Will I get a better workout depending on the time of day I exercise? Does my body burn more calories in the evening vs. the afternoon? Will I be more motivated to workout in the morning? These are commonly-asked questions by people wondering about the best time of day to exercise. And while there’s no single correct answer, the best time in the day to workout for you depends on a few factors.
Research: The Best Time of Day to Exercise
Research shows that physiologically, you may benefit most from workouts done in the afternoon. That’s because for many people, their circadian rhythm (the body’s natural clock) causes their strength and flexibility to be best in the afternoon. At the same time, your perceived exertion is lowest, which means you can probably push harder than you might at another time of day.
However, the circadian rhythm is not the same for everyone. Your circadian rhythm also impacts whether you are naturally a “morning person” or a “night owl.” And for people who are most alert in the morning, early mornings may be best time of day to exercise.
Many exercise physiology experts argue for early morning workouts for other reasons. If you workout first thing in the morning before breakfast, your body burns more fat. Additionally, you’ll benefit from a raised metabolism for up to 12 hours post-workout, meaning the boost from your morning exercise will continue throughout the day. (At night, when your metabolism naturally drops, your body won’t benefit in the same way.)
Reality: The Best Time of Day to Exercise
There’s research, and then there’s reality. And reality dictates that the best time of day to exercise is whatever time you’ll truly do so. There’s actually science to back this up as well. One study shows that our bodies may adapt according to whatever time we choose to train with regularity.
So when's the best time to work out for you? Here are a few things to consider:
Many athletes start each day with an early morning workout and wouldn’t have it any other way. Morning workouts can start your day right and make you more energized for whatever lies ahead. As mentioned, you may also burn more fat during morning workouts. Additionally, motivation is a factor—you may be more likely to stick to a routine in the morning, whereas it’s much easier to skip a planned workout as the day rolls along. But the flip-side may also be true. If you hate mornings, and you struggle with going to the gym at all, how successful will you be if you try to go to the gym at the crack of dawn?
A midday workout can make the difference in terms of helping you get through a hard day at work. Plus it’s important to have a change of pace from sitting at your desk. Lunchtime workouts are also a great way to bond with co-workers and promote workplace wellness. As discussed above, afternoons are an optimal time for many people to exercise, from a purely physiological standpoint. If you’re able to push yourself harder, and if your body is at its peak performance, you’re more likely to realize fitness gains faster. The challenge here is whether or not you’ll truly block off your workout time for a midday or afternoon workout. It’s all too easy for the demands of work, school, or family to get in the way.
Working out in the evening is a wonderful way to release any stress from the day and also work up an appetite for dinner. Motivation can again be tricky, though. You may have the best intentions to exercise after work or a hectic day, but will you really have the energy and desire by evening to follow through? One word of caution for night owls: working out raises your heart rate and body temperature, which can prevent you from proper sleep. Most experts agree it’s best to avoid working out right before bed.
You may need to experiment to determine the best time of day to exercise for you. Try different times and pay attention to how you feel during and after your workout, and how motivated you are in the first place. Increase your chances of success by packing a gym bag the night before for morning workouts, or keeping workout gear in your office or car for workouts later in the day. And don’t be caught off guard without the nutrition you need. Keep a few bars or gels in your gym bag, along with your favorite BlenderBottle® shaker, so you’ll always have a quick energy boost and hydration handy. The BlenderBottle® ProStak® shaker allows you space to pack supplement powder for a portable post-workout protein shake.
Ultimately, your best time in the day to workout will depend on what feels best, what fits your schedule, and what time you can set aside regularly to make your exercise habit stick.
We’d love to hear what works as the best time of day to exercise for you. Let us know in the comments below.