It’s the classic workout regime debate: is it better to work out in the morning or in the evening?
After all, you have your early-morning gymgoers hitting their workout before sunrise and touting its benefits, and on the flipside, you’ve got the busy after-work gym rush saying it’s the best way to end the day.
So what’s the best time of day to work out? Or does it even matter?
Those of us looking to get fit usually want the optimum scenarios: optimum nutrition, optimum athletic performance, and, of course, optimum results. It’s definitely worth it to take a look and see if there’s also an optimum time of day to work out; however, once you dig in a little deeper, you’ll see that there are benefits all around the clock!
Let’s dive in and find out whether or not there’s a superior time of the day to get your sweat on.
Morning Workouts vs. Evening Workouts
Of course, any workout at any time of the day is better than no workout at all … but there are definitely some key differences when it comes to how your body responds to workouts around the clock. As it turns out, morning, afternoon, and night workouts all have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.
Many early risers enjoy getting their workouts done first thing in the day. Workouts are a great mood-booster since they trigger the release of your “feel-good hormones,” and starting your day off with some activity can really get your day off to a good start and leave you feeling happier and more productive throughout the rest of your day.
Even better, placing your workout in the morning before you’ve had your breakfast seems to be a better choice than evening workouts when it comes to weight loss! When you’re in a “fasted” state (aka when you haven’t eaten anything for hours, as would usually be the case first thing in the morning), your body may actually burn more fat than it would if you had eaten prior, since there isn’t any available glucose to power your workout from a previous meal! [*] Rather, your body starts to use your stored fat for energy instead.
If you have to wait until later in the day to work out, that’s fine too. In fact, since your body temperature is naturally at its highest in the late afternoon due to your natural circadian rhythms, it might even be ideal! [*]
Your muscles would be more primed than they would be in the morning and you would also be fueled up from food and more flexible (and probably more energized as well!), all of which create a great scenario where you can hit your workout harder and for longer than you might be able to in the morning.
It may also be a more convenient time of the day for you to squeeze in a workout, especially if you work early mornings or don’t have the time to head to the gym or bust out a quick workout before the rest of your daily rush begins – hence why there tend to be so many people who choose to hit the gym after work.
The Circadian Twist
While all of the benefits listed above for morning, afternoon, and night workouts are applicable to the general population, it’s also important to consider whether your individual genetics and health matter as you look to find the best workout time for you.
We talked earlier about how your circadian rhythms cause you to have the highest body temperature during this afternoon. Now, there are studies that are showing that, for at least the demographic that they targeted, that span of time might also be the best time to workout to gain control of your health.
Several studies that evaluated the effects of exercise time periods on men with Type 2 Diabetes found that the men who worked out in the afternoon showed better blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity than those who worked out earlier in the morning. [*]
Circadian rhythms can also vary from person to person based on genetics. [*] So in short, there’s no real catch-all answer for the best time to work out, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind as you plan out your daily workout schedule.
Your workout environment also comes into play here, especially if you’re planning on doing your workouts outdoors or in an especially chilly environment.
Since it’s generally colder during the morning than at night, that could spell trouble for a morning workout, as it can be more difficult to get warmed up properly for an intense exercise routine when the sun isn’t out yet! And of course, warming up is a critical part of your routine: you want your muscles to be nice and primed so that they can move more easily. This also helps to prevent any potential injuries from straining, especially if you’re doing a high-intensity routine or working with heavy weights.
In cases like this where you don’t have the time to properly warm up enough to be fully ready for your exercise, it might be more beneficial to wait until later in the day when your muscles are a little more primed. On the other hand, if you do have the time, and can get your muscles ready to go, go for it!
The Bottom Line
So, at the end of the day, there truly isn’t one “perfect” time frame that will give you better power and results than any other.
No time of the day is far superior to others in terms of exercise benefits. Rather, the time you work out should be tailored to your own goals: do you want to lose weight and capitalize on the benefits of fasted cardio? Or would you rather come in hot with a strong endurance workout later in the day?
The bottom line: you should pick a time to work out where you know that you can be at the top of your game –whether that’s early in the morning or later in the day.
No matter what, just make sure to get out there and work your hardest!