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Exercising to Lose Weight? It Depends What Time of Day You Do It
PHOTO BY @nensuria/iStock
  • Want to get and stay in tip-top shape? What you do is crucial, but when you do it matters, too. "It's just like a child's recommended vaccination schedule," explains obstetrician-gynecologist Jaydee Vila Inkee, M.D. "There are certain tests and supplements that should be done and taken timely." Even for habits you don't think twice about doing -- like standing up, drinking coffee, and hitting the sack -- there are still ideal times to carry them out. Take a look at your calendar and plot out your daily schedule (and the rest of your year) like this:

    7:00 AM - Sweat it out
    The hour you need to exercise depends on the results you're after: If you want to lose body fat, then the best time to work out would be before breakfast, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Mark Caron, an athletic performance coach with Focus Athletics in Makati. "Morning exercise also cuts cravings and helps you control your appetite throughout the day," he adds. Need more motivation to set the alarm extra early? Working out in the a.m. ups your mood by as much as 30 percent, according to a study by Glasgow University in Scotland. Start by committing to a light-to-moderate exercise routine for just 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

    8:00 AM - Get your caffeine fix 
    Brewed black coffee is a natural, low-cal source of antioxidants. You can drink it at any time during the day, but if you need it in the morning, take it with your first meal. "It's best to have your breakfast 30 minutes after you wake up, and not later than an hour," says registered nutritionist-dietitian Faith Nacional, section manager of the Weight Management Center at St. Luke's Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City. "This helps your metabolism function properly," she adds. If an a.m. workout on top of the gazillion other things on your to-do list gets in the way of this breakfast schedule, however, consider moving your exercise routine to the evening instead.


    8:45 AM - Pop some vitamins 
    Because your supplements help keep you going throughout the day, it's best to take them in the morning. "Most vitamins are absorbed when you take them with meals, so make a habit of taking them after breakfast," says Dr. Vila Inkee. Consider popping a folic acid or folate supplement if you're trying to get pregnant, an iron supplement if you're  already pregnant or are a heavy menstrual bleeder, and a calcium supplement with vitamin D if you're nearing menopause, to help ward off osteoporosis. 

    "Just remember that there are vitamins that should and shouldn't be taken together," cautions Dr. Vila Inkee. Case in point: "Taking an iron supplement with vitamin C enhances its absorption, but taking it with calcium lessens its absorption." If this is the case, pop one supplement in the morning, and the other before bed.

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    9:00 AM - Get outside
    Here's a sweat-free way to keep weight gain at bay: Expose yourself earlier to natural morning light. After observing study participants for a week, researchers from the Northwestern University in Illinois found that individuals who were exposed to outdoor light earlier clocked in with lower body mass indexes or BMI. Every hour you delay your exposure may mean a 1.28-unit increase in your BMI, so aim to be out the door by 8 am to 9 am.

    12:00 NN - Have lunch 
    Meals should be eaten at three-to four hour intervals, says Nacional. This means that if you had breakfast at 8:00 a.m., lunch shouldn't be taken past noon. Your heaviest meal should have been your first, so try to eat less this time, but still make sure your plate is big on lean protein and fiber, and has an ample amount of carbs.

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    1:30 PM - Stand up 
    It's easy to get overwhelmed during your 9-to-5 and stay glued to your desk, but still, it's crucial for you to get off your chair every 30 minutes. Spending more time sitting around may increase your chances of having a fatty heart, says a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It's not like you have to keep tabs on the clock all the time: Start making a habit of standing up by getting on your feet every time you have to take a call or type up an email.

    6:30 PM - Squeeze in a workout if you haven't yet
    Good news, night owls: Remember what we said about your exercise schedule being dependent on the results you're after? Well, cranking up a sweat at night is great for building mass and gaining strength, says Caron. "It can also regulate the amount of food you'll take in for dinner," he adds. Plus, it makes for a great stress reliever if you had a tough day at home or in the office.

    11:00 PM - Conk out
    Don't want to see the number on the scale go up? Snooze early! When researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder had study participants sleep for different durations, they found that women who slept for nine hours per night for five nights maintained their weight, while those who slept for only five hours per night for five nights gained an average of two pounds. Try to get as much as six to seven hours every night. If you're having trouble zoning out, keep your electronics out of sight and out of your hands -- light and noise tend to keep us awake. 


    This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.

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