Everybody knows that exercise is good for you. Working out regularly is vital to maintain a healthy and flexible cardiovascular system and strong bones, and to support hormone regulation and mental health. But although there is no such thing as a wrong time to exercise, there are certain moments when our body benefits the most from a good workout session. Specifically, the best time to work out is determined by three factors: the digestive system, genetics and hormone production.
The best time to work out is right before a meal
When it comes to optimally effective workouts, the digestive system runs the show. Taking into account our physiological processes, the best moment to work out is right before a meal. The reason is that eating is always followed by a physiological inflammation of the digestive system. Every nutrient that we put in our mouths potentially contains allergenic pathogens, and so our body anticipates this risk by going into inflammation, i.e. the immune system is drawn to the digestive system which in turn needs all the energy it can get.
If we exercise before eating, the muscles will respond by producing anti-inflammatory substances such as lactoferrin, which have an anti-inflammatory effect supporting the digestive system.
What happens when you work out after a meal?
During exercise, muscle fibers break down, triggering an inflammatory reaction. In other words, if we eat first and then go to the gym, we get, so to speak, a double inflammatory reaction. Our body then has to divide its energy between the muscles and the digestive organs, resulting in a lack of energy supply to the first, the latter or both.
Just imagine your refrigerator is not running
Another reason why it is best to work out right before a meal is genetics. Our ancestors, who naturally did not have refrigerators, always had to move before being able to eat, e.g. picking berries, plants, and hunting small game. Over the course of thousands of years, our digestive system adjusted accordingly and this way of eating remains best known to our body today.
The best time to work out is in the morning
Move first, eat later is the most efficient approach to exercising. That said, there is still the question of what time of day is optimal. Experts agree that it is best to get moving either in the morning before breakfast or in the late afternoon (but not after 19h00).
Optimal health, after all, can only be achieved by living in harmony with our biorhythm, which is regulated by the cyclic pattern of cortisol production (commonly known as the ‘activity hormone’). Cortisol levels are high in the morning and then gradually decrease towards the evening. Because prolonged exercise (more than 45 minutes) and heavy training sessions (cardio, competitive sports, ….) cause cortisol levels to increase, it is recommended to avoid this type of activity after 19h00 in order not to disturb the biorhythm.
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About Andreea Taflan
Andreea Taflan is the CEO and a co-founder of QX World. She studied Business Management and Marketing and has a master’s degree in Public Relations and Communications. In 2005, Andreea was appointed the right hand of the original developer of biofeedback technology and since 2012 she has taken the lead in further developing the technology. Currently, she leads both the software and hardware department at QX World and is considered one of the top experts in the field of biofeedback.