Have you heard any of these below…
“You should workout in the morning to start your day as productive as possible!”
“Fasted cardio first thing is the best way to go”
“Your body is at its natural peak in the evening”
Can be a bit confusing right?!?!
I get asked all the time: “when is the best time to workout?”, or whether one is better for weight loss than the other. So, today I’m going to explore this in a little more detail.
When is the Best Time to Workout?
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
Choosing the Best Time of Day to Workout
Is it better to workout in the morning or at night time? There is research to support the benefits of training at either time of day, so which one is better?
Here’s the truth: It honestly depends on your personal preferences! There isn’t a perfect time, and your body doesn’t make progress differently at different times of the day.
What is more important is the quality of the workout, which will be helped by your energy and focus, and your internal clock and your schedule will help dictate that when you are at your best.
However, there are certain positives and negatives associated with working out in the morning or evening, which I want to explain here.
Working out in the morning
Those who love getting their morning workouts done might find it easier to stick to a regular routine. Working out first thing means a workout is less likely to conflict with your other daily responsibilities. This means you check it off your to-do list before the distractions set in. I love checking this off my to-do list!
Research has also suggested that people who workout in the morning are more likely to be more active throughout the day than those who don’t get to their workout until later. This could be because our bodies feel warmed up and working out can help put us in a better mood!
There has been a lot of debate about whether working out on an empty stomach increases weight loss, basically because your body isn’t focused on digesting food if you haven’t eaten. While your body may be able to burn a little more fat if you are working out after an 8-hour fast (which you might have straight after a night’s sleep), it’s important that you can work out comfortably. Morning workouts are only helpful if you can actually do them, so listen to your body and eat if you need to.
Want to learn more about Fasting click here.
Some research has suggested that working out in the morning can help you to make healthier food choices throughout the day too.
Some of the benefits of working out in the morning include:
It can be easier to stay consistent
If you have trouble sticking to a workout routine consistently, morning workouts could be great for you. A lot of people struggle with finding time to workout, so if you do it first thing you won’t face any roadblocks that may come up during the day. Wokrout before the kids wake up this way the lack of interruption in your morning can provide a more consistent workout routine. Which will lead to fantastic long-term results! You also get it out of the way! So you don’t have to worry about squeezing it in or making time later on. Workouts planned for the afternoon or evening have a higher probability of being pushed aside by lifes responsibilities.
You Get it Out of the Way
As stated above, life tends to get in the way once you make your way through the workday. By getting up a little bit earlier and getting your sweat session in, you’re not leaving your exercise in the hands of the tired, cranky human you might be at the end of the day. Getting your workout done early gives you peace of mind, and it opens up your afternoon so that you can do as you please.
It’s the Ultimate Shot of Energy and Focus
You may be a little sleepy when you get to the gym, but you’ll definitely be awake when you leave. Exercise forces you to get your heart rate up and blood pumping; your body will have no choice but to wake itself from its slumber. With this renewed energy, you can be more productive at work or school to start your day.
It Gives Your Metabolism a Boost
No matter what time you workout, your metabolism receives a serious kick into overdrive. If you choose to workout in the morning, you can take advantage of that boost for the majority of your day.
You’re well-rested for your workout
When you are asleep, your body uses this time to recover from your day. During sleep, muscles repair themselves, so when you wake up your body should be feeling fresh and ready to workout! Of course, this depends on the quality of your sleep, so make sure you are going to bed early enough and are turning off any electronic devices such as your phone or TV at least an hour before bed. Just remember to complete a warm-up before you workout to help wake up your muscles!
Cons of working out in the morning
• You Have to Wake Up Early
If you want to get a quality workout in before you head off to work, school, or to run errands, you’re going to have to adjust your morning schedule so that you create a substantial amount of time to get it in. You’ll have to get up about an hour and a half earlier to ensure that you can get in a quality workout followed by some post-workout nutrition. There’s no sense in getting up earlier just to go through the motions. In order to have the appropriate amount of time to do it right, you’re going to need to set that alarm for a time much earlier than you’re used to.
Working out in the Afternoon/Evening
For those who love strength training, there can be some advantages to training late in the day. This is because the hormone that helps to build muscle is produced more in the evening than in the morning. That means evening workouts may help you to build strength a little bit faster.
Your body’s core temperature increases throughout the day, which means your muscles tend to be more flexible later as well, so exercises may feel more comfortable. Plus, your overall reaction time is generally quicker (great for HIIT workouts).
When cortisol (the stress hormone) is produced in higher amounts, it can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue in the body. The good news is cortisol production generally decreases throughout the day, so an afternoon workout might be better for you if you’re trying to build muscle. If you prefer to workout late in the evening, or at night, that’s fine too! Just be mindful that it might take you a little longer to fall asleep once you go to bed because your body temperature and hormone activity have increased.
Some of the benefits of exercising in the afternoon/evening can include:
You are awake & ready to go
Although your body is refuelled in the morning, it may be better prepared for a workout later in the day. You body is generally more wake because of the daily activities you have been completing, and you have probably eaten a few meals. Some girls prefer working out at night compared to the morning because they feel like they have more energy. This may be true because your endurance and strength levels are believed to be at their highest at around 4-6pm.
It can help you de-stress
If you exercise first thing, chances are you are feeling pretty relaxed because you haven’t had much to deal with yet. However, come evening time, you may be feeling pretty stressed whether that be because you had a hard day at work or school or something has upset you. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress and blow off some steam, so it can have great benefits for you if you have had a rough day. Plus it releases endorphins, which are your happy hormones!
Your body temperature at the time of your workout can hinder or help your exercise. If your body temperature is cold, you may be stiff, which could lead to injury and lessened performance. As your body warms up, your muscles get looser, and your ability to perform increases.
When you first awake in the morning, your body temperature is probably at its coldest, but will generally warm up as the day goes on. By waiting until the afternoon or evening to workout, your muscles should be warm and limber, ready for you to put them to work.
Your Cortisol/Testosterone Ratio is Optimal for Muscle Growth
It has long been believed that an early morning workout is best for muscle growth because of the elevated levels of testosterone in the body. Although it is true that testosterone peaks in the morning, the same peaks are being experienced by the “stress hormone”, cortisol. The elevated levels of cortisol essentially cancel out whatever gains can be made from the elevation of testosterone in the morning.
As the day goes on, however, both of these hormones decrease their presence in the body. As cortisol decreases, your levels of testosterone can be more readily used for muscles growth. Therefore, an afternoon or evening workout could be the answer to your muscle stagnation.
Cons of afternoon/evening workouts
Decision Fatigue is Real
Your willpower and ability to make sound decisions throughout the day are finite. The more time you spend making tough decisions and practicing willpower, the less patience you will have with those types of decisions later in the day.
This is important to understand. If you choose to workout in the afternoon, you are leaving that choice susceptible to a weakened decision making mind. If you have a rough day at work or are feeling tired after a long day playing with your kids, it’s going to be a lot easier to convince yourself that you don’t need to get to the gym. By working out in the morning, however, you’re making that tough decision before your decision making muscle gets too tired.
The best time to workout is the time that works best for you
The bottom line is that you can workout at any time, so long as it works for you! If you can’t make an early morning session work for your schedule, that’s okay! Any time of day you can train is great, and if you can do it consistently, that’s when you’ll see the best results.
Things to consider when you are figuring out what time of day to workout:
- What does your schedule allow for?
- When you do have more energy
- How do you feel after a workout?
- What is the most important thing you need to put your energy towards right now?
The schedule is a big one. This is often the primary factor and sometimes this means either earlier than you normally would wake up, or later than you want to be out of the house.
Ask yourself: When would I have more energy? When are things less likely to get in the way? Anyone with a crazy schedule will tend to have more consistency in the mornings before things get hectic and get in the way. How much sleep do you have to sacrifice to get up earlier?
If you have options to choose your time, then think about when you have more energy and focus. Morning? Evening? Everyone’s internal clock is different for when they are at their best. When are you?
Working out can enhance your mood and wake you up. If you are struggling in the morning, and are looking for an energizer.. try a brief morning workout. 15-20 minutes.
With online fitness exploding, you can even do this from the comfort of your home, and at any time of day. In this case, the goal is not to start the workout when you are alert, the workout is meant to give you alertness, to enhance the other things in your life.
My favorite online workout program is LES MILLS On Demand
So, when is the best time to work out? To be honest, the best time to work out is whenever it is best for your goals. When you are thinking about when you feel your best.. This does not necessarily mean that you need to put your best hours in your day towards your workouts. This may feel like a weird message to hear from a fitness coach, but at the end of the day, fitness is meant to enhance our lives. And sometimes that means using your best hours for other things, and then working out in the space between. There are seasons for everything.
P.S When do you work out? What season are you in? Are your workouts in the background or front and center right now? Leave me a comment below and let me know!
Hi!! I’m Kristin McConnell, creator of Innovative Health & Fitness, I am an Elite Fitness Trainer and a health and lifestyle blogger! I am a wife to my Amazing husband, Mom of two fabulous kids, and two dogs. We try our best to live a happy and healthy life.