There is a popular piece of advice in the fitness industry that early morning cardio exercise will burn fat faster, and therefore everyone should do it.
The idea behind this is that if you do cardio exercise in a fasted state (ie before eating in the morning) then your body will be depleted of glycogen and your muscles will have to burn fat instead.
According to Men’s Fitness magazine, there is a certain amount of truth to this, but the main benefits to early morning cardio seem to be getting your body energised, rather than any huge advantage in fat burniing.
As always it is about your goals, your recovery ability, your health, your nutritional status, and your current training regime (and your past and future training too as nothing can be taken in isolation).
So I’m going to take the middle line – early morning cardio could be good for you, but only if you find the idea attractive.
Some of you will simply love that feeling of getting up early in the morning, getting a head start on the day, and starting the day strong with some exercise (especially outdoors). Others of you will absolutely hate it, and really prefer getting extra sleep in the morning and working out at some other time.
Listening to your body is usually, if not always, the right answer. If you’re shattered in the morning and dread getting out of bed then it doesn’t really seem sensible for you to do early morning cardio. The extra cortisol (a stress hormone that can be both friend and foe – I prefer to think of it as “the energetic hormone”) may be catabolic to your muscle tissue, mess up your insulin balance, and just leave you more wired and tired than before.
On the flip side, if you normally bounce out of bed in the mornings, feel great doing your cardio and buzz off that for the rest of the day then who am I to tell you it’s wrong?! However, if you feel tired even once you’re 10 minutes in then just stop and take a few days to rest – the cortisol that kicks in when exercising should lift you up, if it doesn’t then you’ve been digging too deep.
Too many people in the fitness industry get wrapped up in polarised viewpoints. If you are a professional athlete, then maybe you need to take a dogmatically strict approach to everything that you do (and if training is part of your ‘job’, then you can structure the rest of your day around it anyway)
But if you’re a regular person, then maybe doing exercise early in the morning means you have to get up at silly o’clock, and then you are overtired and stressed with extra time pressure to get to work. In that case, doing the exercise that you love, in the manner that you enjoy, is going to be infinitely better for both your mind and your body. Do your exercise at the time that best suits your body clock and your lifestyle, and you are much more likely to stick with it and enjoy it.
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If you are still sitting on the fence and wondering about this, then the only thing to do is to try it. Try an early morning cardio routine 2 or 3 times a week for a month. then ask yourself whether you feel any better or healthier for doing that or if you prefer your normal exercise routine. There is no one size fits all right answer to this, so do what suits you.
Are you an early morning person? Let me know yes or no in the comments.
If you want to take a look at some other commonly held fitness myths, then please see this article.
Rachel Law is a personal fitness trainer based in New Malden, Surrey. Qualifications: ActivIQ Level 3 Personal Training; Burrell Education Pregnancy Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner; Burrell Education Advanced Post Natal Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education 3rd Age Women Optimal Health and Nutrition; Burrell Education Peri Natal Athlete; Burrell Education Pelvic Flow and Freedom; Olympic Weight Lifting; Premier Global Kettlebells; FIE Level Assessment and Mentoring