Getting the Energy to Work Out in the Evening

Evening exercise is a necessity for many whose busy schedules prevent daytime physical activity.
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Finding energy to work out in the evenings is something of a chicken-and-egg problem. Exercise boosts energy, both immediately and over the long term, but where do you find the energy to get the exercise done? It can seem a particularly steep challenge after a long day of work and activities. Getting into a continuing cycle of healthy choices, starting with both mental and physical preparations throughout the day, will help make the gym or an at-home workout plan easier to accomplish in the evenings.

Fuel Up Right

For evening workouts, it's important to maintain a steady, balanced diet throughout the day leading up to physical activity. In a "Today Show" report by Heidi Skolnik, the nutritionist for the New York Giants advises eating breakfast, lunch and a 4 p.m. snack in preparation for evening exercise. Skolnik notes that it's easy to go six or more hours without eating, when lunch is at noon and dinner is after evening exercise. The 4 p.m. snack, she says, is key to sustaining the evening athlete and preventing exhaustion from lack of food. Resist the urge, however, to fill up your belly just before a workout. During activity, the body should be focused on diverting blood circulation to working muscles, not to serious digestive efforts. Stick to simple carbohydrate-based snacks -- fruit and yogurt, for example, or a banana with peanut butter -- that will serve as a boost during exercise and tide you over until dinner. Amy Jamieson-Petonic, director of wellness coaching at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, also recommends whole-grain pasta salad with vegetables for a boost of energy, vitamins and minerals.


Drinking water is always the best way to stay hydrated during the day, and research presented during the British Psychological Society Annual Conference found that sipping water had immediate impact on mental acuity. Going into an evening workout hydrated allows greater focus on a fitness plan. Just before and during evening exercise, sports drinks offer performance benefits that can help you push through energy barriers, but it's important to choose the right beverage. Rather than reaching for a caffeine-laden energy drink, turn to a sports drink with zero caffeine that's designed to hydrate the body for exercise. Many energy drinks are simply overmarketed sodas with very high caffeine content, and actually contribute to dehydration, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In an interview with "Men's Fitness" magazine, New York dietitian Andrea Chernus recommends sports drinks that provide 13 to 19 grams of carbohydrates in every 8-ounce serving. She also advises 80 to 110 milligrams of sodium per 8 ounces, to replace what is lost through sweating.

Break It Down

According to Mayo Clinic, the government encourages at least 75 to 150 minutes of moderate or intense activity each week as the baseline for health benefits. If that number alone makes you tired, remember that activity can be broken down into minisessions of 15 minutes each, several times a week. According to "Fitness" magazine, just five minutes of moderate to intense activity, such as jumping exercises, is enough to boost your heart rate, energy level and muscle tone. And 15 minutes is plenty of time to work out the upper or lower body, according to trainer Annette Lang. Try short bursts of exercise to jump-start an evening fitness program, and work your way up to a full 45- or 60-minute session.

Apply Psychology

Getting into the right frame of mind for exercise is half the battle. Even if you're feeling mentally drained after a hectic day, the body has stores of yet untapped energy. Start by clearing any obstacles that may sideline your immediate exercise goals. If a postwork exercise class or the gym is your destination for fitness, prepare your gym bag and gear, plus snacks and water, so there's no reason to stop at home. Evening exercise is often a great way to clear the mind of daily stresses and prepare for a restful night's sleep, which can only benefit the next evening's workout session. Once the exercise ball is rolling, your energy levels will likewise start to snowball.

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