You’ve probably heard a lot of conflicting information about the best time of day to work out. My clients know that I usually hit the gym in the afternoon, but I also encourage them to do fasted workouts, which would realistically be done in the morning. So which one is best, how does it all work, and what does the science say?
Let me start out by saying that the BEST time to work out is when you can make it happen with your schedule. Any workout is better than no workout because it wasn’t the “right” time of day.
But if you have enough flexibility in your schedule to choose when you work out, then let’s take a closer look at the best time of day to get your sweat session in. Both times have advantages, and knowing them will help you make the best decision for your health and fitness.
Advantages of working out in the morning
It’s easier to be consistent (unless you’re prone to sleeping in!) and it ensures your workout actually happens, instead of getting pushed to the backburner when your day gets busy
It’s a great sense of accomplishment to get something done first thing in the morning
If you’re a busy mom, sometimes an early workout is a must because life with kids can be unpredictable
A morning workout can energize you for the day
Fasted workouts are easy to do in the morning and have great fat-burning effects that can last for hours
Advantages of working out in the afternoon
It’s a great break, which helps you work more effectively for the rest of the day
Working out alleviates the buildup of parenting- or work-related stress
You can adjust the intensity of your workout based on energy levels, stress levels, etc.
Boosts energy and mood to get you through the rest of your day, especially if you tend to have a dip in the afternoon
Basal body temperature peaks in the afternoon, plus your muscles are already warmed up, which makes you less prone to injury
Mornings are less rushed and hectic because you’re not adding another activity into your busy early-day to-do list
Afternoon workouts take advantage of optimal muscle function
Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels rise after exercising (which is good for building muscles), and they tend to have a more profound increase in the afternoon than in the morning
Strength and power tend to be higher later in the day, which is one reason most sporting events are not held in the morning.
Working with your circadian rhythm takes advantage of your normal cycles and fluctuations throughout the day—this means you’re utilizing your natural cycles of temperature, hormone output, blood pressure, metabolism and sleep patterns.
What exactly is my Circadian Rhythm?
Also known as your sleep/wake cycle, circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle controlling all the physiological processes of humans and animals (and even plants). The functions of the circadian clock include organization of sleep/wake patterns, control of your hormones and metabolism, blood pressure and even athletic performance.
Circadian rhythm is adaptive to a certain degree, so your body can get used to a morning exercise routine, but to work with it most effectively, consider exercising in the afternoon.
What about evening workouts?
If working out in the evening is your best option, and it isn’t having a detrimental effect on your sleep, then keep it up. If your sleep cycle is off and you aren’t getting the rest your body needs, it could be that you need to work better with your circadian rhythm and exercise earlier in the day.
Which one is best for YOU?
Remember, ultimately, the best workout is the one you actually DO. If that means an early-morning workout fits your schedule best, then that’s the best time for you to work out. If you can hit the gym in the afternoon, you’ll see benefits that you can’t get if you exercise in the morning or later in the evening.
If you have some flexibility in your schedule, experiment to see what works best for you! Try morning exercise for a couple of weeks, then try afternoon for a couple of weeks and see which you prefer according to schedule, lifestyle and how you feel.
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