Not Sleeping Well? It Could Be Your Late Day Exercise

If you’re not sleeping well… late day exercise may be to blame.

What can you do and how can you optimize your sleep with the right exercise? Remember:

“Intense early, Light late”

One of the reasons late day exercise may cause sleep interruption is this hormone’s role in producing energy for cortisol during exercise. It’s called:

The Pregnenolone Steal

The “pregnenolone steal” means your body basically does whatever it needs to do to operate. In times, like these perhaps, and at times of day when cortisol is naturally lower later in the day, when you don’t have enough to properly support high intensity exercise, your body will use pregnenolone to create cortisol.

You see, cortisol is also your energy hormone. You use it to exercise, or to power through that creative work you do earlier in the day, and it naturally wakes you when it’s at optimal levels. How you feel in the morning, afternoon and evening tells you quite a bit about your cortisol levels.

Ideal Cortisol Use

During normal times – remember those?- when you’re upset or stressed about an argument, do you feel better after a challenging workout? If you’ve experienced that it’s because you’ve purged a little extra cortisol.

However, when you’re in a say, an unexpected crisis lasting weeks turned into months with uncertainty and you’re cortisol levels may already be compromised, that little beg, borrow, and steal it from wherever you can get it… That could just throw you under the bus.

Go Low or No

While it’s not that you need cortisol to sleep: cortisol is supposed to be low (it’s all time low at 2am). However, it’s that you need pregnenolone to chill, relax and sleep.

What’s a girl to do when it’s late day exercise or no exercise?

Remember this Flipping50 flip: light late.

It’s best.

Ultimately, if you’re calculating calories burned from high or low intensity you’re going to disagree. But if you are thinking you’re a calories-in-and-out equation, you’re missing the fact that hormones control what you do with calories.

Hormones control whether you store or burn them. Even in the presence of a calorie deficit, without balanced hormones you will not lose weight and potentially you will gain weight (due to inflammation).

The exercise type you do and the time you do it determine your influence on hormones and your ability to lose weight.

There Isn’t Enough Research

A great study, for instance, would be to take a group of menopausal women in the same hormone status (very low late day cortisol) and have them exercise using high intensity interval training at either 7am or at 5pm 2 or 3 days a week for 8 weeks.

But for now, without the evidence, we take what we know happens from other sources and use it. 

The lower intensity exercise later in the day will support your body’s ability to calm down, maintain its level of pregnenolone so you can chill out and optimize your sleep.

The show notes will be available at

This is a reader question: I’m not sleeping well, could I be exercising too close to bedtime? 

Do you have a question?

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