Morning Routine | 7 Benefits
Think about the very first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. I guess for most of us it’s hitting the alarm, right. What if we were to look at our morning routine’s in more detail. What would they tell us about our personality, physiology and what type of day that might ensue. Having worked in the fitness industry for many years, I can tell you that I have found that there are two major types I see more than all others:
The Grab & Go - Now if you’re a ‘Grab & Go’ type, then you’ll likely have your morning routine planned down to the minute. You’ll be rudely awoken by your alarm with precisely just enough time to jump in the shower, get dressed and run out of the house. The Grab & Goers are thrifty, they may gulp down a lukewarm coffee before leaving the house and take a breakfast bar or a piece of fruit or scoff a slice of buttery toast attempting not to spread the crumbs all over themselves. These rushed rascals are not apposed to doing the 100 metre dash with a piece of food in their mouths like a dog with its favorite toy.
The Fast & Binge - If you’re a 'Fast & Binge’ type, you profess to not need breakfast at all, choosing to ‘fast’ or skip breakfast, and satisfyingly enjoy those extra few taps of the snooze button, before reluctantly rolling out of bed, completing your minimal morning preparations and leaving the house to begin your commute - grabbing a coffee on the way to work or first thing when you arrive. You would say things like ‘I would feel sick if I ate breakfast’ and ‘I am just not hungry first thing’.
Have you ever fallen into one of these categories? Let’s break down what happens to your bodies physiology and what impact that may have on your day when you put your body through these morning routines:
The Grab & Go
Relying on your alarm to wake you up triggers a stress hormone called cortisol and forces you into a state of panic right from the off. Now, you’re feeling stiff, you make those get out of bed noises like your from night of the living dead. Even though your stressed spiked from your alarm you still feel mentally tired. So, you grab a coffee for its medicinal benefits at fighting said tiredness. You grab a simple carbohydrate snack that is most likely lacking in proper fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
So, let’s look at what is happening to your bodies in simple steps during this morning routine:
Step 1: You need 8 hours for around 5 complete and full cycles of sleep. Let’s imagine you get only 7 hours sleep and interrupt yourself mid cycle while still in deep sleep. Your Melatonin hormones is still active and Adrenaline isn’t yet fully replenished as it need the full cycles to restore your Adrenal glands.
Step 2: The rude awakening. Your alarm goes off and Adrenalin releases and triggers cortisol. Together they increase your heart and breathing rate to send fresh blood, oxygen to the body and brain and start a process to release glycogen (stored in the liver and muscles) that converts into blood sugar energy for the body to function. Basically, they wake you up. The issue is Glycogen levels are low and adrenalin isn’t recharged so your body and brain struggles to wake up. Which leads to…
Step 3: Coffee and snack: Lacking in adrenalin your body needs a psychostimulant and calls for it’s favorite drug: caffeine. But wait, your body would be better if it had energy too and thus an easily digestible snack that will provide a little sugar buzz is the preferred option.
(If only there was a way you could get all the benefits of a coffee without having to experience any of the negative effects… haha, hold that thought - absolutely shameless set up for later! )
But here remains the issue. You use a stimulant to release glycogen and adrenaline. The issue is that there will be a reaction to the substance, a come down if you will. Meaning your adrenaline and blood sugar levels will crash leaving you feeling way more tired during the day and relying on more caffeine and simple sugars to carry you through.
The Fast & Binge
Now if you thought waking up to an alarm was bad, then waking up and playing the multiple snooze button game is a whole different level of torment to your body (See here for more info on sleep and the effects of the snooze). Fasting is fashionable, so we skip breakfast entirely with the knowledge that we are in a calorie deficit and potentially burning fat. But are we, is this the full picture?
Unlike the grab and goer your body is likely going through a slightly different hormonal process.
1). You didn’t sleep enough so need to snooze in the hope that the next wake up you will finally be refreshed and alert. You aren’t though are you!?
2). Your stress hormone starts to kick in and your bodies starts to convert fat and muscles into ketones (the process of converting the bodies fat and muscle stores into ketones which works as an alternative for glycogen when it’s used up). This is great because according to most experts today this means you will be burning extra fat. But, when you look in the mirror that’s not what you may be seeing? More in this in a minute.
3). By the time your body feel hungry it’s lunch and they only reason you feel hungry is because you stopped rushing around for 10 minutes and sat still. You see, when you are being fueled by adrenaline it suppresses hunger by diverting blood from the digestive system to the extremities (body and brain). But, when you stop your adrenalin calms down and the body screams for nourishment.
4). At this point or at the point you finally get hungry you bodies wants easy to digest high in sugar and fat calorie dense foods. This is why your body reaction to the fasting all morning by feasting. This is terrible news. Your insulin response is more sensitive to the simple sugars and thus it spikes and may encourage more fat stores as a result, certainly if you over consume calories?
Note, intermittent fasting works well for fat loss, but daily fasting may slow your metabolism by affecting your thyroid function and slowing your calorie burning down to counter the calorie deficit.
These two approaches have a few things in common, and they are not good news!
- No exercise as part of routine (Exercise)
- No proper hydration as part of routine, just coffee or tea (Hydration)
- Rushed, bad or no breakfast = poor nutrients into your system or non at all have a knock on affect to your mood, fat storing and energy levels during the day and mostly not in a good way.
No Exercise + Bad Hydration + Poor Nutrients = Unhappy + Low Energy + Physically Fatigued
Now, this all has quite a large sense of doom and gloom, so we’re going to lighten this up and give you 7 reasons for you to start your day with a short, energising, life prolonging bout of exercise!
Best Start to the Day
When you exercise you release brain boosting happy hormones, ‘no, really’ I hear your brain shout. Well, yes, we know this, but when you elevate your heart rate to above 90% of its VO2 max the effects of dopamine to boost motivation and serotonin to boost mood and decrease depression are way higher than other types. Plus, you will be investing in some calorie burning for the day ahead and supercharging your energy levels first thing. What’s not to love? Try one below now to try:
Boosts Your Metabolism
The beauty of a morning workout is the effect of EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) on the body. This phenomenon means that after you exercise, your metabolism is increased and you burn more calories and fat stores throughout the day because of it, compared to an ordinary day where you haven’t exercised. This is doubling down, so the calories burnt from your workout + additional calories (as many as 190 calories in one study throughout the day afterwards as well. This is especially true with High Intensity Interval Training (see our article on HIIT for more details).
BUILDS A POSITIVE HABIT
If you aim for your workout to be at lunchtime or after work, as well as denying your body from all of the positive aspects of exercising in the morning, you’re also leaving yourself open to two things that you don’t want to happen - 1: you sacrifice your workout entirely so that you can finish that piece of work for the deadline, or give in to pressure to go out late night drinking, or not even reasons like to see family or friends - but you miss your workout. 2: working out late in the day after work can wake up your body at a time in the day when your body naturally wants to relax. Studies have shown this can have a negative impact and disrupt your sleep.
Waking up and working out first thing gets your exercise done and dusted. You feel good about the positive action you’ve taken so far, you become more self-disciplined, and it won’t take you long to enjoy this feeling and have it spill over into other areas of your life by taking more positive action.
Encourages Better Sleep
When we exercise in the morning, we are bolstering our circadian rhythm and reinforcing good sleeping patterns. Regular morning exercise helps kick-start the brain with the release of adrenalin. It also improves our sleep rhythms and tells our body to produce the hormone melatonin earlier in the evening to start the winding down process enabling you to get to sleep easier and making the sleep you do get more restorative.
Why is getting better sleep good news?Improving your sleep can lead to the following benefits:
- Better skin health and a more youthful appearance
- Decreased risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease
- Faster rate of weight loss
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Enhanced immune function
- Emotional regeneration and better relationships
Improves Mood & Reduces Anxiety
It is now widely accepted that exercise has a positive effect on mood, anxiety and can even act as an antidepressant due to the release of numerous positive hormones when exercising. Studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as psychological and pharmacological therapies as a treatment for depression. These positive effects are even more important, and more potent, when exercising in the morning.
If you exercise regularly in the morning then you’ll be familiar with that feeling of accomplishment, that burst of positivity and improved self-esteem that you have after completing that first bout of exercise knowing that you’ve given your body the best start to the day. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and can leave you with an energising outlook on life.
ELEVATES ENERGY AND BRAIN FUNCTION
Exercise boosts energy levels. The simple truth is that when we exercise, as discussed, the body releases endorphins, in combination with the improved sleep, improved mood and reduced anxiety, and also the fact that our heart gets literally bigger and more efficient, sending more oxygen to the brain and other organs - this all contributes to a feeling of increased energy.
A study (Puetz, T. Psychological Bulletin, November 2006 - News release, University of Georgia) found that more than 90% of participants, all of whom were sedentary people, experienced reduced fatigue compared to groups who didn’t exercise. Regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue. They found that the average effect was greater than the improvement from using stimulant medications, including those used for ADHD and narcolepsy.
Exercising first thing has been shown to boost your memory, improve your concentration, enhance your creativity and slow cognitive decline and therefore it actually improves the performance of your brain.
CAN BE COMPLETED IN JUST 7 MINUTES!
Hell yes. I’m telling you that you can achieve all of the above 6 amazing benefits from morning exercise, in just 7 minutes. “LIAR!” I hear you cry. Well, I admit I too was pretty overwhelmed when I realised and saw first-hand through our experiments and case studies what can be achieved in 7 minutes. But it turns out, when you exercise at the right intensity, and you are working on the right exercises, you can achieve amazing results.
Still don’t believe me? Check this out:
If you are looking to improve your fitness and want to try some free HIIT programmes then look no further. Join our free 8 week programme for all fitness levels here.
Our goal is to get 1 million people exercising for 7 minutes every morning as part of their daily routines by 2021.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, please like, share, comment and get in touch if you want to talk more about how to create the best morning routine.
To your health,
Stephen Thompson (Co-Founder - 7 Minute Mornings)