time cycle
Habits and Lifestyle

The Best Time of the Day to Workout

5 min read


People love to go back and forth on what’s the best time of the day to workout, but I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as a “best” time. Exercising is a subjective engagement where our bodies are individually wired and respond differently to stimuli. In this instance that stimulus is timing.

For example, if you’re at your liveliest at night, it doesn’t make sense to force yourself out of bed in the morning to exercise. In the same way, if you’re an early riser and become completely drained by the evening, it doesn’t make sense to go through a workout routine at night. Exercising when you’re feeling at your worst or when you’re not mentally alert will just enhance the chances of getting silly injuries that could’ve easily been avoided or working out at a pathetic output and not reaping the full rewards of a session. So, in short, pick a time slot where you feel at your best.

There are advanced techniques you can incorporate such as using time slots to elicit certain reactions from your body. For example, some people feel alive and awake after exercising (therefore even if someone isn’t a morning person, they can exercise as a means to wake themselves up and get the day started) whereas others feel pooped and drained after exercising (so these individuals can use this as a way to find sleep easier come the evening). Alongside knowing your personal best time to work out, it’s also beneficial to figure out how you can make an exercise session work for you. So, the two things to keep in mind are: (1) what time do you like to work out, and (2) can you gain an edge from selecting a specific time slot?

With this in mind, I want to look at the different benefits available from choosing a certain period of the day, and you can decide if you want to alter your schedule.

The Morning

[+] Your Mind is Empty/Free of Clutter …
As the day is beginning, you likely have a clear mind and can exercise with more focus or use the session as a spark to start your day on a positive note.

[+] A Morning Session Provides Release …
Exercising in the morning can provide an energy stimulus that will carry you through the day, otherwise the session releases endorphins and other hormones that will help your mood and energy levels.

[+] Can Help Develop a Routine …
If you struggle to build a routine in your everyday life, getting up and exercising first thing in the morning can be the first step in having everything else fall in order as the hormonal benefits typically wake you up and allow you to get on with the rest of the day.

[-] You’ve Just Woken Up …
Your body is cold and your stomach is empty. For those wanting to do a fasted workout, then this is fine but for those that don’t, get some energy by eating something light. The other factor is because you’re just waking up, you need to take care and effectively warm up your body before you start a workout session.

[-] May Rob You of Energy …
There is every chance that working out in the morning means come the afternoon or the evening, you’ll be lacking in energy, so it could be best not to exercise during this slot.

[-] Might Not Be Time-friendly …
A morning workout is usually a great time to ease into the day, however, for some people with busy schedules where they can only slot in a workout in the morning, this period of the day may not be that great because they want to simply get the exercise out of the way and then start their actual day.

The Afternoon

[+] The Day Has Been Progressing …
Unlike the morning, as long as you don’t have a sedentary lifestyle, by the time you’re deciding to work out in the afternoon, you can (arguably) skip doing warm-ups and get into the exercise session proper, essentially saving some time.

[+] You’re Awake and Alert …
If you’re working out in the afternoon then chances are that you’ve been up for some time and you’ve eaten at some stage. This means that you’ve got energy about yourself to properly push yourself in a workout.

[+] An Afternoon Session Provides Release …
Like a morning session, you can exercise in the afternoon to reap the benefits of hormonal releases that can spark energy or elevate your mood. Sometimes when you’ve hit a bump along the day, a workout session can turn things around and carry you into the evening feeling good.

[-] Can Be Disruptive to Your Schedule …
In as much as working out in the afternoon can reinvigorate your day, the opposite can also be true, where you’ve hit your stride, and working out in the afternoon can come along and disrupt the workflow you’ve gotten yourself into. The afternoon is also when everyone else is active and busy and third-party matters might interfere with your afternoon exercise plans.

[-] The Afternoon’s Unique Inconveniences …
Depending on where you live, the afternoon can come with its own unique hurdles such as the gym being at its busiest (compared to the morning where everyone is working or the evening when people are partying or relaxing) or the afternoon presenting the hottest and most uncomfortable portion of the day. These unique conveniences can also be true for the morning or evening, such as exercising during winter.

[-] Peak Performance May Be Elusive …
Like someone who isn’t at their best in the morning, there are those of us who might not be performing at our best come the afternoon time slot, be it due to the temperature, energy levels, or just the mental aspect. If this is you, either force yourself through, employ caffeine, or pick another time.

The Evening

[+] Exercise Provides Energy …
Exercising elevates moods and promotes blood circulation, meaning it can be a powerful weapon to use when you find yourself lacking momentum when the evening comes by.

[+] May Help with Fat Loss …
For some people, exercising poops them out and kills their appetite. If this is you, you can try to exercise in the evening to combat your hunger levels and reduce ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

[+] Potentially Time-friendly …
The evening is a time slot where you’ll typically find the gym at its most empty. Since everyone is winding down during this period of the day, some can find respite from the fact that after a workout, all that is left is to go home and relax, compared to the morning or afternoon when there are still things to do. For some, this can be a powerful mind cleanser.

[-] Exercising May Elicit Undesired Stimulus …
Depending on how your body functions, exercising at this hour will energize you and this may negatively impact your routine. If exercise doesn’t tire you but reinvigorates you, it’s best not to pick this period.

[-] May Be Counterproductive to Fat Loss …
Some people lose their appetite when they exercise, especially when engaging in long workouts, but there are other people who liven up with it and it encourages their appetite. If you’re trying to lose weight, depending on your personal reaction to exercise, it might not be best to work out at night, but if you’re training to gain weight, then this may be helpful.

[-] Not Every Gym Is Open …
An inconvenience of the morning is that, depending on your daily routine, some gyms don’t open early enough; at the opposite end of the spectrum, some gyms don’t stay open late enough.

Final Verdict

As you can see, it shouldn’t matter which time of the day you pick. Pick a time slot that works for you and complements your goals, lifestyle and nutrition, and physiological reactions to exercise – don’t try to force yourself to perform in a window. The most important thing is having consistency. Our bodies are designed to get used to a routine, therefore if you pick a time slot and regularly exercise in that slot, you should notice that over time you perform at your best around that time.

Share:

A writer, gamer, geek, and gym rat all packaged into one. I write about the things I love and enjoy sharing them with others.