Peak athletic performance may be related to time of day, suggests a University of Chicago study being presented to the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, ENDO 2001, in Denver, Colorado, on June 22, 2001. The study shows that the response of the systems regulating energy metabolism and some hormones differs according to when in the day exercise is performed.
Subjects who exercised at night had much larger drops in glucose levels in response to exercise than at other times of day. Exercise in the evening and at night elicited large increases in the levels of two hormones important for energy metabolism, cortisol and thyrotropin. Exercise at other times of day had much smaller effects on these hormones. In contrast, marked increases in growth hormone levels in response to exercise were not effected by the time of day.
"The effects of exercise we observed may explain how some times of day could be better than others for regular exercise or athletic performance, as we might expect from anectdotally reported variations in peak athletic performance," said Orfeu Buxton, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in endocrinology at the University of Chicago. "We found strong evidence for substantial changes in glucose metabolism and an array of hormonal responses to 1-hour, high-intensity exercise, dependent on the timing of the exercise. Circadian rhythms, generated by our 24-hour internal clock, appear to play an important role in the complex response to exercise."
For the study, conducted in the Clinical Research Center of the University of Chicago, 40 healthy men, between the ages of 20 and 30, were divided into five groups. Four groups exercised vigorously for one hour on a stair-stepper in the morning, afternoon, evening or night. A control group did not exercise. A standard marker, the timing of melatonin secretion, was used to determine the timing of each individual's daily rhythm, his circadian "clock time."