What Time of Day Should You Run?

Have you ever wondered what time of day is best to run? Scientists have been studying for a long time how our circadian rhythm affects our performance.

Most recently, studies have shown that athletes tend to perform better between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Whenever you choose to run, experts agree that making it a habit is the most important part of scheduling your workouts.

Morning Runs

Benefits: An Appalachian State University study in 2011 found that individuals who exercised moderately three times a week at 7 a.m. experienced a 10 percent drop in blood pressure that lasted the rest of the day. Compared to the same workouts completed at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., those individuals also had a 25 percent reduction in blood pressure at night, helping them sleep better.

Studies have also shown that runners who choose to forgo breakfast before their workout are better equipped to build lean mass. That's because the body better absorbs nutrients during the post-workout meal.

Running in the morning also helps you keep weight off. A 2010 study found that a group of men who skipped breakfast before their workouts gained no weight, while those who ate breakfast gained a few pounds.

Drawbacks: Muscles are stiffer in the morning, and energy and body temperature are at their lowest. What that means is you're likely to feel like you're working harder than if you ran later in the day. Mentally, early morning runs take commitment to stick to because it's much easier to hit the snooze button.

More: Should You Fast or Eat Before a Run?

Lunchtime Runs

Benefits: A lunchtime workout is a great way to put some energy back into your day. It fights that afternoon lull so you'll be able to finish the day with more focus. In a study from the University of Illinois, researchers found that a short aerobic workout boosted brainpower.

If you're not a morning person, an afternoon run won't pull away from that extra hour of sleep or that time at home after work.

Drawbacks: Time is limited during the lunch hour, so you'll have to be efficient and plan ahead by packing your gym clothes and nutrition needs beforehand. You might not be able to get in your intense or long runs during this time.

More: 25 Healthy Snacks for Runners

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at http://tx.ag/casanova and tweets at @acasanova10.

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