For the most part, people have to either work out in the morning (prior to school or work) or in the evening (after school or work). However, is one preferable to the other? Is there really a best time of day to workout? Below is a discussion of variables that apply to training in the morning vs the evening, why morning and evening aren’t necessarily always “morning” and “evening”, followed up by what might be the most important factor when considering the best time of day to workout for you.
Your Muscles have their Own Circadian Rhythm
You’ve probably heard of circadian rhythm before – it’s your body’s inner biological clock. When you feel certain ways at certain parts of the day (especially as it pertains to sleep), that’s your circadian rhythm. As it turns out, research at Northwestern University in Chicago shows your muscles have their own circadian rhythm, too.
This means there is definitely something to the idea that there is a best time to workout…meaning that all other things being equal, training at particular times of day will elicit a better training response. However, is morning better or is evening better?
Training in the Morning
Here is a list of various bullet points that show where working out in the morning is better:
- Testosterone levels are as much as a third higher in the morning.
- A study at Appalachian Sate University showed that those who train early in the morning fall asleep earlier at night, as well as produce more HGH.
- A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition states that up to 20% more fat is burned by training in the morning.
- Some find that working out in the morning gives them more energy throughout the day.
- There is some anecdotal evidence showing that training first thing in the morning has your metabolism revved up the rest of the day.
Training in the Evening
In contrast to the above, here is a list of why the evening could be considered the best time of day to workout:
- Cortisol is as much as 75% higher in the morning, but levels out at night.
- The same study from Appalachian Sate University mentioned above also showed that the elevated core temperature from a night time workout promoted sounder sleep.
- Your anaerobic capacity is as much as 7% higher after work according to Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.
- Not having to get up early to train means you can sleep in longer.
- Training in the evening can be a way to work off the stress of a bad day.
Why Morning and Evening aren’t Always “Morning” and “Evening”
Everything above has assumed that “morning” equates to when the sun comes up, while “evening” is around when the sun goes down. However, this isn’t always the case. Most people work, go to school, run errands, and in general live during the day (i.e. – daylight hours) and sleep at night (i.e. – when it’s dark).
However, for those who work at night and sleep during the day, this is now the opposite for them. Their “morning” may actually be in the late afternoon when they get up, while their “evening” is not long after the sun comes up, but they’re finally getting home and are ready to go to bed.
All the bullet points above are in relation to circadian rhythm, which is dictated mostly by your sleep clock. So be sure to take that into account if you don’t sleep, work, or live on the same “normal” schedule most people do.
The Final Word on when to Train?
Though there are various reasons pointing to both morning and evening as the best time of day to workout, there is one main common sense thing you should always put first – the time of day you’re most likely to actually train.
Consistency is critical to making gym gains, so pick the time of day that you know you have the greatest chance of actually sticking with. If after reading the above, you’re convinced that training in the morning is a “better” idea, but you’ve never been a morning person your entire life, there’s a good chance that’s not changing. Stick with whatever is going to mean you’re getting in the gym the most often.
When you do that, your workout completion will become a regular constant, which can be more important than choosing what you feel might be the best time of day to workout. However, if you feel like you could easily make morning or evening work, check out the above, determine which list of benefits appeals more to you and your training program, then stick with that.