What’s the best time of day for cycling? Is it better to cycle first thing in the morning, in the evening before dinner, or somewhere in between? It turns out, when you choose to ride DOES make a difference.
Although it makes logical sense to ride whenever you can fit it into your busy schedule, if you are striving for maximum gains, there are specific times to train. Those times differ depending upon your ultimate goals: weight loss or speed.
Researchers in Brazil had cyclists ride 1000-meter time trials at both 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The morning time trial was completed after at least 8 hours of fasting, and the evening time trial was completed after 6 hours of fasting. During the morning ride, the glucose levels of the riders were 11 percent lower. In addition, levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and other chemicals that can interfere with performance were found to be higher. Cyclists completed their time trials 6.5 seconds faster in the evenings. This 7 percent difference can be HUGE if you are training for speed.
That means that training in the evening will produce a significant increase in speed and performance when compared with the rest of the day. With recent discussion of fasting for athletic performance, there has been some indications that fasting several times a week actually improves abilities. I have not yet seen any studies that show that physical activity at high intensities when fasting is improved. I have, however, read a lot of anecdotal evidence that is makes a difference.
So, what’s the best time of day for cycling?
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If you are riding to lose weight or improve overall fitness levels, you can ride anytime. In fact, many people prefer training in the morning as it allows them to set aside a specific time each day for their bike ride. The benefits to your body should be about equal depending upon when in the day you ride. If, however, you are trying for gains in speed, ride in the evenings.
And now for the related question- should I eat before my morning ride?
This depends a bit upon you and your body. Studies have shown that cycling prior to eating breakfast in the morning actually burns more body fat (by as much as 20 percent), and reduces hunger levels throughout the day. Although the physiological benefits of cycling prior to eating are clear, you need to listen to your body. If you have diabetes or are sensitive to low blood sugar levels, it’s always important to eat something prior to riding.
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Whether you choose to eat or not before cycling, be sure to take something with you in case you experience a drop in blood sugar levels. Something as small as a banana or a few jellybeans will be enough to raise glucose levels and get you pedaling again. Obviously, if you experience a major slump due to a lack of energy, you’re going to be struggling to meet your fitness goals.
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In conclusion, although most people should be more concerned about fitting cycling into their schedule whenever possible, individuals who make performance a factor should try cycling in the evenings. The best time of day for cycling to lose weight: anytime, and for gains in speed: evenings.
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