The Best Time To Workout (According to Science)

Do you struggle to wake up at the crack of dawn to get in your early morning workout? Or, do you ever wonder if your workout time is optimized for performance? In today’s post I’m going to share the Best Time To Workout… According to Science!

 

 

Benefits of Workouts in the Mornings:

  • You may perform better in the gym if you’re a “morning person” and do your best thinking/cognitive tasks in the mornings.
  • You may be more conscious of food-choices throughout the day due to your early morning workout. You may feel like you don’t want to over-eat because you’re already on track with your healthy lifestyle.
  • You may feel energized and ready to start your day due to exercise’s dopamine releasing effects.
  • You can feel proud that you’ve already completed your activity for the day.
  • You can workout without worrying about daily stress and factors inhibiting your workout.

 

Potential Set-Backs or Cons:

  • If you struggle to wake-up in the mornings it’s going to be rough to force yourself to wake up with the alarm. It’s unlikely that you’ll be consistent enough to maintain an exercise regimen.
  • You may feel higher levels of hunger and over-eat total calories because you’ve “earned it”.
  • You may feel higher levels of fatigue throughout the day when it’s not appropriate to nap or sleep (like at your job).
  • Morning workouts may prevent you from achieving adequate sleep if you’re a “night owl” or have an altered circadian rhythm.

 

 

Benefits of Workouts in the Evenings:

  • You may have better performance in the gym if you’re a “night owl” or do your best thinking/cognitive tasks in the evenings.
  • Some find It beneficial to use working out as a means of de-stressing from their job and daily tasks. This can assist with “leaving work at work” and relaxation at home.
  • You can work and complete your daily tasks without fatigue or excess hunger.
  • Some individuals find they sleep better after exercising to fatigue. Long steady state cardio in particular is effective at reducing “over thinking”; a common barrier to falling asleep.

 

Potential Set-Backs or Cons:

  • You may not be consistent with your workouts if you’re stressed and ready to call it quits for the day. I.E. It’ll be hard to go to the gym if you’re stuck in traffic, had a stressful day, and are ready to get home and relax.
  • You may feel hungrier after your evening workout causing over-eating at night.
  • Working out in the evenings can cause some individuals difficulty sleeping.

 

 

The evidence suggests the most effective time to workout is… the time you have the most energy and will be most consistent. 

Peaks in cortisol and adrenaline normally happen first thing upon waking in anticipation for the day and for many years we believed that exercising first thing in the morning was most beneficial. Evidence now suggests that our biological clocks (diurnal rhythms) can be adapted to our lifestyle factors over time and that performance is influenced based on the time of day we consistently exercise ¹.

Then evidence suggesting that testosterone levels peak mid-afternoon surfaced and we believed that exercising mid-afternoon was most beneficial. Unfortunately, studies have “Failed to observe a significant testosterone dose relationship with fatigability which suggests that testosterone does not affect this component of muscle performance” ².

 

The conclusion?

The “best” time of day to workout is when you are most likely to go, have the most energy to dedicate to your session, can perform daily functions without interruption, can control calorie intake, and which doesn’t affect your sleep schedule.

 


Further Reading:

Chtourou, H, and N Souissi. “The effect of training at a specific time of day: a review.” Journal of strength and conditioning research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531613.

Hill, D W, et al. “Temporal specificity in adaptations to high-Intensity exercise training.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1998, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9526893.

Storer, T W, et al. “Testosterone dose-Dependently increases maximal voluntary strength and leg power, but does not affect fatigability or specific tension.” The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12679426.