When Is The Best Time of The Day To Work Out?

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Published: October 27, 2015

Fitness

When planning your workouts, there are lots of options to consider. Will you exercise at home or at the gym? Will you do cardio or lift weights? Will you exercise alone or with a personal trainer? Will you wear shorts or yoga pants?!

Another thing to consider is the time at which you exercise. The time of day has an effect on many aspects of your body including blood glucose levels, core temperature, joint mobility, muscle flexibility, general energy levels and strength. But are there added benefits to exercising at a specific time of day? We take a closer look at a few different timing options for answers.

Early morning

Exercising early in the morning works well for some people but not so well for others. Some of us are “early birds” by nature while the rest of us would happily stay in bed until the sun is hitting its zenith! Exercising soon after waking offers several advantages and disadvantages …

Advantages

  • Exercising before work or school means that your workout is done for the day and you can relax knowing the rest of your day easy in comparison
  • Working out on an empty stomach may increase fat burning as your body is more likely to use fat for fuel when your stomach is empty and your blood glucose levels are low
  • Gyms are often less busy early in the morning so you should be able to complete your workout uninterrupted
  • If you skip your early morning workout, you still have the rest of the day to make it up

Disadvantages

  • Exercising so soon after waking can mean your body is not really ready for intense exercise. Your joints may feel stiff and you may feel less energetic than usual. This can sometimes be remedied by a strong pre-workout cup of coffee…!
  • Consuming essential post-workout nutrients can be difficult if you are going straight from your workout to your job or classes. Missing this essential refuelling opportunity could hamper recovery
  • Early morning exercise can end up being rushed if you have to make it to work or school on time. This may lead to missing essential parts of your workout e.g. cool down stretches
  • Getting up early, especially when it’s cold and dark, can be very unappealing and may also mean you are not getting enough sleep

Lunchtime

For many of us, lunchtime can be unproductive as we end up simply waiting to get back to work or for our next class. For that reason, lunchtime workouts can be a good use of time that can otherwise end up being wasted…

Advantages

  • By lunchtime, you should have eaten at least one meal and a snack so you ought to be well fuelled for your workout
  • As the middle of the day approaches, your core temperature should be slightly higher, your muscles looser and your joints more ready for exercise
  • If you skip your lunchtime workout, you still have a couple more opportunities to catch up your missed exercise session

Disadvantages

  • Unless your boss is especially generous and allows you a longer-than-average lunchbreak, lunchtime workouts can be a little rushed as not only do you have to exercise, you also need to shower and then eat your post-exercise meal. This can be tough to fit into sixty minutes
  • You are limited to the facilities that are close to hand. Some offices and most schools have onsite fitness facilities but if this is not the case, you may be limited to bodyweight workouts or walking/running around the local area

After work/school

Arguably the most common time to exercise, many of us exercise after work or school and before we go home…

Advantages

  • Post-work/school workouts are a great way to exercise away the stresses of the day before going home to relax
  • Having eaten several meals and snacks since waking, you are well-fuelled for exercise
  • Hormone levels are believed to peak late afternoon/early evening meaning that you should be strongest at this time

Disadvantages

  • A long day sat down at work or school can leave your muscles feeling tight necessitating a longer-than-normal warm-up
  • As this is the most popular time to exercise, expect the gym to be very busy which may interfere with your workout
  • Work or studies can leave you feeling mentally fatigued which is easily confused for physical fatigue and could lead you to skipping your workout

Late at night

Exercising after you have returned home and eaten your dinner may not be ideal but, for some exercisers, it’s the only viable option …

Advantages

  • Gyms tend to be less busy at this time as the peak-time rush is over
  • Your body is as fuelled up as it’s going to get having eaten virtually a full day of meals
  • This is usually when most of us have free time

Disadvantages

  • Breaking the gravitational pull of your couch after you have eaten dinner and relaxed for a while can be a real challenge for even the most ardent exerciser
  • If you skip this workout, there is no other opportunity to exercise until tomorrow
  • Exercising intensely late at night can interfere with restful sleep
  • You still need to find time to consume a post-exercise meal of some sort which can also make sleeping difficult

Bottom Line

While the time that you exercise does offer certain advantages and disadvantages, the most important thing to remember is that whatever time you exercise, it’ll do you good.

Yes, you might gain a small fat-burning advantage by exercising early in the morning or a strength advantage late in the afternoon but, ultimately, it’s much more important to find the time that works best for you. Just because you cannot exercise at the “best” time does not invalidate your efforts and the right exercise at the “wrong” time is always better than no exercise at all.

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About Patrick Dale

Patrick Dale is an ex-Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for fitness qualifications company Solar Fitness Qualifications Ltd. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles and several internet fitness videos. Patrick practices what he preaches and has competed at a high level in several sports including rugby, triathlon, rock climbing, diving and trampolining and, most recently, powerlifting. He is also an active personal trainer with a wide number of clients ranging from athletes to average Joes and Janes. When not lecturing, training, researching or writing, Patrick is busy enjoying the sunny climate of Cyprus where he has lived for the last 10-years.

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