We all know that getting in a workout, no matter what time of day it is, is obviously better than not getting one in at all.
However, what if you’re looking to optimize that workout to get the most out of it? What would then be the optimal time of day to do it? And is there even such a thing?
It turns out this might depend quite a bit on your personal make-up (morning bird or night owl) as well as what type of training we’re doing. Because of this, we’re going to look at different times of day you could be training, and what the benefits are, so you can see whether one might be better than the other based on your goals.
Let’s dive in!
Working Out In The Morning: Good Morning, Sunshine
Getting your workout done first thing in the morning is a really effective way to get your day started on the right foot – literally. Not only does a morning workout mean you can get it out of the way and free the rest of your day up, but studies are showing that it could actually benefit both your fitness goals and be a determining factor for the quality of the rest of your day.
When it comes to specifics, if you’re looking to lean out and need help sticking to a strict schedule, the morning session may be for you. Here’s why:
- If you’re looking to lose weight, working out and getting your heart pumping first thing in the morning has one very clear advantage. If you do a cardio workout even before you eat anything, you’re doing fasted cardio. In other words, you’re performing a calorie-burning activity on an empty stomach, and studies are showing that doing this is a great way to get your fat burn on.
- One study found that people who performed their cardio while in a fasting state saw a significantly higher fat oxidation (“burn”) than those who did the same workout in a fed state, or after eating. [*] The theory behind this is that since you don’t have fuel from eating, your body begins to burn your fat stores for energy – leading to fat loss.
- Working out in the morning could also help with appetite control, which is always important when you’re looking to control your eating habits. One study found that women who worked out in the morning ended up eating fewer calories than women who did the same workouts later on in the day, and the morning group was also found to have lower body weights and BMIs at the end of the study! [*]
- Getting exercise is a great way to get your blood flowing and may even be a good way to give you a mood boost to get you through the day. When you exercise, you release endorphins, which are your “feel-good” hormones that help to regulate your mood. [*] So not only will exercising in the morning help with your fitness-related goals, but it can also translate to a better, more productive day overall.
And as an added bonus, if you hit the gym first thing in the morning, there are probably going to be fewer people than there would be at night, which is great for those who’d rather not have to wait in line in order to use the limited equipment.
Now, there are a ton of great benefits that come from getting your sweat sesh in earlier rather than later, but it may also present some challenges. For example, you might need to readjust your sleeping schedule to get up earlier if you have work in the morning – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either if you’re trying to be more productive.
The After-Work Grind
So what about working out in the afternoon or at night?
Doing your workout later on in the day certainly comes with its own share of unique benefits when compared to the morning, especially when it comes to scheduling.
For a lot of people, an afternoon or night workout is simply the more convenient option. Hitting the gym or heading out on a run after your workday is over means that you don’t have to set your alarm any earlier, plus you probably wouldn’t be as rushed to get through the workout.
Other benefits of working out later:
- While I did touch on how a fasted cardio workout can have some major benefits when it comes to losing weight, the story could be a little different if you’re looking to put in some really high-intensity work in. Having some food in your system prior to your workout raises your blood glucose, which is essential for fueling you up if you have an intense, long-lasting session planned. [*]
- Studies have found that your body temperature is actually higher in the afternoon than in the morning due to your natural circadian rhythms. In other words, you burn more calories later in the day. [*] We’re not quite sure yet if that translates to a better workout, but it can definitely help your performance if you don’t have to warm up quite as much as you would early in the morning.
On the other hand, putting off the workout until later in the day might not be the best choice for everyone. If you’re prone to skipping the gym later in the day because you’re too tired from the normal workday grind, it might benefit you to get your workout out of the way a little earlier. Some people might also find that working out later in the day gets in the way of their sleeping schedule.
The Bottom Line: When Is The Best Time To Be Working Out?
Working out at any time of the day is going to come with its own unique benefits. A morning workout can get you burning more fat and start your day off right, but an evening session might mean that you’ll be able to work out a little harder.
Honestly, the most important thing is to pick a time when you know that you can go hard and give it your all! Whether the sun is rising, setting, or somewhere in between, either way, you’ll be doing your part in promoting a healthier you.