Although working out first thing in the morning is frequently recommended, it’s overrated.
The common thinking goes that, since your glucose stores are lower in the morning, your body ought to draw on fat as a higher percentage of your workout fuel. The reality is that what fuel your body burns is chiefly decided by what intensity you are working at. In other words, what percentage of calories burned come from fat and what percentage come from glucose will be mainly determined by your exercise intensity, not the time of day. The most important factor is the total amount of calories burned based on intensity.
Let’s look at an example. Say you exercise at light intensity and burn 120 calories. About 90 of those calories will come from fat. If you exercise at moderate intensity and burn 180 calories, half of those calories will still come from fat. So, you’ve still burned 90 fat calories but have also burned 60 calories more in total. The more calories you burn during exercise, the more the body can later dip into fat stores to make up the deficit you created—and the greater the deficit, the greater the dip. In addition, you’ll increase your metabolism (calories burned) to a greater degree and for longer after your exercise session if you work at a more vigorous intensity. Working out in the morning does not change this equation.
There’s also the possibility that your body will eat into muscle stores if you do cardio first thing, as amino acids will be utilized for energy.
The biggest advantage of morning cardio, in reality, is that you get it done and set the tone for your day. If you’ve already worked out in the morning, you may be less likely to eat unhealthy foods and ruin all your good work.
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