The hardest part of establishing a workout routine is finding the time to hit the gym. While consistency is key to a productive routine, the time you choose to work out each day may have just as much of an impact. But how does working out at different times of the day impact your overall health and performance? And how can you choose the best workout time for you?
The last thing some of us want to do is get up early to exercise, but a morning workout can be a great way to start your day. Completing your workout routine in the morning comes with a lot of benefits: You don’t have to worry about stopping by the gym after a busy day. You finish your workout early enough to leave time for rest later at night. Fitting in your training before the hustle and bustle of your day is the perfect way to ensure you have time to push yourself and maintain consistency.
If your goal is to lose weight, mornings may be the answer. Studies show that working out in the morning can influence weight loss. Those who work out early in the morning, when compared to those who worked out after 3 p.m., saw greater success in losing weight. So, a morning workout may be the key to greater weight loss.
Though there are many benefits to working out in the morning, morning exercise can be daunting, especially for those who aren’t early birds. This shift in routine may seem difficult, but it may actually be easier than expected. Working out in the early morning might allow you to change your circadian phase. Researchers found that working out in the early mornings, specifically 7 a.m., may shift your body’s phase earlier, helping you wake up and fall asleep earlier. This can help you maintain the routine a bit easier.
This same study from The Journal of Physiology also found this circadian shift prevalent in the early afternoon. An afternoon workout will allow you to push yourself in your workouts. Exercising later in the day gives you ample opportunity to prepare and you have time to eat beforehand, which can give you the strength necessary to beat your personal records. Although, it can be difficult to fit in an afternoon workout if your work or class schedule prohibits it.
Working out in the afternoon may also be more beneficial for your overall performance. A study conducted in 2020 found that individuals who worked out in the afternoon saw better improvements in their exercise performance than those who worked out in the morning. Researchers from this study also found more improvements in skeletal muscle for those who worked out in the afternoon. So, if you’re looking to improve your performance, the afternoon may be a great option.
An evening workout can be a convenient time to accommodate busy schedules. It can also be the ideal time to build muscle. In a 2016 study that tested performance based on strength and endurance, the evening workout group saw the greatest increase in muscle mass.
One of the common arguments against working out before bed is that it will disrupt your sleep cycle. While there can be a negative effect on your sleep patterns, studies have shown that working out before bed may actually positively influence your sleep. However, working out less than one hour before bed can disturb your sleep pattern. So as long as you avoid vigorous activity an hour before sleeping, you shouldn’t run into too many problems.
There is evidence to suggest that evening workouts can also help you lose weight. A study published in 2019 found that evening workouts can lower ghrelin — the hunger-inducing hormone — over time, which can assist with overall weight loss.
An evening workout is also a great way to relieve yourself of the tension from a busy day. Working out at night gives you an opportunity to settle in, spend time doing a workout you love and forget about the stresses from the day.
The prime time to work out varies depending on your personal fitness goals, and there are many factors that go into finding the ideal workout time. While each time of the day has its own benefits and drawbacks, it’s better to find time to work out consistently. Working out at any point in the day on a consistent basis is better than not taking the time to exercise at all. Whichever you choose, it all comes down to what works best for your schedule to be consistent.