The question of what time of day is best to work out is one of the most popular questions I receive when it comes to training.
I wanted to take a moment to address it here in depth, as it doesn’t actually have a straight answer! Many factors come into play when we talk training schedules, so below I discuss each of them in order to give you a clearer idea of the ideal time for YOU to get your workout in.
When Is The Best Time To Work Out?
As you’ve probably noticed, most people have different opinions on when is the best time to work out. You’ll hear that training in the morning is always the best; that it doesn’t matter if you train in the afternoon or morning; that you should train in the evening due to hormones, etc …
While all of these perspectives are valid, this key factor remains: what time of day is “best” for training depends entirely on your goals, your current schedule, your natural biorhythm, and more.
Let’s dive in.
Your goals are one of the most important factors when determining what time of day to train. Typically, we see most trainers and gym-goers claiming that working out in the morning (specifically in a fasted state) is the absolute best time to train.
However, the problem with this assertion is that this isn’t necessarily the best time to train as a whole, but the best time to train for fat loss. Training to maintain your weight, training to build muscle, and training to burn fat are very different goals that require different approaches.
The reasoning we often hear that the morning is the best time to train is because we have already used up a good deal of glucose after our night of fasting, so it makes it easier for our bodies to start dipping into our fat stores when we work out early in the morning before breakfast.
Another reason the morning is often considered the “best” time to train is due to the mindset and motivation aspect of getting your workout done early. By getting your goal-activity done first, you’re less likely to procrastinate and put off training later in the day, which then increases your consistency, results, and motivation to keep going.
As you can see, both of these reasons are awesome reasons for hitting the gym early, IF fat loss is your goal and/or you achieve better results by working out first thing. As of yet, studies show conflicting evidence as to whether standard training is more effective in the evening or morning, so if fat loss isn’t your goal, you don’t necessarily have to schedule your workouts in the early a.m.
They key here is to get very clear on your goals: Are you training for fat loss? Then evidence shows morning workouts before breakfast can be ideal for you, as training in the morning has been shown to reduce calorie intake throughout the day (aka: you’ll naturally eat less!).
Are you training for gains? Evidence shows both morning training sessions and afternoon sessions can be beneficial, so take your pick based on what you’ll be most consistent with.
Your Current Schedule.
Obviously your current schedule, whether for work or family, is going to have an impact on what time is best for you to work out.
If you can arrange your schedule to fit the time that best suites your goals, that’s amazing! If you can’t for various reasons, know that consistency is THE most important thing when it comes to making changes in your physique and fitness. Worry less about not being able to work out in the morning, and more about making sure you get a workout in, regardless of the time!
Your Peak Energy Levels
This one is important, as it can make or break your motivation to be consistent with your workouts.
Getting attached to the idea that you MUST work out in the early a.m. (or else) even though you are NOT an early-morning individual is a recipe for disaster. Now, there is a line between being “lazy” and just not wanting to get up and make time for your workout, and actually being biologically wired and more energized by getting more sleep in the morning.
As I mentioned (and I’ll keep mentioning), consistency should be your number one concern when it comes to your training. Often, we try to fit into the mold of someone else’s lifestyle and workout regime because we see how successful they are. However, in the process, we completely disregard what works best for our bodies, habits, mindset, and preferences.
There is absolutely nothing wrong or detrimental about working out in the afternoon instead of the morning, provided working out in the afternoon doesn’t cause you to procrastinate and blow off that workout. If it does, then you probably do need to kick yourself in the ass and get your training in in the morning!
The key here is to know yourself, and gauge when you are most energized during the day, as this can be the best time for a workout. When you’re energized, you’re likely to push harder, thus resulting in seeing more gains.
On the flip side, if you’re tired in the a.m., you’re less likely to push yourself, which could result in subpar gains, even though you’re “working out early” or “fasted.”
The Bottom Line
The best time of day to work out is the time that aligns with your goals + the time that allows you to be the MOST consistent.
Sunup or sundown, let’s GET it!