Early morning workouts sabotaging your diet?

Early morning workouts might not be the gold standard for weight loss. Sacrificing sleep my be the reason you’re hungier or craving junk food.

early morning workouts

The Instagram weight loss community is obsessed with waking up early to work out.  So many take their groggy selfies and make sure to post them with the time-stamp to ensure everyone knows just how early it is.  Like a sacred expectation and those who don’t are immoral and sinning against the Fitspo gods.

Well, I have never been a wake up early person, let alone a wake up early and workout person. To be honest, I have always wanted to be that person, but I really really enjoy sleep. I have tried so many times to workout in the morning. 

I set the alarm, I lay out the clothes, I prep the water bottle and at 10pm I am pumped for my 5am workout. But when that 5am rolls around, all of that motivation is no where to be found and I inevitably hit snooze.

It has honestly been something I’ve struggled with for a long time. The early morning workout seems like the gold standard of health and wellness and really shows commitment and sacrifice. I know that sleep and physical activity are part of the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. We need both good quality sleep and good quality activity. But ultimately, when we wake up early to workout at the gold hour, we may be sacrificing some sleep. And both of these are super important for weight loss.

So I decided to see what’s up with this whole trend of early morning workouts. Why do people do this? Why do they think its so beneficial? And is there any science that says it supports weight loss?

Benefits of Early Morning Workouts

There are definitely some benefits and positives to getting your workout in early in the morning. Research has shown that you are 300% more likely to complete your workout if you schedule it for the morning. You are in more control of your time in the mornings, and have less demands on your schedule.

There is also no doubt, that getting a good workout and a nice flood of endorphins, early in the morning will put you in a great mood for the rest of your day. 

And research also shows that exercising outside in the sunlight will help your body wake up faster by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that makes us tired.

early morning workouts

There is also some science to support working out in the morning is better for those that live in very warm climates. Some see improved endurance earlier in the morning as most experience higher levels of fatigue during a hot day.

We need good sleep and we need good exercise, and a lot of times these things take up the same timeframe, and we end up having to sacrifice one for the other

early morning workouts

Negatives of Early Morning Workouts

Some people thrive on fasted workouts, but most need something in their system in order to have enough energy to power through a good workout.  

Fasted cardio and other fasted types of aerobic activity do not result in additional calories burned versus having eaten. So besides personal preference, there is no reason to intentionally exercise in a fasted state.

I personally prefer to do all cardio workouts like HIIT or LISS on an empty stomach. My energy levels are high enough to ensure I can perform, without having the heavy pit feeling in my stomach. Now, when it comes to resistance training, it is completely opposite. 

I have to have some energy in order to complete my workout at the level I want to.  It is impossible for me to lift with purpose.  I try to eat a small snack (preferably something with carbs) about an hour to an hour and a half prior to working out.

There are also some cardiovascular conditions that can impact morning workouts. If you are hypertensive (chronic high blood pressure) you may notice Post-Exercise Hypotension. Meaning your blood pressure may significantly drop in the minutes and hours after exercise. Please make sure to consult with your doctor prior to starting a new early morning workout routine.

New research has also shown that you may notice better performance later in the day because your body temperature is higher. As we progress through our day our bodies warm up and reach their peak temperature. Exercise may be better when you are at this higher temperature as opposed to the lower temperature when you just wake up.

Benefits of Sleep

We all know the amazing benefits of good sleep hygiene and how much we need to sleep well. Good sleep improves recovery post workout and ensures that your body has enough time to repair your muscles after you have torn them up in the gym. 

Sleep also provides support to your immune system, and is really the foundation for healthy living. Research has also shown that good sleep lowers cortisol levels which directly impact your ability to lose weight. Having higher rates of this stress hormone can cause you to retain or even gain weight.

The general recommendation is quality, deep sleep totaling a minimum of 7 hours and a maximum of 9 hours per night. If you are trying to lose weight make sure you are prioritizing good sleep hygiene to ensure enough quality deep sleep.

Sacrificing sleep for exercise

So is it worth it to sacrifice sleep in order to get in exercise or activity? The short answer is: no, it’s probably not worth it. The number one reason why waking up early to exercise could be sabotaging your diet has to deal with your hunger hormones and energy levels.

Reducing your sleep increases the amount of ghrelin in your body. Ghrelin is the hormone that makes you hungry and encourages you to eat and replenish your energy stores.. It also causes you to seek out nutrient-dense or high calorie, fatty foods to increase your energy.

Sacrificing sleep increases your hunger which will make it harder to stay in a calorie deficit and make you crave the foods that make you feel sluggish and less likely to want to work out. 

Your body needs energy to function, and when you don’t give it the sleep portion of that energy, it will require more food to make up for it.

The best part about ensuring you get a good amount of sleep, means your workouts will be even better. You will have more strength, endurance, and energy to power through a great workout.