Are you a night owl or an early bird? Whichever feathered friend you identify with probably has a lot to do with when you workout. Each camp has it’s pros, cons, and a plethora of haters. If you’re a morning person, you can’t stand the thought of working out as the day winds down. If you prefer to workout after work, you can’t imagine waking up before the sun to go and tempt gravity by lifting heavy weights over your droopy eyes.
No matter what time of day you choose to get your workout in, you’d at least like to be sure that you’re getting the best possible return on that investment of time and energy. If you’re wasting your time at the gym because you’re not working out at the optimal hour, then what’s the point?
Well, there’s good news. There are potential benefits to both sides of the coin. Let’s explore the pros and cons of both the morning and afternoon/evening workout and see what the verdict is when all is said and done.
When you plan to workout every morning within an hour of waking up, it’s not often that you’ll find anything to conflict with your time in the gym. The lack of interruption in your morning routine can provide a more consistent workout regimen, which will lead to fantastic long term results. On the contrary, workouts planned for the afternoon and the evening have a higher probability of being pushed aside by the other responsibilities of life.
• You Get it Out of the Way
As stated above, life tends to get in the way once you make your way through the work day. By getting up a little bit earlier and getting your sweat session in, you’re not leaving your exercise in the hands of the tired, cranky human you might be after you punch out. Getting your workout done early gives you peace of mind, and it opens up your afternoon so that you can do as you please.
• It’s the Ultimate Shot of Energy and Focus
You may be a little sleepy when you get to the gym, but you’ll definitely be awake when you leave. Exercise forces you to get your heart rate up and blood pumping; your body will have no choice but to wake itself from it’s slumber. With this renewed energy, you can be more productive at work or school to start your day.
• It Gives Your Metabolism a Boost
No matter what time you workout, your metabolism receives a serious kick into overdrive. If you choose to workout in the morning, you can take advantage of that boost for the majority of your day.
• You Have to Wake Up Early
If you want to get a quality workout in before you head off to work, school, or to run errands, you’re going to have to adjust your morning schedule so that you create a substantial amount of time to get it in. You’ll have to get up about an hour and a half earlier to ensure that you can get in a quality workout followed by some post workout nutrition. There’s no sense in getting up earlier just to go through the motions. In order to have the appropriate amount of time to do it right, you’re going to need to set that alarm for a time much earlier than you’re used to.
• Body Temperature
Your body temperature at the time of your workout can hinder or help your exercise. If your body temperature is cold, you may be stiff, which could lead to injury and lessened performance. As your body warms up, your muscles get looser and your ability to perform increases.
When you first awake in the morning, your body temperature is probably at it’s coldest, but will generally warm up as the day goes on. By waiting until the afternoon or evening to workout, your muscles should be warm and limber, ready for you to put them to work.
• Your Cortisol/Testosterone Ratio is Optimal for Muscle Growth
It has long been believed that an early morning workout is best for muscle growth because of the elevated levels of testosterone in the body. Although it is true that testosterone peaks in the morning, the same peaks are being experienced by the “stress hormone”, cortisol. The elevated levels of cortisol essentially cancel out whatever gains can be made from the elevation of testosterone in the morning.
As the day goes on, however, both of these hormones decrease their presence in the body. As cortisol decreases, your levels of testosterone can be more readily used for muscles growth. Therefore, an afternoon or evening workout could be the answer to your muscle stagnation.
• Decision Fatigue is Real
Your willpower and ability to make sound decisions throughout the day is finite. The more time you spend making tough decisions and practicing willpower, the less patience you will have with those types of decisions later in the day.
This is important to understand. If you choose to workout in the afternoon, you are leaving that choice susceptible to a weakened decision making mind. If you have a rough day at work or are feeling tired after a long day playing with your kids, it’s going to be a lot easier to convince yourself that you don’t need to get to the gym. By working out in the morning, however, you’re making that tough decision before your decision making muscle gets too tired.
So, when is the best time to work out? To be frank, the best time to workout is whenever it is best for your goals. If you are looking to create a consistent exercise habit, it might be best to get your workout in the morning to avoid decision fatigue. If you’re trying to build muscle and strength, research shows that it may be best to workout in the afternoon or evening.
The bottom line is that exercise is essential, so choose a time that works best for your life and your aspirations. There is no such thing as a perfect workout regimen, time, or plan. Do what you need to do to create a consistent and powerful routine that will get you the results that you desire.
1) Hayes, L. D., Bickerstaff, G. F., & Baker, J. S. (2010, June). Interactions of cortisol, testosterone, and resistance training: influence of circadian rhythms. Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20560706
2) Racinais, S. (2010, October). Different effects of heat exposure upon exercise performance in the morning and afternoon. Retrieved June 15, 2017, fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029194
3) Tierney, J. (2011, August 17). Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?pagewanted=all
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.