Are Morning Workouts Better For Metabolic Health?

Workout consistency matters most. But, if you have metabolic struggles, new research suggests an early bird training session might offer added benefits.

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • What your purpose?

  • The early bird advantage

  • How to simplify behavioral change

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The Power of Purpose

You know that your actions influence your outcomes. But you might not realize that your beliefs can improve your health, too.  

Research suggests that living with purpose can help you live longer and lower your risk of premature death. This held true even when the scientists controlled for gender, ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status.

The study looked at more than 13,000 adults over 50 and then tracked their health over an 8-year period. Those with the strongest sense of purpose lower their risk of death by more than 20 percent compared to those with the least sense of purpose. 

The scientists speculate that finding more purpose could make you more likely to engage in healthier behaviors. Another study found that those with a greater sense of purpose were 24 percent less likely to be inactive, 33 percent less likely to suffer from sleep problems, and 22 percent less likely to be overweight. 

While it sounds complicated, finding purpose is about identifying what you care about, spending time with people, and having meaningful experiences. That’s why even when those of lesser means who find their purpose experience psychological and physiological benefits that help support a longer life with less overall disease. 

If you’re looking to find more purpose, start by making a list of things things you find meaningful. It can be friends, family, work, charity, donating your time, activities you love, or even finding time to exercise and prioritize your health. And then, the goal is to block off those meaningful moments on your calendar and make sure you do them. The more consistently you make time for the things that matter to you, the more you’ll feel you’re living a purposeful life. 

The Eary Bird Advantage

The best time of day to exercise is the one that works for you. But if you’re looking for a little edge and you tend to struggle with your weight and other health conditions, the timing of your workouts might give you an extra boost.

New research suggests that people who exercise in the morning are better at reversing the effects of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of health conditions that hit all at once, including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high blood triglycerides, and HDL-C. This condition increases the risk of several dangerous conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

In the study, researchers compared high-intensity exercise in the morning (between 8 and 9 am) to the afternoon (between 4 and 6 pm). Both groups saw significant changes in their fat mass, waist circumference, and diastolic blood pressure, but — despite doing the same workouts — the morning training group experienced additional benefits. The morning exercisers also improved their systolic blood pressure, insulin, and HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance and pancreatic health).

More research is needed to determine why the morning group experienced more benefits, but the researchers hypothesized that it has to do with how the body burns food for energy. Exercise primes the body to process calories for fuel better, so the morning group may have ended up experiencing this effect for both lunch and dinner, while the evening group only experienced this effect for dinner. It’s why fat loss was the same, but insulin management was different.

The catch? Don’t forget what we said first: exercising at a time that works for you is most important. Don't force the issue if morning exercise makes you miserable or doesn’t fit your schedule. Stick to the exercise routine that helps you be most consistent because study after study shows that’s what matters most. Even in the current research, both groups improved their metabolic syndrome scores and overall health. 

How to Simplify Behavioral Change

Speaking of behavioral change, Arnold frequently talks about the importance of routines. Throughout the past couple of weeks, some of the most popular items in the Pump Club included,

Research suggests that adding protein to your breakfast can cause a domino effect that helps control your appetite and improve your food choices for the rest of the day. 

Recent research suggests the more often you eat ultra-processed foods, the more likely you are to report feeling depressed or anxious. 

It’s completely normal (and healthy) for your blood sugar to rise after eating, so there’s no need to panic about every food that increases blood sugar. 

New research suggests that social media use could contribute to chronic inflammation. 

When we look at these studies from the perspective of what we want to publish, I start by focusing on good research with practical takeaways. Sharing a study that doesn’t make it easy for you to take action doesn’t do much good. I believe that the gap between where you are and where you want to be is called frustration, and frustration can be eliminated by education and action

So, we try to educate, simplify, and help you take action every day.

But there’s something else to keep in mind; we tend to overemphasize what research finds (protein is good!) and underestimate how behaviors are connected (a healthy breakfast can lead to a healthy lunch and dinner!). 

The more I learn, the more I become convinced that one of the best things people can understand is the spillover effect. (AKA the transfer effect). It’s the science of how one good action (or bad) can spill over into another behavior. It’s all about dominos. 

But here’s what we get wrong: we think the first domino needs to be something big and incredibly challenging. We put so much time and energy into overcoming massive hurdles, thinking that’s what we need for significant change. 

However, sometimes, we’re not ready to master those changes. And when we fall short, everything falls apart. 

With behavior, small wins add up. Small dominos knock down other small dominos. And when many small dominos fall, habits are formed, behaviors are created, confidence builds, and change occurs. 

This is the way. 

So, remember, you don’t need to start with a big domino. Start with the domino you can knock over repeatedly. When that happens, you create momentum and transfer success from one thing to another, and impressive results will follow. -AB

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell