of those health bromides that most everyone knows — and ignores. We’re usually in just too much of a rush in the mornings to do anything more than grab a pre-packaged or frozen something and call it a meal. Lots of us skip this meal altogether.

Not the best move, nutritionists tell us. But why is breakfast so important anyway? And what makes a “healthy” one?

Why is Breakfast Important?

As the name suggests, breakfast is about breaking the fast that you’ve experienced since your last meal the night before. Depending on your schedule, this could mean that you haven’t eaten in 10 to 15 hours, a huge gap considering that during the day we eat about every four hours.

Although we generally don’t think of sleep as an active time, your brain and body are still hard at work. Muscles rebuild themselves and recover from the demands of the previous day.Food is digested so the nutrients can be processed and stored; the heart and lungs continue to operate.And all of this is overseen by the brain, which is busy processing information collected throughout the day.

All of this activity burns up a lot of fuel in the form of glucose. So, when we stumble out of bed in the morning, our brains and entire bodies are at a massive caloric deficit.

When You Skip Breakfast

For some people, skipping breakfast is the result of simple oversight or disorganization. But others make the decision consciously, believing that it will help them lose weight.

In some cases, these deliberate skippers will then workout on an empty stomach, trying to force themselves into a fat-burning calorie deficit. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine explored the efficacy of this approach by monitoring the biological responses of exercisers who had fasted versus those who had eaten. The researchers found that the subjects who ate a light meal before exercising burned more calories, specifically those from fat, for up to 24 hours following the workout.

It should also be considered that when you skip any meal and go for long periods of time without eating, your blood sugar drops dramatically. Because you are more hungry than you would be otherwise, you are more likely to eat a large meal which will cause an insulin spike. This hormone response will actually cause your body to store more fat.

This Balanced Breakfast

Science and experience have shown the importance of breakfast, especially for the physically active person. But what is a healthy breakfast?

The exact answer to that question is fairly controversial in the health and fitness realm, but most experts agree that breakfast should account for about 25 to 30 percent of your daily calories.

This means that a healthy person following an active lifestyle and using a standard 2000 calorie diet should have a 500- to 600-calorie meal to start the day.

According to the IDEA Fitness Journal, an ideal breakfast should incorporate complex carbohydrates like oats and cereals, fiber from fruits and vegetables, and proteins from beans or nuts. IDEA suggests that breakfast should be no-to-low fat, so if you use milk in your oatmeal, cereal or smoothie, consider low-fat options or alternatives such as soy or rice milk.

A healthy breakfast will help set the nutritional tone for the day and get your body off to a decent metabolic start. Find foods that you can easily fit into your schedule and enjoy first thing in the morning. Also, consider your activity for the day and adjust your meal to fit. If it’s a training day, you’re going to want to eat more complex carbs than otherwise. Some easily prepared complex carbohydrate foods include starchy vegetables, beans and whole grains. If you’re typically rushing out the door first thingin the morning, why not try preparing something the night before? With just a little planning, you could have no-cook refrigerator oatmeal ready to grab and go in the morning.

In an upcoming post, I’ll share an easy recipe for healthy breakfast bars that’s been my fall-back breakfast option for a long time.

How have you managed to fit a balanced breakfast into your busy schedule? Please share your tips with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/build-a-better-breakfast-0

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21411835

http://www.theyummylife.com/Refrigerator_Oatmeal