Is running at night good for weight loss?

Running is among the best physical activities you can do for your body and helps you stay fit. It has a variety of benefits, both for your cardiovascular health and activity levels, while shedding weight is a by-product of that.

However, what you may not know is that the benefits running offers might be dependent on the timing of your runs. That brings up the important question: when is the optimal time to go for a run or jog?

In the case for most people, the preferred running times are early morning hours (between 6 and 7 am), early evening hours (6 to 8 pm), and late afternoon (3 to 5 pm). Research shows that your CR, or circadian rhythm, has a major influence in the benefits your body obtains when you engage in physical activities like running, CR is basically a 24-hour fall and rise in your body mechanisms, especially body temperature, reflexes, hormone levels, strength, energy stores, and breathing capacity. These factors will then influence your run, and ultimately your weight loss efforts.

The best timing to run for weight loss purposes is when your CR is at its peak and core temperature is at its highest, which is usually between 5 and 7 pm. If you do it, later on, this will interfere with the onset of your sleep, and the lowest CR levels are in the dawn hours, especially 5 am.

When should I go for a run?

The main trick for maximizing weight loss during a run is exercising when your core body temperature is at its highest – although you may wonder why this is the case. The benefit is that you will experience:

  • An increase in the flow of the blood
  • A greater supply of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles
  • More stamina and energy 
  • Better lubrication to all your body joints
  • Higher extent and efficiency of nerve impulses
  • Lower risks of injury
  • A more efficient breakdown of glucose and glycogen

If this information sounds foreign to you, or you assume that morning runs are better, here is a more informed examination of how timing affects your runs.

Going for morning runs

While the number of people who love their morning runs is not my preference (after all, who likes waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare for a run), it does have its fans. Those in favor of it will explain that it gives them some headspace, since they are not running in the hot sun, and the roads are free from the annoyance of noise and traffic.

Benefits of morning runs

  • You eat less and lose more weight – this is because the body begins to burn fat stores in the absence of proteins and carbs.
  • You are building your muscles – early morning workouts are great if your goal is building muscle. This is because the hormone testosterone, which is responsible for muscle growth, peaks between 5:30 and 8 am. However, you will still need a protein-rich breakfast afterward to prevent muscle loss.
  • Improves mood – many people struggling with mental illnesses like depression say that the morning is the worst time of day. This is primarily due to the rise of cortisol, which peaks at 8 am. Running helps improve mood, thanks to endorphins – but note that running at any time will help to beat depression.

Cons of morning runs

  • Heart problems and injury – if you are not used to waking up very early, do not force yourself to do so just for a morning run. The core temperature is at its lowest, and that means your muscles are quite stiff. Your power output is also low, and you are at greater risk of injuring yourself. You are also at risk of getting a stroke or heart attack because your blood pressure is at its highest.

Going for evening runs

Scientific research suggests that running during the later hours of the afternoon or early evening is the best running time, and it is due to factors that relate to the circadian rhythm, which all peak at this time. Just ensure to space your lunch and run as much as you can, like for a few hours. 

Benefits of evening runs

  • You build muscle more efficiently – this is particularly effective if you do resistance training. During the afternoon and early evening, the levels of both cortisol and testosterone are at optimum levels to build more muscles.
  • You can run for longer times – one secret to efficient training, especially for a long-distance run, is doing it in the afternoon. You will have the greater lung capacity and more fuel, which will sustain you for longer distances and improve endurance.
  • Reduce injury risks – because your core temperature is higher and you have more energy stores, your muscles are at their most flexible and strong. In addition to that, the levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine are high, and these keep your heart pumping and increase blood flow to reduce muscle pain.
  • Helps you fix your circadian rhythm – if you happen to travel across time zones or work shifts, the circadian rhythm is disrupted, and you will experience difficulties in sleeping. The more this happens, the greater your risk of developing heart diseases, obesity, and diabetes. Exercise works to fix the problem and has a particularly strong effect when it happens in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Reduction of blood pressure – if you struggle with high blood pressure, and it fails to go down, then early evening exercise can reduce it. 

Cons of running at night

  • Can interfere with sleep – you need to take care of the time you go for a run and avoid doing it during late evening hours. Because exercise releases endorphins, it can be difficult to fall asleep, so do it at least one to three hours before your bedtime.
Running at Night

Running at night vs Running in the morning comparison

Running at nightRunning in the morning
Consumes less oxygen, and less energy in sustaining the workoutConsumes more oxygen, and therefore more energy in sustaining the workout
Workout duration is longerThe workout duration is shorter
Less risk of injury because the muscles are more flexibleHigher injury risk because of stiffness
Builds enduranceIncreases fat burning

Final thoughts

A run during the early evening can go a long way to improving your blood pressure and reducing the risk of injury, as well as building muscle mass while running in the morning boosts the rate of burning fats but consumes more energy. However, running alone will not lead to weight loss, so it is important to also pay close attention to what you eat and your exercise patterns in order to achieve your weight management goals.

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