The time of day you work out gets a lot of attention, but is it really that important? Let's dig deeper and take a look at the reality of how much the time of day you work out can affect your results. I'll also share with you the five best times of the day that you should work out.
While this may seem obvious, you should not lose sight of the fact that exercise is almost always preferable to no exercise. While technical "nit-picking" can help make your fitness journey easier, it can also work against you if you get too wrapped up in it. Exercise and healthy eating will always trump all other advice. I've seen every excuse in the book, including "I missed my optimal window for training so I skipped today's workout." Don't let this happen. Unless you're injured, sick, or overtrained, exercising is better than not exercising. Schedule your workout when you have the best chance of getting it done.
There are times during the day when you will have a slight physiological advantage if you work out during them, but none of those trump the psychological edge you have if you feel like exercising. As simple as this sounds, effort equals results more than any other one factor. This means that if you're a night owl, work out at night. Morning person? Work out first thing in the morning . . . you get my drift. Any time you're in the mood to really Bring It will work because, by far, the biggest physiological changes happen to your body when you push yourself further than you've pushed yourself before. There's a reason the P90X® mantra is "Bring It." The closer you get to putting in 100% effort, the more you force your body into an adaptive state, which is exactly where it needs to be in order to change.
Now, let's get technical. Your body can push itself anaerobically longer and harder if you begin your workout with a full tank of muscle glycogen. This will let you lift more weight, jump higher, move faster—pretty much improve every important aspect of every workout that's not tied to recovery or aerobic efficiency.
Glycogen is mainly recharged by carbohydrates, and is extinguished very quickly with exercise, brain activity, and most other tasks. This means it fluctuates throughout the day and is always highest immediately after you digest a meal containing carbohydrates. This means—depending on your eating schedule—your body is probably primed for peak exercise in the late morning, afternoon, or early evening.
At night, your body can store glycogen, meaning that it's possible to wake up and train in the morning before you've eaten and still have enough energy to get through a workout, but this is a theoretical scenario. Most of us, especially when we're training hard and not eating a ton, will burn through glycogen recovering from the prior day's activities. The result is that those early morning workouts can lead to something called "the bonk," which is what happens when your body runs out of glycogen. Essentially you lose the ability to push your anaerobic realm, and you feel like you've hit a wall.
Bonking is not one of those "good pain" times. When your body is out of glycogen, it starts to break down muscle tissue and you quickly begin to offset the fitness gains you've made. It's inevitable that it will happen to you at some point. When it does, don't try and push though. Instead cut your losses and get on the recovery program by eating, resting, and then reevaluating your eating schedule and/or choice of workout times.
If exercising when your glycogen stores are low is the only time of day available, you can fix the situation nutritionally. If it's first thing in the morning, eat a half or a whole banana or drink a half or a full serving of Results and Recovery Formula® (depending on how long you're training) before you start your workout. If that helps, try adding another serving of complex carbohydrates to your evening meal and then skip the banana. If that doesn't work (you'll know if it doesn't—bonking isn't subtle) it means you're on a nutritional edge and aren't eating enough calories to recover from your workout program. It's time to reevaluate your daily caloric intake.
In the morning, before you've eaten, your body is forced to utilize its fat stores for energy, and you can train your body to be efficient at doing so, which is cool. You're also "burning fat," which sounds even cooler (although it's not nearly as effective as "burning glycogen" when it comes to losing body fat). While fantastic, in theory, it's not if you force your body into a situation where you bonk.
You won't bonk, however, unless you're training anaerobically (in other words, hard—as in your heart rate is pegged during parts of the workout). This means easy workouts can have added benefits if done in the morning on an empty stomach. This is why during programs like P90X Doubles, the easier workout of the day is scheduled in the morning.
This time of day is last for a reason. Unless it is really the only time you will work out or the only time you feel the best, you should probably avoid it.
Working out directly before bed can affect your sleep. Most people have a hard time getting to sleep after a workout because exercise can throw off your melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, among other things. This isn't ideal because sleep is very important for recovery. It's when your body naturally produces most of its own performance-enhancing drugs in the form of hormones. Anything that hurts your ability to sleep should be eliminated if possible.
Exercise also utilizes a lot of nutrients, which are further depleted at night. If you're on a strict diet, perhaps trying to lose weight, you run further risk by training and then not eating to recover from the workout prior to bed. If you're on a low-calorie diet and plan to train hard at night, you should follow your workout with, at least, a nutritional recovery strategy (Results and Recovery Formula or equivalent), if not a small meal before going to sleep.
I'm not the norm, so I'll play the counterpoint to my point as I can fall asleep (and often sleep much better) immediately after a very hard workout. If you're like me, there's nothing wrong with training at night. Just follow nutritional protocols that don't leave you depleted and starving when you wake up. I've done this and it can be so severe that you wake up in the middle of the night, a common issue with bodybuilders and fitness trainers getting ready for competition. This is not ideal as it means your body is essentially bonking during sleep. And while that's okay if your goal is to pose in front of a crowd with absurdly low body fat, like a bodybuilder, it's also a sign of starvation and, if done too long, will cause your body to begin to shut down its metabolic processes.
The bottom line is that everyone's body responds differently. We all need to exercise and most of us can eat better. In between are a lot of individual variables. When it comes to getting your best possible workout, psychology often trumps physiology. Exercise when you can and pay close attention to your performance. Then choose your preferred workout time based on your results. It's really that simple.
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The car is packed, the kids are happily occupied in the backseat, and you're ready to hit the road. But, when stomachs start rumbling, what's the plan? To stop you from making a pit stop at a greasy spoon or swinging through a drive-thru, we've pulled together a list of 15 road trip foods that will keep those hunger pangs at bay—and your car not full of detritus. And, most of them can be taken on a plane as well!
Fruit's fiber and high water content will help keep you full and hydrated as you travel. But, unless you want a messy car, it's best that you either choose fruit that doesn't have a stem, a pit, or an outside covering—namely, blueberries, figs, and grapes—or prepare fruit ahead of time and place it into Tupperware® containers. Strawberries, banana slices, peaches, and nectarines are great for this.
Calories per serving: 85–105
I discovered this when I was doing P90X earlier this year. They're low in calories, high in vitamin A, and totally addictive. Plus, they're flavored with ingredients like organic olive oil and organic chia seeds. They are a little on the expensive side though, so if you want to make your own, make these Kale Chips, chop them into bite-sized morsels, and pop them in a Tupperware or Ziploc® bag.
Calories per serving: 110
The trouble with most sandwiches is that they require a cooler . . . unless you like eating warm chicken salad. Peanut (or any nut, frankly) butter and jelly is one that doesn't. Make it with whole-grain bread (my personal favorite is Ezekiel 4:9®), an all-natural nut butter, and all-natural fruit spread like St. Dalfour® to up the health factor.
Calories per 1/2 sandwich: 150 (varies depending on ingredients)
Want to take your Shakeology on the road? Just mix a single-serving Shakeology packet (available in Chocolate, Vanilla, Greenberry, Chocolate Vegan, and Tropical Strawberry) with water and shake!
Calories per serving: 160–170
You might find the idea of taking eggs with you on the road a little odd, but hard-boiled eggs are great for a quick power-up. Plus, they're loaded with B vitamins, which may help keep tempers cool on long trips.
Calories per serving: 78
The bulk of prepackaged bars sold at gas stations or convenience stores are loaded with sugar, preservatives, and empty calories. These homemade bars can be made in minutes and contain only good-for-you ingredients like fruit and nuts.
Calories per serving: 124
Nuts are highly caloric, but they're also high in healthy omega-3 fats and travel well. Choose raw, unsalted nuts like almonds or walnuts that don't require you to dispose of a shell.
Calories per serving: 130–180
Deepen the flavor of nuts by roasting them with spices. This recipe that combines cinnamon, cayenne, and cumin with a touch of honey will keep you away from the store-bought trail mix.
Calories per serving: 120
Maybe we're weird, but we think baby carrots are fun to eat, and they don't make a mess! They're sweet on their own, or you can combine them with hummus for a yummy, crunchy treat.
Calories per serving: 30
Peas are really good for you thanks to their fiber and vitamins A and C. But, good luck getting your kids to eat them on a road trip. Unless . . . you disguise them as a crunchy snack. These split pea crisps from Whole Living® combine peas with just a touch of olive oil and salt.
Calories per serving: 55
It's a classic for a reason. Slice up your favorite veggies—snap peas, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and celery all travel well—and pop them into a sealable container. Persian cucumbers are also a yummy single-serving snack.
Calories per serving: Less than 20
On day 2 of the road trip, when you've run out of regular fruit, try dried fruit. It's higher in calories by volume than fresh fruit, so just be mindful of how much you eat and look for options without sulfites, but it's better for you than a candy bar. Or a Fruit Roll-Up®.
Calories per serving: About 150
This is probably the least healthy option on this list since they're made with potato flour and not whole potatoes, but you could do a lot worse. Plus, they're a Tony Horton–approved road trip snack. Original PopChips contain just potatoes, salt, a touch of rice flour, and oil, so you can feel like you're snacking on chips without loading your body up with who knows what.
Calories per serving: 120
Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, little weird things that come in a can . . . whatever you call them, these little nuggets of goodness are high in fiber and will help keep you full. Try this road-friendly recipe for them.
Calories per 1/4 cup: About 200
Though high in calories, seeds are high in heart-healthy magnesium and protein. Plus, cracking pumpkin or sunflower seeds open will keep your hands (if you're not driving!) and your mind busy while you're on the road. They can be high in sodium, so just take a look at the sodium levels or consider roasting your own.
Calories per 1/4 cup: About 160
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Losing weight—and keeping it off—isn't always easy. Just ask Jessica W. and Andy A., the two Grand Prize Winners of the 2012–2013 Beachbody Challenge™ Contest.
Though their journeys—and the workout programs they followed (Andy worked out regularly with INSANITY®, while Jessica became a LES MILLS PUMP devotee) were different, they each lost nearly half of their body weight and won $100,000 for their efforts.
Of course, getting great results like this requires more than just buying a workout program. (If that were the case, it wouldn't really be a challenge, would it?) It takes hard work, commitment, a healthy eating plan—and a few secret weapons.
Here are a few of the tricks that helped push our winners across the finish line.
Whether it's your family, a workout buddy, friends on the Message Boards, or your Team Beachbody® Coach, having someone you can lean on when you're struggling can make all the difference between making it and giving up. Ideally, you can rope in your cousin, sibling, or BFF to take the journey with you. That way, you'll support each other.
You can also log on to the Team Beachbody Message Boards, where you'll find FREE advice and inspiration. In addition to the inspiring board community, our expert Advice Staff is available to answer all of your fitness or nutrition questions.
Finally, there's your Team Beachbody Coach, who will always be there when the going gets tough. Jessica's Coach is also her best friend, so you can imagine how integral she was to her success. And, Andy's Coach, even though he lives over 3,000 miles away, made sure to check in on him regularly and made sure that he was on the right track. "My Coach Hiram S. is an example of willpower," says Andy. "Nothing is impossible, and he has proven that. He pushed me to reach my goal."
How many calories do you think you ate today? 1,500? 2,000? 3,500? No idea? When you don't follow a meal plan or track the foods you eat, it's hard to pinpoint how many calories you're eating and if you need to adjust those numbers to gain, lose, or maintain your weight. Consistently, studies show that when you log your food, you are up to twice as likely to lose weight.1 Measure your portions and record everything you eat, and you'll see results soon enough.
The same goes for your workouts. This might be as simple as tacking the calendar that comes with most of our programs to your wall and crossing off the days as you go. Or if you want get serious about it, the SuperGym® allows you to track your workouts—whether they're P90X, INSANITY, LES MILLS PUMP, or another workout including running, yoga, tennis, and many others. Why does logging your workout matter? As Jessica explains, "Logging my workouts daily on the website was a great tool. It made me feel so accomplished when I could hit the 'submit' button." The positive feedback and the accountability helped keep her moving toward her goal.
While a solid, nutritious diet including fresh fruits, veggies, lean protein, and "good" fats goes a long way toward helping anyone reach their fitness goals, sometimes you need to hedge your bets a little. That's where supplementation comes in.
When you're eating at a calorie deficit, you might not be able to get all the vitamins and minerals you need in a day. A good multivitamin such as ActiVit® (as taken by Andy) acts as a nutrient safety net, making sure you get what you need to stay strong.
And then there's Shakeology, which serves triple duty as a safety net, a meal replacement, and a healthy way to teach your sweet tooth who's boss. Andy, who used to "spend long hours eating," found that Shakeology helped him gain control over his overall eating habits. For Jessica, Shakeology came first. In just 11 days, she lost 11 pounds and that gave her the jump start and confidence boost she needed.
Now that you know their secrets and how to make them work for you, it's time to take a look at their incredible "before" and "after" photos!
Want to read more about their personal journeys? Click to read Andy's and Jessica's stories.
1.) Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial
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(Makes 1 serving)
Nutritional Information: (per serving)
P90X/P90X2 Nutritional Information:
Body Beast Nutritional Information:
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†Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
Please consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
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