What is the best time of day to run?
Will running in the morning provide any extra benefits compared to training at any other time of day?
Blackmores’ Online Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Coach Andrew Cate weighs up the pros and cons.
The benefits of a morning run
Have you been told it’s best to run before breakfast? While making sure you fit in a run at any time of the day is the most important factor, there are certainly some advantages to working out in the morning. These benefits include:
- It helps boosts your metabolic rate at the start of the day, before you’ve eaten.
- It may help to regulate your appetite for the day.
- It can increase the consistency of your exercise program, as you’ll be less likely to put off morning exercise for other interruptions.
- It’s a real ‚pick me up’, and makes you feel energised for the rest of the day.
- It sets a good precedent for the day, and builds the foundation for a positive mindset which can boost your desire to eat healthier.
There has been some scientific research to highlight the advantages of running before breakfast. One study, published in The Journal of Physiology, found that running first thing in the morning can be beneficial.
For the study, subjects ate a high fat, high kilojoule diet for six weeks, and were divided into a control group, an exercise before breakfast group, and an exercise after breakfast group.
All three groups ate an identical amount of kilojoules (around 12,600 kilojoules), although the two exercise groups distributed their kilojoule intake differently.
Training sessions were also identical apart from the timing, and consisted of a combination of cycling and running exercise for 60 to 90 minutes.
Only the group who exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance (a marker for poor blood sugar control which can be a pre-cursor to diabetes).
There was no significant difference in changes to exercise capacity in all three intervention groups.
While these results are interesting, it is important to note that the subjects ate a very high-kilojoule, high-fat diet, and more research is needed before knowing if the same effects would be seen if subjects ate a more „normal” diet.
Lifestyle implications and when to run
There appears to be considerable weight loss benefits that can be gained from performing your running training before breakfast.
However, research has shown that there may not be any additional benefits in terms of improved exercise capacity.
Ultimately, individual runners can use this information to judge for themselves the best time of day to exercise, in order to suit their training goals and circumstances.
On the one hand, runners who wish to shed body fat may benefit from training before breakfast. On the other hand, runners who wish to improve their speed and endurance may find training in a fed state more effective.
This may also involve ingesting kilojoules during longer runs, such as a sports drink.
In fact, if you run for an extended period (say more than 90 minutes), it’s likely you will be able to push yourself harder after consuming kilojoules, and you will get more physical rewards out of training.
There’s also nothing wrong with experimenting with different training techniques to see what impact it has on your results.