Which Time of the Day is Best for Running?
If you are running, you have already done one of the best things you could for your body. The sport has a huge array of benefits. But the question is at what time of the day can we get the most out of the sport as far as our health and fitness go? Is it during the early morning runs or late evenings?
To decide what the best time to run is, let us understand the science behind running and our biology. It is believed that you achieve the maximum benefits of running when you run according to the circadian rhythm, because it controls the biological factors that enhance the effects of running.
Circadian rhythm is the body clock that determines all the bodily activities, such as the rise and fall in the core body temperature, hormones, breathing capacity, strength, and the energy stores. Along with these factors, the core body temperature has the maximum influence on the run. The body temperature is the highest between 5pm to 7pm, while it’s at its lowest at 5am.
When the core body temperature is high, it leads to the following:
- Increase blood flow to the muscles
- Increase oxygen supply to the muscles
- Lubrication of joints and ligaments
- Increase in speed of nerve impulse
- Increase in energy and stamina because of faster breakdown of glycogen and glucose
What happens when you run in the morning?
In the morning, the core temperature is low, muscles are stiff, lung functioning is low, and the energy sources are depleted. These physiological conditions are not very ideal for running. However, running in the morning has its pros and cons.
1. Weight loss
People running to lose weight prefer running in the morning on an empty stomach because the body starts burning fats and glycogen for energy. Running in the morning prevents you from gaining more weight and increases your tolerance to glucose. Athletes who run in the morning believe that their motivation to eat during the day is reduced.
2. Build lower body muscles
Testosterone is a hormone involved in muscle building, and it is at a high concentration in the morning between 5.30am to 8am. So, if you want to build lower muscles such as glutes, quads and hamstrings, morning is a good time to run. But do not miss out on a protein-rich diet alongside, or else you will lose muscle.
3. Mood elevation
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is at its peak in the morning, which is why people tend to feel gloomy then. Running releases endocannabinoids, which are mood elevators and helps in combating depression.
4. Energy boost
You inhale a lot of fresh air in the morning, which boosts your metabolism and keeps you physically active through the day.
Your body temperature is low and muscles and joints are stiff in the morning, your breathing capacity as well as power output is low, which makes you very vulnerable to injuries. To avoid injuries, perform warm-up exercises such as static or dynamic stretching and brisk walking before the run. Warm-up helps increase muscle temperatures, increase oxygen, and blood supply to muscles.
2. Heart problems
The blood pressure in the morning is naturally high. Before you begin your run, it is ideal to warm up by walking briskly or doing some stretching, or else you may be susceptible to heart attacks. Warming up helps in lowering your blood pressure as well as increasing your heart rate. Increased heart rate will help in supplying blood to all the parts of your body.
What happens when you run in the late afternoon or evening?
Late afternoon to evening is the best time to run because the core body temperature is at its peak, which makes the muscles more flexible, and lung capacity is 6% better than in the morning because of reduced airway resistance. Additionally, you are more alert and warmed up during this time from the day’s activities.
1. Longer runs
The energy and lung capacity are higher in the afternoon. This helps sustain longer runs and build endurance.
2. Reduced risk of injuries
The high core body temperature and energy reserves make sure that the muscle strength and flexibility is high. Epinephrine and norepinephrine also peak in the afternoon, pushing your heart to pump faster. These hormones also elevate your mood.
3. Relieve stress:
Running in the evening helps you clear your mind of any tension, frustration, or stress from the day, and improves your mood because of the release of endocannabinoids. It also lowers blood pressure and promotes a sense of calmness.
1. Disrupt sleep
Running in the evening may energize you too much to sleep. If that’s the case, you may run an hour earlier.
There are concerns for safety in the evening as it begins to get dark, leading to poor vision and traffic peaks. But in this case, you can go earlier to run or invest in a torch.
According to science, the best time to run is late afternoon (3pm to 5pm) or early evening (6pm to 8pm). Running in the morning or evening shows similar benefits. So, it is actually your choice when to run depending on your schedule, convenience, enjoyment quotient, and what you want to achieve from the run. The most important part however, is to ensure that you run.