If you're not a morning person and getting out of bed to exercise is a no-go or your schedule doesn't allow you to work out during the day, fret not. As long as you're committed to being fit and can spare some time in the day to work out, your weight-loss goals are within reach.
In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise, you may even be able to perform better if you work out later in the day because your muscles are warmer and more flexible, your perceived exertion is low, your reaction time is quicker, your strength is at its peak and your resting heart rate and blood pressure are low.
There are a few steps you can take to build a nighttime exercise routine for weight loss.
Make It a Daily Habit
The key to building an exercise routine and losing weight is consistency, so you need to organize your schedule in a way that ensures you have a dedicated window every night to work out, without any distractions.
An April 2015 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that exercising at least four times a week for six weeks was the minimum requirement for establishing an exercise habit. A nighttime routine can be harder to maintain than a morning routine; the American Council on Exercise notes that people who work out in the morning tend to be more regular than people who exercise at night.
Committing to exercising at night may mean consistently wrapping up work early, turning down social commitments and resisting the urge to unwind in front of the television.
Fuel Up During the Day
Eat healthy, balanced meals during the day to fuel your workout. Avoid eating junk food or heavy meals that will slow you down and make you feel sluggish. You don't want to be working out on an empty stomach either so make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and either an early dinner or an evening snack two hours before you exercise.
Opt for foods that have a combination of protein and carbs to power your workout. After your workout, make it a point to eat something before you sleep, even if you've already had an early dinner before your workout. Your body needs protein and nutrition to repair your muscles and carbs to replace depleted muscle glycogen. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids both during the day and after exercising to stay hydrated.
Try Cardio and Resistance Training
Working out at night is a great way to blow off some steam and relax before you go to bed. A January 2014 study published in the journal of Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases evaluated various types of exercise and their effect on weight loss and found that a combination of cardio and resistance training can help you achieve significant weight loss, especially if you do high volumes of cardio.
The study found that a high volume of cardio can also help you achieve significant weight loss by itself, but throwing in some resistance training can help you build muscle and burn fat. As an added bonus, it'll give your workout a little more variety.
Don't Lose Out on Sleep
While exercise is important, sleep is equally important so you need to ensure that you're not sacrificing one for the other. Make sure your exercise routine isn't cutting into your sleep timing and monitor your sleep quality to ensure that the post-workout endorphin rush isn't interfering with your sleep cycle.
A February 2019 study published in Sports Medicine found that exercising at night does not affect your sleep, unless you exercise vigorously in the hour before you sleep. However, the study defined vigorous exercise as exercise that is so intensive that a person cannot speak while they perform it.
An example of this would be the sort of high intensity training competitive athletes undertake; even a long endurance run or a long ride on a racing bike do not qualify as vigorous under the terms of the study.
Read more: Should I Exercise When I'm Exhausted?
Just to be on the safe side however, pay attention to your sleeping pattern once you start exercising at night to make sure your sleep isn't being compromised.
- American Council on Exercise: "The Best Time to Exercise"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Exercise Habit Formation in New Gym Members: A Longitudinal Study"
- Sports Medicine: "Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance"